Getting Promoted Faster


Even with the best career plan, you still may not be getting all of the career opportunities and promotions you feel you deserve. If that happens, you need to figure out why.Someone who has otherwise created a realistic schedule for promotions is likely to find the reason for a lack of promotion exists in the answer to one of these three questions:

  1. Is it your company?
  2. Is it your role?
  3. Is it you?

Is It Your Company?

If you are not getting promoted, you could be held back by the company’s own limitations. For example, a small company is likely to have a limited number of promotions available. This is particularly true if you are the only one, or one of a few, who do a certain type of work. The company culture also may not be a good fit for your management and leadership style.

If this is true in your situation, you need to recognize that you may not get promoted in your company no matter how hard you work or how much you deserve it. Once you recognize the limited role this type of company can play in your career progression, you can decide whether to stay with the company, and for how long. I have seen too many people become “Stuck-in-the-Middle Managers” out of frustration because they do not recognize how limited their prospects are at their current company, and are reluctant to move on.

Is It Your Role?

You may be able to trace your limited promotion opportunities to the nature of your role. If you are a senior individual contributor who has spent years deepening your knowledge and experience in a particular area, it can be difficult sometimes to make the jump to a management role. You may have made yourself irreplaceable in this key role! No one is willing to move you elsewhere and lose access to your expertise. Many people move into roles and jobs that limit their careers. For example, working on a team whose work is not considered essential to the business can hold you back. If people do not value the work you do, they will not raise you as a prospect in promotion conversations. Some companies recognize these issues and encourage people to move around to different functions and departments as they build a career. If your company is not doing this, you can make these decisions for yourself.

Is It You? 

In my first job as a director, I promoted a member of my team to a management position. After I announced the promotion, another member of my team approached me to ask why I had not considered him for the job. I replied that I had no idea that he had wanted to be a manager. He had never mentioned that possibility, nor asked to be considered for a management role. Nor had he ever sought out advice on how to move up at the company. The moral to that story is that you need to let people know what you want.

If you want to be promoted and plan to work toward that goal, tell your manager or some other senior person who can help you achieve that goal. At the very least, these individuals can let you know when a new opportunity opens up. At most, they can provide advice and guidance on how to get that management role. It is your responsibility to know the company’s openings, to ask questions about the role, and to apply your knowledge. If you find out about roles only after they are filled and closed, it signals you need to improve your network. All of this assumes that you continually acquire new content, expand your network, and hone your approach so that you are ready and well positioned for promotion. If you are not taking those steps, this lack of preparation and development can be a key reason why you have not been promoted. If you do not have what is required to be a manager, someone else will get the job. Of course, the lack of a promotion may not just be due to one of the above reasons; it may be due to a combination of two—or even all three!


The Bottom Line:

Work hard and position yourself to be in the right place at the right time—but if your current company keeps overlooking you for promotion, you must decide whether to stay or move on.


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