How to Get a Promotion – Top 5 Questions Answered

how to get a promotionEven since I launched the first group coaching call on Insider Tips to Getting Promoted, I am pleased to received many great questions by email related to how to get a promotion at work.   Here are the top 5 most common questions and my perspective.  Overall, you will see a theme.  Besides being a good at your job, you need to have great soft skills such as managing upwards, leadership skills, skills to deal with office politics etc… in order to increase your chances for promotion.

Question 1: What is more important to get promoted (being a pro in your role or office politics)?”

You need both because promotion decisions are based on the perception of your work instead of the reality.  If you are just a pro in your role but you don’t self-promote, you may easily lose the chance for promotion to someone who is pretty good but also took the time to proactively build his or her work brand with their boss and other senior folks.

While I say both, I don’t mean you need to be perfect.  Remember the 80/20 rule.   Spend enough time to be above average at your role as well as demonstrate key skills needed at the next level.  Then use the rest of the time to build relationships with your manager and other who may influence your promotion decision.

Question 2: I am at a place in my working life where I am ready to move onto the big open stage of visibility. How do I become more vocal, more visible?

I am so glad you asked this question.  Being vocal and visible are keys to getting promoted.   The working world is not fair.  You can’t just hide in a corner and hope someone will realize what a rock star you are, no matter how hard and long you work.   You may think the results you achieve for your company will speak for themselves.  They won’t.  It doesn’t work that way as it puts all the work on your manager to realize all this about you.   You have to be proactive in being vocal and visible and consciously build your work brand with key people at your company.  Here are 3 tips

  • Speak up in meetings – show your expertise and help others.  This means share your perspective.  Be helpful and be there to propose solutions to unsolved issues facing the company or your team.  If you are not sure how to start, here is a detailed guide on how to speak up in meeetings
  • Proactively reach out to offer help – it is important to go beyond your job description if you want to get promoted.  To be visible, you have to pay attention to what others are trying to accomplish in the company and devise ways you may be able to help. You can start with sharing information you have that can help them or offer to volunteer your time to help a senior person with a side project.
  • Set up one-on-one “meet and greets”  –  Being vocal or visible doesn’t always have to be in a group setting.  Look at your role and figure out what key people you should build relationships with and then be proactive to schedule one-on-one meetings to get started.  It immediately shows that you are resourceful and have leadership potential

Questions 3: What if I am an introvert and don’t like the lime light?  How do I get a promotion?

You have to decide what is more important for you – getting promoted or staying out of the lime light.   As you move up in the career world, you are by default more and more in the lime light.   The leadership team will only feel comfortable promoting you if you are already demonstrating leadership skills at your level.   That requires you to step out of the shadows.

I also want to dispel a myth.   Being an introvert is not the same as someone who avoids the spotlight.  I am an introvert.  That only means I need to re-charge my energy in a quiet space.  Many introverts are great leaders, like Abraham Lincoln or Warren Buffet.   If you want to be promoted, it means you welcome the opportunity to be in the spotlight.

Question 4 – How to approach a discussion about Promotion? Do I need to ask my Managers that I am seeking the Promotion?”

Yes, you absolutely need to ask and you should do it about a year in advance.    Most companies only make promotion decisions once a year.  It’s important that you discuss your career path to promotion a year in advance.    This way you can find out

  1. If your manager also thinks you may be ready in one year for promotion
  2. What key skills you should demonstrate in order to be on track for promotion.

Early alignment with your manager will only help you.  With that said, discussing promotion with your manager is an art rather than a science.  It is important to be clear on your intent but not be demanding or overbearing.  The goal for promotion should be about your aspiration to grow with the company and less about your agenda for status or pay.   You should avoid being overly direct.  You can simply ask for advice about your career path to get a better sense of where he or she think you may be ready for promotion and go from there.

Question 5 – How do you change / alter your bosses perception once they have ‘labeled’ you?

Wow, what a great and a real life question.  There are two reasons your boss may have labeled you

Reason 1: You made a pretty serious mistake at work and now your boss is concerned about your skill set (e.g. being detailed oriented)

Reason 2: Your boss is quick to judge based on his or her background and insecurities.  You are unfortunately labeled unfairly already

If it’s reason 1, I would say, you have control to change your boss’ perception.  Everyone make mistakes.  You need to be proactive in working on that skill set and more importantly show your boss how you are improving.  This signals that you took it seriously and are willing to do everything needed to make this weakness a strength.

If it’s reason 2, it time to change jobs.  You cannot change your boss or his or her unfair bias.   Speaking up about it to your boss or HR will just make it worse for you.  If your boss has “labeled” you, it just mean he will never be able to see how awesome you are and can become.   Don’t work for such mediocre bosses!  Look for another job.   It may take some work, but you will be happier in the long run.


It’s important to find out early at each company on how to get a promotion.  Don’t just read this, ask senior folks in your company for advice.  They will know many more insider tips that can help you succeed.    Be proactive, speak up, and show people why they should promote you.  When you make it that easy, you will tip the chances of promotion in your favor.    Best wishes to your success

Your comments:  Do you have other questions about how to get a promotion?   Add your comment below and I would be happy to address.

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I am always in your corner


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