How to Get Promoted at Work: 11 Tips

Set goals, make your ambitions clear and be ready to take on new responsibilities.

Written by Jeff Rumage
How to Get Promoted at Work: 11 Tips
Image: Shutterstock / Built In
UPDATED BY
Matthew Urwin | Oct 11, 2023

If you’re waiting for your manager to hand you a promotion, you may be waiting a while. For most people, earning a promotion requires planning, communication and persistence over time.

Your path to a promotion may vary depending on your profession, but Ziprecruiter CEO Ian Siegal has said early-career employees should expect to get promoted every three years. His claim is in line with a 2018 study by people analytics platform Visier, which found that employees are most likely to earn a promotion in their third year with a company.

How to Get Promoted

  1. Create value.
  2. Solve problems.
  3. Be a positive workplace presence.
  4. Demonstrate a strong work ethic.
  5. Make friends. 
  6. Ask for feedback.
  7. Improve your skills.
  8. Keep track of your accomplishments.
  9. Take initiative.
  10. Model yourself after others who have been promoted.
  11. Just ask your boss for a promotion.

 

How to Get Promoted at Work

If you want to get promoted, you need to take control of your own career development. That means setting goals, charting a path to reach those goals and taking on responsibilities that will give you the skills and experience needed to excel in a higher-level role.

 

1. Create Value

Before seeking out a higher-level role, you need to prove that you’ve mastered your current responsibilities and are already making a positive contribution to your organization. You can establish yourself as a standout employee by hitting (or exceeding) targets, meeting deadlines and delivering high-quality work in every task assigned to you. 

 

2. Solve Problems

There’s no better sign of a future leader than someone who is able to solve the most pressing challenges facing the team. 

By introducing a new solution, you are demonstrating more than business acumen. You are also showing that you will be able to navigate the team in the right direction if given the opportunity to lead.

If you have built up your credibility and won the trust of your team, Dan Marcus, manager of enterprise software sales for Wolters Kluwer, said the team is more likely to see you as a leader and respect you if you are promoted to manager.

“I think a lot of times we as professionals feel like we have to be in a formal management position to demonstrate leadership,” Marcus told Built In. “What I’ve learned from my own personal journey, and what I’ve seen from others, is that anybody can really step up and be a leader within a group setting.”

Related ReadingHow to Get What You Want

 

3. Be a Positive Workplace Presence

Work can be stressful, but how you handle that stress is important. Even if your team falls short on a goal, it’s important that you learn from your loss without letting it drag you down. Staying focused on the next challenge and maintaining a positive attitude can motivate your coworkers to keep pushing forward and rise to the next occasion.  

“Such a core part of leadership and getting promoted is to show how you overcome challenges and obstacles,” Marcus said. “It’s critical to always look at the bigger picture of things and not get too focused on the negative.”

 

4. Demonstrate a Strong Work Ethic

Exhibiting a strong work ethic on a consistent basis can help you earn the trust of your manager and convince them you’ve outgrown your position and are ready for another challenge.      

In practice, this may look like finishing your assignments early and using the time to aid coworkers with tasks, completing passion projects to develop new skills or offering to help your manager by taking additional work off their plate.  

Your manager may be more likely to take notice and consider you when a higher position opens up. 

Related ReadingHow to Ask for a Raise (and What to Say)

 

5. Make Friends

If you’re looking to get promoted, you should develop a network of relationships on your team, within the company and in your profession, said Lulu Rufael, the chief human resources officer for HR software company Atlas.

Whether it’s a friendly relationship with your teammate or a mentoring relationship with a senior colleague, you will want supporters in your corner who can offer advice in challenging situations, suggest ideas about career development opportunities and help you shape the narrative of your professional path. When the right opportunity opens up, these people can also advocate for your promotion. 

 

6. Ask for Feedback

Self-awareness is a key part of career growth. You should know how to make use of your strengths and how to improve your weaknesses. But every individual has their blind spots, and the best advice may come from those who know you well. If you’re having trouble identifying your strengths and weaknesses, ask your manager, colleagues or mentors for feedback. You can also reference past performance reviews for further insights.    

Take some time to self-reflect on your assessment of your strengths and weaknesses and weigh the advice others have given you. While this process can be difficult, constructive criticism from yourself and others can help you be honest about your flaws and take meaningful steps to turn your weaknesses into strengths. Lean on your support system when needed, but it’s up to you to identify areas of improvement and target them with professional development training. 

