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Why Can’t I Get a Promotion?

January 24, 2013, 07:00 AM
Topic: Careers
Related: Career, Gni Grossman

Have you been at your job for more than a year and are wondering why you aren’t being considered for a promotion? It’s important to remember that promotions are not an entitlement – you have to earn them and, if you have a clueless manager, you may even have to show them the way. And there are many ways to ensure that they see you as a valuable employee worthy of a promotion.

One of the most important relationships to develop in a business setting and often the most overlooked, is the advocate. To do well and be successful you must have people on your side – people who believe in you, trust your instincts and see you in higher-level positions. There must be others, other than yourself, who will tout you around town. Find these influential people and develop their professional friendships. Make sure you have more than one advocate in your company. Suppose you had only one and that one left the company, or worse yet, fell into disrepute within the company. Uh oh…..

Speaking of touting your talents, no shy mouse is going to be promoted. That does not mean you have to stand at the head of the conference room table and yell “I DESERVE A PROMOTION!” But it does mean that you need to make your accomplishments understood and known throughout the year, not just at review time. Make sure you copy your manager and other appropriate people on finished products and achievements. Keep statistics on your projects. Whenever you can, use hard numbers to illustrate how well you’ve done as numbers are unequivocal (e.g., my volume is up by 100%; employee retention in my department is at 100%; I have shortened the length of time to a sale by 100%, etc.). Do not be afraid to ask those that compliment your performance to tell your manager as well. After all, wouldn’t you do the same for them? Use staff meetings to communicate your successes.

How can you ask for a promotion if you don’t know what it takes to get one or where the promotion will take you? Early on in a new job – maybe even during your interview – ask your (potential) manager what the promotional path is and ascertain for yourself if the potential growth matches your career plans. Once there, but not immediately (wait until you have at least partially proven your worth) start the discussion about the requirements for the next position on the ladder. With every move in your career at that company refer to these conversations; make sure that your decisions complement the requirements for that next step. Figure out how the promotional path GPS works and follow it!

I’m sure you have heard the familiar adages “Dress for success” and “Dress for the job you want to have.” Let’s take this a little farther: act for the job you want to have -- at all times and in all ways. You never know when your promotion may be in review by someone who heard you say something untoward in the hall on your way to lunch. Don’t think this happens? Trust me, it does.

Work above your level. Sometimes you have to prove that you can work at the next level in order to get it.  Is it fair? Well, look at the big picture. If you want the promotion and it is important to your career, isn’t it worth it? This situation may happen particularly when you have management that is not paying attention to all of the above efforts on your part. But if you have to do this, be sure to market your efforts (see above).

If you have tried all of the above and it hasn’t worked, you need to find out why. There is no way around it, you are going to have to ask your boss directly. However, before you march in and ask, be aware that the answer will most likely determine your future at the company. You are either are going to understand the answer and be able to deal with it or you will be unhappy and most likely will decide the company is not the place for you. In the final analysis, it’s better that you find this out and move on rather than to continue muddling around in the wrong company, right?

So get out there and take hold of your career – get a promotion!

Gni Grossman
Founder | GG Companies
Gni Grossman is a principal at GG Companies, a human resources consulting and executive recruiting firm. She started this company after over twenty years as a human resources generalist with corporations such as The Hay Group and De Lage Landen and 5 years focusing on recruiting for the equipment finance industry at Molloy Associates, Inc. Gni holds a Bachelor’s Degree from the Johns Hopkins University.

Readers may contact Gni Grossman at and/or contact Gni at 781-859-5157.

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