Get a Promotion

Do you feel like you're stuck in your current job? Are you ready to move up? It's tough to climb the corporate ladder, but if you want a job that excites you and pays well, you'll likely have to make the climb at some point. If you want to get a promotion, you'll need to be a patient team player while also being an ambitious self-promoter. It's a difficult balance to strike, but these tips can help.


  1. Work for a company that can give you room to grow. The type of company you work for can determine your potential for promotion. When applying for jobs, seek out companies with opportunity for advancement. You don't have to work for a huge corporation, although these usually offer plenty of promotion possibilities at any given time, but you do want to look for a company that has enough going on so that you can be assured you're not running into a dead end. Preferably this company will be doing well and growing, though many companies, especially very large ones, tend to grow in cycles.
  2. Concentrate on just doing the best you possibly can in your current position. Excellent performance reviews aren't sufficient to get you a promotion, but they're necessary for it. So are good attendance, punctuality, and a willingness to go the extra mile when the company needs it. Showing up 5 minutes early and leaving 5 minutes after your shift can turn into a fortune of extra income over your lifetime when you are the one that gets the promotion.
  3. Make sure people know you're doing a great job. You don't want to toot your own horn too much, but you can't always expect your merits to speak for themselves. Keep in good contact with your supervisor, and make sure he or she knows what you've been up to (assuming you've had some smashing successes). Don't be an attention grabber or "brown-nose," but make sure people know who you are and make sure you get credit where credit is due.
  4. Be popular. In an ideal world, promotions would be based solely on merit. We don't live in an ideal world, though, and office politics will often play a role in who gets promoted and who doesn't. Use and develop your people skills. Be kind and helpful to your coworkers, supervisors, and underlings. Develop relationships with people you work with, play golf with the boss, and get to know people (other than your immediate supervisor) who make decisions in the company. Be present at company events and network with people from outside your department.
  5. Make sure the right people know you want a promotion. Don't be afraid to tell your supervisor about your career goals--most good supervisors will ask you about them and try to be helpful. Continue to do a great job in your current position, and don't seem fed up with your current work, but let decision makers know if you really want a particular job.
  6. Apply for jobs within the company. These days you can't just wait for a promotion to fall in your lap. That happens sometimes, but most promotions, especially at large companies, require you to go through the application and interview process, and usually you'll have to compete with candidates from outside the company.
    • Apply for the right positions. Don't just apply for any opportunity that pays a bit more than your current job. Look for opportunities that you are genuinely interested in and that you are qualified for. You don't have to have all the skills listed in the job description, and you probably won't, but you want to be able to make a good case that you'll be able to get up to speed quickly.
    • Take the application process seriously. Too often, internal candidates figure they've got the new job in the bag, but studies show that as few as 1/3 of internal candidates win the better jobs they seek. External candidates can be extremely competitive because they have no pretenses of security--they want the job, and they know they'll have to put their best foot forward to get it. In addition, companies sometimes want to bring in new people to bring new skills or perspectives to the organization. The lesson here: don't be complacent, and remember to "sell" yourself as you would if you were applying for any other job.
  7. Seek out new skills. If you become the best customer service representative of all time, you're well on your way... to remaining a highly regarded customer service representative for the rest of your career. It's not enough to be great at your job; you also have to develop marketable skills that prepare you for more responsibility. When you gain skills and qualifications far beyond what your current job requires, your employer may see keeping you in that job as a waste of your talents.
    • Go to school. If you haven't earned a Bachelors degree, do it. If you have, consider earning a Masters or PhD, but only if one of these qualifications will help you achieve your career goals. Don't just go back to school for the heck of it. Instead think about what programs will help you climb the corporate ladder. Sometimes specialized professional designations or licenses can be far more important to getting a promotion than degrees, and sometimes you may just need to take some classes to improve your computer skills or accounting ability, for example. There are a wide range of education programs available that allow you to go to class in the evenings or on weekends, and there are also ample opportunities for accredited self-study and online learning. What's more, your employer may reimburse you for certain tuition expenses, so it may be possible for you to expand your knowledge at no cost to yourself.
      • Learn a second/third language. Due to the increasing globalization of the world in general, more and more companies will be looking for people that know multiple languages. Learning more than one language also means you don't need a translator, which opens up international posts (such as a manager for an entire continent, as opposed to a state or small country).
    • Take on temporary projects. Temporary projects can be a great way to broaden your skills and network with people from other areas of the company. Many people feel uncomfortable volunteering for these assignments because they can be challenging and can force you out of your comfort zone. That's the point.
    • Volunteer. If you're not getting new skills at work, consider volunteering your spare time to a non-profit organization. Large, well-recognized non-profits almost always offer a wealth of opportunities to learn new things, and smaller organizations may also have suitable projects you could work on. Successful non-profits typically look to fill volunteer positions with people who are qualified to do the job, but with a little persistence you should be able to find an opportunity that uses your existing skills and helps you build new skills. Your community involvement can also be a plus toward your getting your promotion.
  8. Get a mentor. A strong relationship with a manager or someone higher up in your department can open a lot of doors for you. For one thing, you'll likely learn a lot about the organization and about the jobs you might want to get in the future. For another, you'll have an ally who will be willing to go to bat for you when you do decide to apply for a new opportunity. Finally, your mentor may groom you to succeed him or her when they move up or retire.
  9. Groom a successor. It's a common paradox: you're so good at your job that you're indispensable, but you're so indispensable in your current position that the company would fall apart if you were to leave that position. The solution to this problem is to take another employee under your wing and train him or her so that they will be ready to fill your shoes if you get promoted. Some people are afraid that their understudy will take their job if they do this, but as long as you're a great employee and continue to develop your skills, the only way you'll lose your current job is by getting promoted. Training another employee (or several) also shows that you have management skills and that you care about helping other employees develop their skills.
  10. Develop a new position. If you figure out a better way to do your existing job or see the need for a new position, don't be afraid to talk to management about creating this position. Since you're the one who saw the need and, presumably, you're best qualified for the position, this can help you take on new responsibilities, even if you don't get a big pay raise at first.
  11. Seek employment elsewhere. If, for whatever reason, you seem to be at a dead end with your current employer, it's time to look for better opportunities elsewhere. This can be hard if you feel a loyalty to your employer, but you do need to do what is in the best interest of your career or you will become unhappy with your job. Recent surveys show that as many as 75 percent of employees are looking for new jobs at any given time, so you won't be alone.


