Not Getting that Promotion?

Not getting that promotion at work? This might be why and what you can do about it.

It’s tough – you want to evolve your career, expand your skills, get a promotion with increased responsibility and pay, show loyalty to your company, and have a nice career progression on your resume. How do you get there? Here are some tips to help start the process.

  • Setting the stage. When interviewing, ask broad open ended questions to assess a firm’s ability to promote from within – such as: “What are the exact duties and responsibilities of this role?” “How do you see someone being successful in this role?” “What makes a valuable employee for your firm?” “How do you see someone progressing in this role?” “Has anyone been promoted within the firm from this position?” “What additional duties/responsibilities could I take on if I master this role?” “What long term potential career paths could I take within your firm?” You should be able to ascertain if there are potential growth opportunities and what qualities a firm seeks in candidates. A word of caution – firms want to know that you are highly interested in the role for which you are applying – a role you could see yourself in for 2-5 years. Firms don’t want to hire people that are unhappy after a year. If you are too aggressive in your questioning or suggest that their role is just a stepping stone, you won’t make it to round two.
  • Ask for employee evaluations: Once hired ask for semi-annual reviews at a minimum. You want positive documented feedback. This is a place scheduled on the calendar to go over your accomplishments, improvements, contributions, and a place to document where you have met your metrics. This is also a time where you can gain feedback, gauge where you can step up the pace, and show in your next evaluation that you have met the challenge. Also, make use of those weekly team meetings as a platform for setting work expectations and meeting deadlines. Too much work on your plate? Discuss with your manager – prioritize your tasks. You don’t want to be been working late hours and weekends feeling you’ve been doing a great job, only to find out your manager thought otherwise. Regular good communication is key!
  • Be good at what you do. Take the extra time to be an expert. Be better than average. Be organized and efficient in your work. Get more done in a work day than others. Advance your knowledge. Participate in meetings. Have a voice. Try to find ways to help others and teach what you know. Offer to help with other projects if possible. Make it difficult for a firm to live without you.
  • Show emotional intelligence: Be a valuable team player. Work collaboratively with your colleagues. Be respectful. Be able to work with a wide variety of personalities. Be a good listener. Have integrity. Show leadership skills. Be approachable. Don’t talk down to others. If people don’t enjoy working with you – it’s hard for a firm to want to promote you. You don’t have to be everyone’s best friend, head to the golf course or attend after work functions, but you do need to make connections with people.
  • The parent/child syndrome: Firm’s struggle to see that their employees are “growing-up”. There is a perception shift that needs to happen within firms – recognizing when a junior candidate is no longer junior. To combat this issue, you have to show that you are ready for that next life/career step. Like a child that proves to their parent they can be trusted with increasing freedom and responsibility, the employee has to prove that they have increased their technical skills and grown in emotional maturity. On the technical side this can mean mastering a job, showing the ability to handle more complicated duties, and/or working on advance credentials. Showing where you have been proactive in solving problems and bringing new ideas vs just following instruction is also important. In addition, showing stronger verbal communication skills (with management, colleagues and clients), confidence, and ability to work independently but also as part of a team, along with increasing leadership skills, will be essential.
  • Know your value in the market: After you’ve been in a role for several years and you know where you want to head, it’s important to understand the compensation structure for that next step. Understand the low and high end of the range within your market. Often in-house promotional offers come in too low. The firm thinks it’s a great offer, just because it’s higher than where you are now. You may feel let down by the number presented to you. You have two options – take the offer to get the experience and jump ship after a year (perhaps renegotiate at a later time), or let the firm know you have done your homework and stand your ground. If it’s been a few years since the firm has added a new role, they might not actually know what other firms are paying.
  • Just ask: If you have been in a role for 2-5 years, have positive performance reviews, and are valued within the firm – it’s time to ask. Know what you want. If the firm doesn’t have a brand new stepping stone role, you can always negotiate a new title and pay structure. Also, there may be times where a new role opens up and the firm wants to look inside and outside the firm. Don’t be disgruntled. The firm wants to make sure they are finding the best candidate for the job. This is just a great time, with an open positon on the table to state your case. Handle the search professionally just as you would pursue any other opportunity.
  • Recognize when it’s time to go: Often times here just isn’t a track within the organization, the waiting time is too long, or promises of increased job duties are not materializing….that annoying carrot of firm ownership that’s not being extended. If this is the case, it’s time to go. Staying in a stagnating role with lack of learning opportunities starts to look bad on a resume. Hiring firms will question your drive, desire to want to learn/grow, and ability to be promoted within your own firm. Also sometimes a 2 year job is just that – the firm expects that they will need to turn over this particular role every 2-3 years. Nothing wrong with taking a job that you know you’ll need to leave to gain experience.
  • Don’t job hop for promotions. On the flip side job hopping every 1-2 years is a resume killer. You can get away with this once or twice, but after a while it’s tough to make the interview pool because firms see you as a flight risk.
  • Leave on a positive note. You want incredible references forever. Don’t burn bridges. If there isn’t a promotional track, you are passed over for a role, or not offered the compensation package you desire – an employer will not fault you for moving on – it happens. Sometimes the internal politics of a company are beyond your control. Take your positive references and all the skills this firm gave you, be appreciative they hired you in the first place, and get ready for the next chapter.