 

7. Improve Your Skills

You should constantly learn new skills and stay on top of industry trends. Whether it’s through reading industry blogs, attending seminars or taking online training courses, continuous learning will put you in a position to offer new solutions or introduce new tools that could help your team be more productive or strategic in its practices.

When seeking out resources or courses on online learning platforms, be sure to check the credibility of the instructor and materials. Research the instructor’s background and qualifications and check ratings and reviews of a course to guarantee you’ll get the most value out of your learning time.  

 

8. Keep Track of Your Accomplishments

Making the case for a job promotion can be a lot easier when you are tracking your wins. Tejal Wagadia, a technical recruiter who blogs about career topics, suggests keeping a “brag book” that lists all of your accomplishments and any positive feedback you may have received from clients or coworkers. 

Wagadia’s brag book is a folder on her computer that stores screenshots of complimentary emails and her own written summaries of projects that exceeded expectations or were completed ahead of the deadline.

“Having a brag book is going to be helpful because we tend to forget all of the things that we have done,” she said. “They will likely ask for this when they go and talk to their supervisor or the HR person about your promotion.”

Related ReadingHow to Ask for a Promotion

 

9. Take Initiative 

If you really want a promotion, there’s no clearer way to demonstrate your abilities than doing the work.

“If you can show that you already have done the work and the position even before you got the job, that will really set you apart from the other candidates,” Marcus said.

Marcus also suggests employees regularly talk with their managers about their career goals and the progress they are making toward reaching them. This way, you can take on extra responsibilities that further your advancement while avoiding a situation where your efforts go unrecognized or your workload becomes unmanageable. 

To attain the skills needed for a promotion, you may have to step out of your comfort zone and take a calculated risk. Rufael, for example, started in HR, but a mentor told her she might have to get experience in other areas to reach the leadership level. After receiving a project management certification, Rufael left the HR team to become a process improvement leader, then a director of an IT team before going back to HR operations as a vice president. 

“When the promotion opportunities came up for me, it wasn’t just because I had this expertise in HR,” she said. “It was because I had this learning and expertise in all these different areas. Those were calculated risks.”

 

10. Model Yourself After Others Who Have Been Promoted

Wagadia suggests employees get a sense of their next steps by identifying a senior employee performing a similar job at a higher level and asking them about the skills and requirements of their job. By comparing the requisite skills of the senior-level position against your own job responsibilities, you can identify gaps in your skills and experience.

You can also observe the employee on a daily basis to determine what leadership skills and traits they exhibit. Perhaps they excel at communicating their ideas with others or are very empathetic and show consideration for others’ feelings. Based on the traits you notice, think of courses, tasks and other ways that will allow you to develop these same traits.  

These approaches will allow for a more productive conversation with your manager about what types of projects will give you the experience you need to reach the next step of your career.

“Nobody wants to do all of the work for somebody who hasn’t done any of the work themselves,” Wagadia said.

 

11. Just Ask Your Boss for a Promotion 

The work you put into setting career goals and identifying steps to advancement won’t mean anything unless you articulate these aspirations to your manager.

You can start the conversation by meeting with your manager to tell them you’re interested in earning a job promotion and working with them to develop an action plan to achieve this goal. To build your case, you may also want to conduct salary research in addition to providing your manager with examples of how you’ve gone above and beyond in your current role.   

If you don’t already have a standing one-on-one meeting with your manager, Wagadia suggests sending your manager an email recapping your discussion and then scheduling a follow-up meeting at a time that gives them enough time to talk to their manager or the HR department. You may not get promoted at that next meeting, but Wagadia said it’s important to keep the conversation going with your manager.

“Don’t let the ball drop,” Wagadia said. “Nobody should be more invested in your promotion than you.”

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Consistently delivering high-quality work, demonstrating a strong work ethic and taking on additional tasks outside of your typical duties are a few ways to help you get promoted quickly. 

A few signs you’re not getting promoted include your manager or leadership becoming distant from you, you’re receiving boring assignments that don’t challenge you and you’re not invited to meetings attended by those in leadership positions.

You can sell yourself for a promotion by noting your accomplishments in your current role, sharing positive feedback you’ve received from coworkers and clients and emphasizing skills you’ve learned outside of your position.

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