How to Get Promoted at Work

Last Updated Jun 2, 2011 12:40 PM EDT

Dear Ron, Things are finally starting to open up at my company and more people are moving around and getting promoted. I still feel kind of stuck in my role, though, and don't know how to get my boss thinking about me in a different way. What should I do?
The first thing to do is to identify and define the specific opportunities or positions that you feel you can get promoted to. This is much better than simply saying in a general way, "I want to get promoted." And then you have to lay out a case for why it would be an advantage not just for you, but for your superiors for you to move into these positions. Your argument needs to focus not only on the skills and background you have and what you'd bring to the table, but also the advantages to your bosses of having you in that role, including how it would help achieve their goals and that of the larger organization's.

You also need to think about who you're making this argument to. You want to make a case to everyone who can potentially influence those decisions. You might start off by saying to them "I'm very excited about my job, but think I can bring even more, and here's the role that I think would best match my skills and experience." Depending on who you're talking to, you could frame the discussion as a way to get some advice on getting to that next level. If your approach is too nakedly self-serving, you're obviously going to turn people off, so try to present yourself as simply trying to get a better sense of where you are, and what you need to do to go further.

Then it's a campaign you need to go on to convince enough people around and above you to see you in that new role. You also want to know what your gaps are, and why people may not see you in that role. If this amount of self-promotion sounds difficult to you, you may have to look at what internal barriers you face to doing so, and think about how to move beyond them.

The typical promotion scenario is that you wait until your performance evaluation where you hear some indication as to whether you're promotable or not. If you're bold enough, you'll bring up the issue yourself, and then depending on the answer, you'll either feel really great or lousy. But you really want to get outside that single transaction approach, because while your evaluator's impression of you is obviously important, you don't want to live and die by just that one review and just that one relationship. You also want to test other people's impression of you and get their feedback and support, so you can ultimately have more control over the decision. Good luck.

Send Ron your career and job-related questions.
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  • Ron Brown

    Ronald B. Brown is a leading expert in the fields of leadership development and organizational change. He is the founder and president of Banks Brown, a management consulting firm that specializes in providing leading-edge skills to optimize the performance of leaders and organizations. He has served as a consultant to Fortune 100 corporations such as the Procter & Gamble Company, Avon Products, Inc., McDonald's Corporation, General Electric Plastics, Kaiser Permanente, Shell Oil Company, Eastman Kodak Company, General Mills Inc., and Motorola, Inc. Brown holds a Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of California, Berkeley, and an M.A. and B.S. from Michigan State University.

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