Maxwell Stephens

How to Secure a Promotion - Advice on how to progress in your career

So you want a promotion? Perhaps you are unsure how to go about tackling this subject with your line manager. The biggest piece of advice I can share is that the skill is not in how you ask – it is in all of the groundwork you proactively lay at least 6 months to a year in advance. The truth is that most promotions are not handed out freely. Those that are promoted have usually been working on their goal for quite a while. I am going to share three key things you need to do to lay that groundwork, but first a couple of pieces of general advice to stop you wasting your time pursuing an unrealistic goal. 


Take a moment to think about the environment you are working in:


  • Do individuals get promoted within the organisation or is there a pattern of external hires?
  • How/when are individual’s typically promoted? I.e. is there a short window each year for a batch of promotions?
  • Is the organisation committed to internal promotion? This might be evidenced by a dedication to succession planning and/or robust performance management.
  • How is the organisation doing from a business perspective? Have there been any obvious signs of economic distress such as a freeze on new hires and/or promotions.

Once you have answered those four questions, you should have a clearer view on whether on balance you think it is worth pursuing an internal promotion. If you have decided it is worth it, then the next 3 tips should be useful to you.


  • Performance targets

Hopefully your organisation has a robust performance management process and you can use this as the basis for identifying and agreeing gaps between your current performance and skill profile to what you need to attain to be eligible for promotion.


  • Feedback

Ask for feedback. Some line managers won’t be forthcoming in this regard, but you must not wait until performance reviews as these are too infrequent. Prioritise having one to ones and asking for feedback to be a standing point on the agenda. This frequency of feedback will allow you to make regular adjustments to your performance.


  • Identify and/or coach successors

Whilst this is wrong of any line manager, it is possible that they will block your progression if they feel they will be left with a skills gap that will be difficult for them to fill. They may also worry it will negatively affect their performance. Consider the role you do and if there is a natural successor. It may be that there is a candidate who you could coach or train to take on your role, even if it is temporarily while a full time replacement is found.


In Summary


Whilst pursuing and asking for a promotion may seem daunting, if you are confident of your value, you believe the organisation has the willingness to promote, and you implement the preparation tips shared above, then you should have a strong chance of success.


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