How to Get A Promotion

by Neal Frankle, CFP ®

You can use a well-defined process if you want to perfect the art of how to get a promotion. Many people think if they work hard and do a good job, promotions will fall in their lap. Unfortunately that just doesn’t happen very often. But the good news is that if you follow this 9-step process you will significantly enhance the odds of getting kicked upstairs to that corner office and landing that sweet job promotion.

Neal’s Notes:  Besides taking action on the steps outlined below, make sure you ace your job performance review.  Fortunately, it’s not that difficult to do Pilgrim.

How to Get A Promotion

1. Only play where you can win.

I received an email from a reader who said she’d been working at the same company for over 15 years and was denied a promotion time and time again. The reason? She didn’t have a  4 year degree. While I know that there are plenty of available jobs even if you do not have a degree (that do provide advancement), she may not have one of them. Look at the people who are advancing in your firm. Do you have the same skill level and credentials they have? If so there is absolutely no reason why you can’t advance too. This is exciting.

But if you notice that everyone who does get promoted has skills and/or education that you lack, you have to be realistic. If you can’t get the skills and/or education you may be in a dead-end job. In that case, it might be time to change your career into something more promising.

2. Become “The Man”

Regardless if you are male or female, the best way to get promoted is to manage others. In short, you want to be the “go to” person. At first you may have to create this situation in an informal way (I’ll show you how to do this in just a bit.) But it’s critical to become a manager of others if you want to advance. And the more people who report to you, the more money you’ll make and the more quickly you’ll be promoted. Here’s a quick example:

According to PayScalecom*, if you are a software developer, you’ll earn $66,000. But if you are a software developer with 3 people who report to you, that salary jumps to $74,000.

And don’t stop at managing other people. Become important in other ways. Think of yourself as part of a team and not as an employee. Look for opportunities to shine at conferences and work groups. Provide research, support and leadership.

Maintain great relationships with everyone around you at the same time regardless of their level. Be helpful and kind to others especially if they work for you. Get to know people at your firm outside of the office and show up for corporate events.

In short, be seen as a person who is a leader and part of the team at the same time. These are the people your firm desperately wants to promote.

3. Moving and Grooving

Sometimes advancing is easier if you look outside your firm. Don’t be afraid to network with other professionals and use social media to see what’s out there. (This was the advice I gave to the woman who had been glued to her same chair for 15 years above.)

Even if you end up staying with your current employer, you’ll get a better offer if you come to the bargaining table with a competing offer.

4. Find Yoda

Look for people who have what you want and ask them to take you under their wings. Just tell the person that you really admire what they have done and who they are. Ask them if you could bounce ideas off of them from time to time. Most people will be flattered and only too happy to lend a hand. And since they now have a vested interest in your success, they become part of your team. And don’t be afraid to create a squadron of mentors. If you can learn something from someone give them the opportunity to share.

5. Invest in You Inc.

Above, I referenced a woman who couldn’t get a promotion after 15 years. Another important tactic for her (and you) is to get some training. Your most valuable resource is your time. If you can invest in training and move up the ladder much faster, it is usually a good trade-off.

Of course it’s important to be strategic about this. Make sure that you know what training you need to get promoted and only go after that. It might be really nice to have a PhD in Archeology, but if you are a bookkeeper, it might be more helpful to focus your attention on getting your MBA or becoming a CPA. Keep in mind that best bang for your buck may be a course certification, vocational skills training or other specific training. A degree is so broad that it usually won’t provide the practical skills most needed in order to get that promotion.

Just make sure that you get trained in areas that will help you go well beyond your current job and prepare you for greater responsibilities. Remember how valuable your time is and remember what your goal is. Make sure you use your time to advance towards your goals of getting that promotion.

6. All the Small Things

Remember that you are on a mission to get promoted. You have to suit up and show up. Look sharp and professional. Go the extra mile. Show up early. Leave work a little late. The little things make all the difference.

7. Turn on The Spotlight

All the hard work you’ve put in up until now won’t get you the result you are looking for unless and until the powers-that-be notice. Meet with your supervisors periodically and ask for feedback on your performance but don’t stop there.

Find out what challenges the company faces and how you might help. Once you get details on these problems, formulate an action plan, present it to your manager and then periodically report back to her with your progress. There is absolutely no better way to be noticed for excellence than taking this step. Even if you don’t want a promotion, this is a fantastic way to build your case to ask for a raise.

At the same time, tell your supervisor about your career goals and desires for a promotion. There is no point in leaving your boss in the dark.

8. Pick Your Target

Don’t apply for a position just because it offers a few more pesos. Go after promotions that offer real growth and visibility. Don’t allow yourself to get pigeon-holed. And don’t be intimidated. You may not have all the skills required for the posted promotion but don’t let that stop you if you can make the case that you are well-suited for other reasons.

9. Timely

Be realistic about your goals. There is nothing wrong with wanting to advance fast – but you can really alienate your boss and co-workers if you are too pushy and obnoxious. Before you embark on your journey to get a promotion, be clear on a reasonable time frame and work within those parameters.

Getting a promotion at work is work. I never said it was a cake walk. But the return you get can be fantastic if you approach this in a methodical way and put your best efforts forward.

How did you get your last promotion? What other steps would you suggest?



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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Fred@Foxy Finance January 24, 2013 at 1:03 PM

I managed to get a promotion within 3 months of joining a company purely because I helped demonstrate to others how they can improve and I got a fast track promotion. Looks pretty nice on my CV!


Neal Frankle January 24, 2013 at 8:16 PM

BOOYA! That’s what I’m talking about! Nice job Freddy!


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