How to Get the Promotion You Deserve

April 5, 2007

We all know a thing or two about unrewarded effort. The fastest way to get a promotion you’ve earned or a position you want is to be pro-active about the process. I’ve followed the steps below and it’s netted me four promotions in seven years on the job.

1) Determine Expectations
Identify the goals for the position you have and the position you want. Find out what your boss and your company expect from you in return for your current salary and the salary you desire. Many companies have a list of expected skill sets and duties for each job.

2) Perform a Gap Analysis
Find the gap between what you do today and what needs to be done to get promoted. Using the expectations for your current and desired role, make a list of the skills and responsibilities required for the next level that that you don’t currently possess or perform.

3) Communicate Your Desires & Intentions
Schedule an hour long meeting with your boss. Bring along your list of skills and responsibilities that are needed to earn a promotion. Start off by letting your manager know that your goal is to get to the next level. Then walk through your list and come up with projects you can work on that will help you achieve a promotion.

4) Monitor & Prioritize Your Work
Compare all new work that you’re assigned or that someone asks for help with against your list of skills and responsibilities. Focus your efforts on the work that will help you meet your career goals. This might sound a bit petty or selfish but in the corporate world, you have to be your own advocate because it’s likely one else will. As you finish projects and learn new skills keep track of these accomplishments, documenting them as you go.

5) Cash In Your Chips
Once you feel you’ve achieved the items on your list setup another meeting with your boss. Don’t jump the gun. Make sure you really have mastered what is expected of you and met any timeframe requirements that were discussed in your initial meeting. Bring along a document summarizing how you achieved each goal along with examples. After delivering your spiel, ask for the promotion.

If the meeting ends with your boss agreeing you’ve earned a promotion, send them an electronic copy of your summary. Most managers have to submit some type of recommendation to their boss to secure your advancement, which requires time they often don’t have. You’ve basically written the justification for them so give them a head start and take away any reason they have to delay your promotion.

Progress Takes Time
Notice that some period of time will pass between 3 and step 5. This is where you must prove yourself competent or even extraordinary. This is the hard part, doing the actual work. The great part is if you follow these steps then you won’t feel like all the hard work is for nothing. You’re working towards a goal and your effort should pay off.

Growth Opportunities
One thing to consider at the beginning of this process is the amount of room for growth in your current environment. I started my career in a new product group that has grown from 8 to 50 people. As the product grew, there were opportunities for career advancement for its members.

If your current group does not offer much opportunity for growth it may be time to look for another job. If you follow all the steps above but there are no openings to fill then it will be tough for your manager to promote you.

Promote Yourself!
Planning and patience will help you get the promotion you deserve; ensuring your hard work does not go unnoticed or unrewarded. The best way to get promoted is to promote yourself!


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Ben Edwards, the founder of Money Smart Life, saved up enough to buy a Nintendo back when he was 12 years old. When he used the money to buy shares of Wal-Mart stock instead, he knew he wasn't like the other kids... His addiction to personal finance has paid off for his family and now he's helping you to afford the life that you want. Check him out on the web at Google Plus, Twitter and Facebook.

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15 Responses to How to Get the Promotion You Deserve

  • Tom

    I think this is a good article but wanted to add some experience to the table. Me and my friend who have the same competency and work ethics graduated school at the same time. He worked at the same company for 5 years and got promoted once; from a Tech I to a Tech II. I actually started working in the field about 2 years later than my friend did. In 3 years I went from a Tech I (first job 6months), became a Tech II at my second job (1.5 year job), started as a Tech III and was promoted to a Engineer because my new job didn’t want to see me leave. Within 3 years of job hoping, I had moved twice as far as my friend did who worked for 5 years of dedication to one company. To the day our competency in the field is the same. So I’m opinion on the matter is that’s it twice as easy to get promoted by finding a higher level job than it is to get promoted in a company that already has you. I believe it’s because companies won’t give anymore than they have to and if they know you’ll stay you’ll never get promoted.

  • heidi monserrat

    How can you prove to me that you’re deserving to promote in a higher position?

  • Steve

    Promotions are all about politics, not how hard you work or how much time you spend or how many projects you’re working on…it’s all about bullshit politics. I hate to say it, but it’s a fact. I’ve busted my ass off in 4 years, got very high performance reviews and get nowhere…I don’t kiss anybody’s ass (at my level, above or below) nor do I want people to kiss my ass. Maybe that’s why I’ve not been promoted, but if that’s the case, so be it. Once the market improves, I will be looking outside for opportunities where a company doesn’t necessarily promote due to politics, rather, promote due to performance, motivation, effort, dedication and tenacity.

  • R

    The company I work for has a lax policy on promotions except when it comes to the department where I work. I know I have to play the game and step up to promote myself. I have done almost to the letter of what you suggested. All along for two years my manager told me I am deserving of a promotion, but as you stated, progress takes time. When it came time to “cash in my chips”, my manager expressed that “I want things too quickly”. Also, her manager had no idea that I had my sights set on a promotion. Further, she wants me to take lead and write my own promotion, but with the notion that I may need to wait another two years. Allow me to remind you that two years ago she said I deserved the promotion. I am consumed with this disappointment and I am trying my best to move past, but it is not easy. I have told her how I feel and now there is so much back tracking on her part that it is comical. Is there a point where one needs to cut their losses and move on?

  • Ben

    Sarah Anne, good questions. The length of time between promotions is a tricky thing because it varies from group to group depending on things like growth and turnover. When you sit down with your boss, ask them how long it typically takes to move up.

    I’ve done this and my manager was very open with me. They usually won’t commit to how long it will take you to get promoted but will generalize about the group. I would ask for an approximate time-frame anyway, given you meet all the criteria, and see what they say.

    It sounds like I’m in a different situation than you. My company does a good job with annual merit increases and job descriptions that gives us a good idea of what we need to do to increase our salary.

    Since your company doesn’t have a policy, I’d sit down with your boss, explain your frustrations, and get them to commit to some type of salary increase or promotion plan. If you meet the items laid out then you get a raise or salary. If they can’t or won’t do this, I guess you’ll have to choose between just waiting around for a raise or finding a different job.

    One thing to keep in mind, if you’re relatively new to the job your boss might be reluctant to go along because they don’t know what kind of worker you are yet.

  • Sarah Anne

    I think this is an excellent idea, but I do have a couple questions? I know you say that this takes time, but how long should one work to prove themselves in order to move up in the company. My second question has to do with raises-is the best time to ask for one after a period of serious self promotion? How long? What do you do if your company doesn’t have a very solid policy on that? I realize that’s a bit off topic, but I’d like to know what you think when you work for a company that doesn’t have a system in place and therefore doesn’t remember that one needs to keep up with the cost of inflation, etc.

  • limeade

    What you say is true. You’re marketing yourself.



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