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How to get a promotion

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Getting a promotion in the workplace can be challenging. The stats say it all, with almost one-third of all employees overqualified for the job they are doing.  Not only does this suggest there is a lot of untapped talent in the job market but that there are a lot of people feeling bored and uninspired by work.  However, getting the promotion you want requires you to get the experience on your CV.  You need to prove you have the wisdom and capacity to step up to the greater responsibility.

If you are in the catch-22 position of wanting more responsibility but not being able to win the job because of a lack of experience, then you are not alone.  You will need to put some effort into moving up the ladder, as winning a promotion requires that you make yourself visible to the right people.  You need to pay close attention and seize every opportunity to impress your current company or another organisation.

Being clear on your hopes

Start your journey to your promotion by being clear on your goals.  You need to know what you want.  Do you want a pay rise or recognition? Do you want the increased responsibility? Also, be sure you are willing to take on the other consequences of promotion.  Are you ready to deal with higher expectations and increased accountability?  You will probably need to work more hours and experience more stress.  If you are prepared for this, then plan for it and understand how this will change your life.

Put yourself in the right position

To get the job we want, we sometimes must get ourselves in the door and the presence of the decision-makers.  When working around these decision-makers, you then need to consider your image and your reputation.  This should match the expectations of the organisation.  It might require you to do some research and put some thought into how you can project the image needed.

You can begin to shape your reputation by taking on extra responsibility and doing more than is expected.  You can participate in meetings and show yourself willing to offer insights and fresh ideas.   If it becomes clear that you are over-qualified in your current post, a savvy manager may recognise that you are an under-used resource.

Much of this positioning for promotion requires careful thought.  You need to be strategic gaining the right skills and competencies and demonstrating these appropriately while still managing your workload effectively.  Remember, you still need to be perceived as a team player and someone willing to collaborate.  Therefore, you shouldn’t be too ruthlessly ambitious in your approach.

Using the appraisal

Performance management processes are the ideal opportunity to explore your desire for promotion with your line manager.  As you are exploring your performance together, you can ask what it would take to move up the ladder. 

Consequently, the importance of the appraisal cannot be understated.  You should prepare carefully lay out your strengths and the evidence of your strong performance.  Consider this as an interview, as a showcase for why your talents are being underused.

You may need to be prepared to compromise.  There might not be an opportunity for promotion immediately, but your manager may find ways of helping you progress in other ways.

Going for interviews elsewhere

The other way to get a promotion is with an application to another organisation.  You should inform your current employer that you are seeking opportunities elsewhere and that you are actively applying. 

If you are offered an interview, you should assess whether the promotion will provide value for you.  Part of this assessment should be the onward opportunity for progression once you have achieved this role.  Ultimately, you should be interviewing the organisation, as much as they are interviewing you.  You should be prepared to consider negotiating for the right role for you in the most appropriate company.  Be ready to turn the post down if the new challenges and opportunities will be limited.


There is nothing wrong with being ambitious.  Most people want new challenges and feel they deserve a greater reward.  However, you need to build a strong reputation first and then use this to ease your way up the ladder.  Make sure you put the work into getting known by the right people going to network events and building rapport with colleagues in your organisation.  Then, when you are ready, you can begin to build your case for the promotion you desire.

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