One of the questions I’m asked most often is, “How do I get promoted?”
Or something along the lines of, “I’ve done everything right and I’ve been passed over for promotion. What am I missing?”
I love this question because it means the person asking is ambitious, driven and probably ready to really dig into the work required to land their promotion.
Honestly, the answer isn’t a simple one. There are many variables into getting promoted, which also vary situation-to-situation.
When it comes to promotion, the thing I advise my clients first and foremost is to avoid the most common “promotion killers”. These are the mistakes that can immediately end a person’s chance for getting a promotion, regardless of how good they are at their job.
I learned this firsthand because, despite earning 10 promotions in my 24-year corporate career, I know there were promotions I missed out on or was delayed in receiving because I made some of these mistakes.
I don’t want you to have to learn all these mistakes the hard way like I did. So, I’m sharing these common mistakes here to help you in your journey toward a more fulfilling career.
Common Mistakes That Can Kill Promotions
Relying solely on your work to get you promoted
When I started my career, I kept my head down and worked hard. I produced excellent results and received praise from my boss. I even got my first promotion with this strategy.
But once I reached the higher levels, I learned that hard work and business results alone, while helpful, are insufficient to earn you the promotion nod. Key people also have to know about your accomplishments.
We’ll talk about the most effective way to communicate with these stakeholders later but, for now, just be aware that your portfolio is just the beginning.
If people don’t know who you are, you’re not going to get promoted. There are too many people vying for the positions and not enough roles and budget to elevate everyone.
So you have to speak up in meetings, attend events and participate in company dialogue. Don’t fall into the trap of being “too busy” for company-wide meetings and events.
Make the time and focus on raising your profile and visibility. It will pay off.
Being irreplaceable for the role you’re in now
It feels good to be needed. I had a client whose boss would formally refer to her as his “brain”. He relied on her that much. But when an opportunity arose that she wanted to pursue, he was hesitant to support her because “how do you replace your brain?”
It sounds obvious, but if you don’t have a backup, you can’t get promoted. Make sure you build a talent pool beneath you. It will help your organization as well as your promotion chances.
Leaving it too late
Depending on the size of the promotion, there can be a year or more lead time required to move into a new position. Don’t wait until review time to discuss a promotion.
This happened to one of my direct reports. He walked into my office two weeks before promotions were being announced to make his case. But it was too late. Everything was decided and budgeted for at that point.
Instead, think of your promotion like any work project. It requires planning, timelines, operationalization and execution. This promotion is clearly important to you or you wouldn’t be reading this, so give it the time it deserves.
Not having an advocate
I was told early in my career, “If you don’t have a boss who will go to bat for you, you don’t have anything.” It’s harsh but true.
I watched my colleague Sarah win over clients and produce amazing results. But, sadly, her supervisor kept her visibility low while taking the credit for Sarah’s work.
I also worked with a client whose internal stakeholders and senior executives adored her but she didn’t get along with her boss.
Neither of these promising women were going to get promoted in their current situations because you simply can’t promote yourself. You need your direct manager (as well as people higher up) to advocate for you.
If you don’t get along with your boss, now is the time to learn how to manage up. If your supervisor is like Sarah’s, you may have to take another position in order to find someone who will advocate for you. Just know that you aren’t alone.
My guess is you have an existing support network you can tap into now, even if you aren’t aware of it yet. And I’m here for you too.
Knowing the mistakes to avoid is the start
I hope you can learn from these common promotion mistakes because I don’t want you to go through the trial and error (lots of errors!) that I did.
But knowing the mistakes to avoid is just the start.
I want you to have the best chance of setting yourself up to succeed and winning that promotion you’re eyeing. That’s why I’ve got more promotion tips for you. Then it’s time to get proactive about developing the capabilities you need to have at the next level
and knowing which ones to work on first. For example, leading a team, having influence and being seen as strategic to name a few.
In the meantime, look through the five mistakes to avoid and choose the one that would most help your career if you worked on it now.
So which one did you choose and what’s the simplest action step you can take today to move forward?
Leave me a comment and let me know.