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Manager shaking hands with an excited employee while colleagues applaud in the background, celebrating her promotion.

How to Get Promoted

As we progress through our careers, we come to points in time where we’re seeking more challenge and responsibility, and the higher pay that comes with it. In a perfect world, merit would be the sole criterion that drives our ability to climb the corporate ladder. Our hard work, dedication, and talent would be duly recognized, and we would indeed be rewarded with the promotion or raise we have been working towards. However, that’s rarely the case. Despite being an exemplary employee, you may still not get this kind of recognition if you fail to properly advocate for yourself, understand the politics of your organization, and take a proactive approach in presenting yourself as the right candidate to the decision-makers.

Companies typically establish minimum standards for promotion, such as high performance in your current role and demonstrated potential to further advance. Tenure and seniority can also come into play. So, if a higher-level position is available, you meet or surpass the required criteria, and you’re still not getting promoted, you should consider other factors that could be affecting your case.

In fact, research performed by Harvey J. Coleman would suggest that you should focus on exposure. In his work on the factors that impact people’s ability to get promoted, Coleman outlined a framework called PIE, which stands for performance, image, and exposure. He found that performance accounted for only 10% of the likelihood of getting promoted, while image and exposure accounted for 30% and 60%, respectively. That’s not to say that performance doesn’t matter—it does! You won’t be considered for a promotion if you’re not a keen performer. But among candidates who are good performers, exposure is the key.

How to Get a Promotion Through Augmenting Exposure

Based on such a premise, here are several strategic approaches to getting a promotion through a focus on augmenting your exposure, along with a few other tactics that are sure to benefit you.

Communicate Your Goals

Make your career aspirations known to your supervisor or manager well in advance. Articulate your genuine ambitions, demonstrate your commitment to the company’s mission, and seek guidance on navigating your career path within the organization.

Approach the conversation thoughtfully and strategically. Begin by expressing gratitude for the opportunities and support you’ve received thus far, establishing a positive tone for the discussion. Clearly outline your long-term career goals, emphasizing how they align with the company’s vision and objectives, to demonstrate your dedication to contributing meaningfully to the company’s success.

It’s best to start having these discussions before you are ready for a promotion and before a position becomes available. In doing so, you initiate the dialogue in a lower-stakes environment, allowing your manager to take in your views and share guidance – in that moment and going forward – about your readiness. Where possible, you should also seek to have a similar discussion with your upper management and corporate supervisors so that you can put yourself “on their radar” for future advancement opportunities you may not have considered. This can be especially important in cases where you are pursuing consideration for a managerial position that would place you in horizontal association with your current supervisor.

Seek Feedback

Actively seek feedback on your performance from not just your supervisor but also colleagues and mentors. With their feedback, you’ll gain valuable insights into your performance and demonstrate your commitment to continuous improvement. You will also portray an attitude of growth, openness, and humility, which are some of the most commonly sought-after soft skills in career advancement contexts.

Actively reflect on the feedback received, identifying actionable steps for improvement and incorporating them into your professional development plan. This might entail honing specific skills, refining work processes, or adjusting communication styles. The goal is to demonstrate tangible progress based on feedback to reinforce your desire to develop yourself, which is key for obtaining a promotion.

Exceed Expectations

Show initiative and a willingness to take on challenges. Going above and beyond can look like a willingness to take on more responsibilities, volunteering for special projects, and pursuing avenues for professional development. The goal is to showcase your commitment to adding value to your role within the organization beyond your minimum expected performance.

Plus, having extra responsibilities broadens your skill set and highlights your versatility and capacity for leadership. For instance, volunteering for special projects allows you to demonstrate your expertise in new areas and make meaningful contributions to the organization’s objectives. And, actively seeking out opportunities for professional development through training programs, workshops, or certifications, underscores your willingness to go beyond the essentials of your current role and to prepare for the future.