  • When looking for companies that give you room to grow, it's always a good sign if they mention that they like to promote from within. Don't take this assurance too seriously, however. No matter where you work, you will probably still have to compete with external candidates.
  • If you have particular career goals in mind--and you should--perform a "gap analysis." This is an analysis of where your skills and qualifications are at now compared to where they need to be to get to the next level and to achieve your overall career goals. Think about this carefully and honestly, and then work out a plan to close the gap.
  • Patience is a virtue, even when seeking a promotion. Be realistic with yourself about your qualifications and job performance, and don't get frustrated if you get passed over for a promotion. Wait for the right opportunity. But don't wait forever.
  • Try as you might to avoid office politics, at times you do have to take sides. Do so gracefully and reasonably, and be careful not to burn bridges or alienate people.
  • Tired of climbing the corporate ladder? Strike out on your own. If you have marketable skills or a hobby which you are passionate about, consider starting your own business.
  • If you're doing a great job and have had rave performance reviews but have still been passed over for a promotion or two, maybe there's something your manager isn't telling you. You may want to ask some questions about why you didn't get the promotion and what skills or qualities the successful candidate had that you didn't. Be polite and tactful, but try to get real answers. This is not an opportunity to complain, but rather a chance to find out what you can do to get the next promotion you want.


  • Be careful to set reasonable expectations for yourself. It can be easy to burn yourself out by trying too hard. For example, if you often work more hours per week than you can maintain indefinitely, you may set an expectation in others that you will continue to work those hours.
  • If you apply for jobs willy-nilly, hiring managers may begin to take you less seriously, and your current supervisor may question your dedication to your existing job. The same can be said if you apply for other jobs too quickly. Be patient, and take the time to develop competence in one job before trying to move up.
  • It can be difficult to let people know you're competent and ambitious without seeming arrogant or threatening. You do need to be assertive, however, to get what you want. Just remember to be tactful, helpful, and kind to everyone you work with--not just to your boss.

Related Articles

Sources and Citations