Build Relationships

Building strong relationships with coworkers, supervisors, and key stakeholders fosters a positive work environment and enhances your visibility and credibility. By networking and building rapport with colleagues across different departments and levels of seniority, you’ll gain insights into the organization’s culture, processes, and goals. These relationships can also provide opportunities for collaboration, mentorship, and knowledge sharing, ultimately strengthening your network and expanding your sphere of influence within the company. Additionally, building visibility, trust and rapport with key decision-makers can increase your chances of being considered for new opportunities, projects, and, ultimately, promotions.

Demonstrate Leadership

Demonstrating leadership skills is a great way to stand out and stay relevant to your superiors. Effective methods include mentoring junior colleagues, providing guidance and support, and sharing your expertise to help them grow. By taking on this role, you showcase your leadership abilities and commitment to fostering a collaborative and supportive work environment as well as to the success of the company.

Leading team projects is another avenue to showcase your leadership skills. Spearheading initiatives, delegating tasks, and rallying team members toward a common goal are a few of the many ways to demonstrate your ability to inspire, organize, and motivate others. Similarly, seizing opportunities to solve problems your team or organization might be facing demonstrates initiative, resourcefulness, and a results-driven mindset. Your goal is to take the lead in driving change to prove you have leadership potential and strategic thinking abilities, which are necessary for a promotion.

Quantify Your Impact

Tracking your accomplishments and quantifying the results of your work can help you provide concrete evidence of your contributions and the impact of your efforts on the company’s goals and objectives. Being able to articulate your achievements and their impact on the organization can set you apart from other candidates, as it demonstrates your proactiveness to performance management and your focus on driving success in your role.

Stay Current

Staying informed about industry trends, best practices, and emerging technologies relevant to your industry will help you remain competitive in your field, increasing your chances of getting a promotion. Actively seeking out opportunities to update your skills and knowledge enhances your expertise while showcasing your dedication to staying at the forefront of your field.

Staying informed about emerging technologies and best practices also enables you to identify opportunities for innovation and efficiency improvement within your organization. This, in turn, allows you to drive strategic initiatives and position the company for future success. These proactive strategies increase your chances of a promotion because they show your commitment to the organization’s overall success.

Seek Advocates

Identifying influential advocates within the organization is a strategic step toward advancing your candidacy for promotion. These advocates, who may include supervisors, mentors, or senior leaders, possess the clout and credibility to champion your cause and advocate on your behalf. By cultivating relationships with these influential individuals, you gain access to valuable insights into the promotion process and secure powerful allies who can vouch for your qualifications and potential. These advocates can provide endorsements, recommendations, and valuable feedback to decision-makers.

Prepare for Promotion

Invest time in preparing for promotion opportunities to position yourself as a strong candidate and increase your chances of success. Begin by thoroughly researching the job requirements and expectations for the desired role. Understand the skills, qualifications, and experiences sought by the organization, and assess how your background aligns with these criteria.

Next, dedicate effort to polishing your resume and LinkedIn profile to showcase your qualifications and achievements effectively. Tailor your documents to highlight relevant experiences, skills, and accomplishments that demonstrate your suitability for the promotion. Use quantifiable metrics and concrete examples to substantiate your claims and differentiate yourself from other candidates.

Stay Patient and Persistent

The promotion process is not always quick. Stay patient and persistent in pursuing your promotion goals, even when faced with obstacles or challenges. Keep a positive attitude and focus on the progress you’ve made.

Cultivate a resilient mindset by reframing setbacks as opportunities for growth and remaining adaptable in your approach. Draw on your strengths, skills, and support network to persevere through challenges and continue working towards your aspirations.

If, despite your efforts, you are unable to get the promotion you are working towards, it might be time to strategize your next move. Should this become the case, commit yourself to finding your next opportunity while continuing to make the most of your current role. For further guidance, you can check out other PathWise “How To” guides on job searches, interviewing, and offer negotiation.

To get promoted, you should rely on proactive strategies, continuous learning, and resilience. From openly communicating your career aspirations to actively seeking feedback and building solid relationships within the organization, each step plays a role in positioning you as a promising candidate. Success in securing a promotion lies in demonstrating your value to the organization, leveraging your strengths, and seizing opportunities for growth and development. By embracing a proactive mindset, continuously learning and evolving, and staying resilient in the face of adversity, you can position yourself for long-term success and fulfillment in your career.

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