How to get promoted at work
According to a survey for the Department of Education, 35% of employees are overqualified for their job. Alongside those, there are many more who don’t have the right certificates, but know their job, workplace and industry like the backs of their hands. Does that sound like you? Then you're probably wondering how you can move up the ladder.
Winning that promotion is all about making yourself visible and taking on responsibility. To do that, you need to work diligently and carefully, and be ready to take the right opportunity when it presents itself – whether in your current company or elsewhere.
Before you start the ball rolling, take the time to make sure it’s what you really want. You might get the recognition and pay rise you deserve, but it comes at a cost. A promotion is likely to involve greater expectations, more stress or longer hours. If you're happy with that, and you're ready to take that leap to the next level, read on to find out how to get promoted.
How can I position myself for a promotion?
To become a manager or earn a promotion, you need the right profile. So before you knock on your manager’s door or start firing off application forms, make sure you've laid the foundations first.
Career advice for adults often suggests dressing for the job you want, but appearances aren't everything. To come across as a good candidate for promotion, you have to go one step further and actually embody the role you’re looking for. This means not only dressing aspirationally, but performing tasks diligently and working well with your colleagues.
When you apply for a promotion, the line manager will ask for feedback from senior colleagues. That’s why it’s important you get on well with your team, and that they can see your contribution to the company. Not sure how others perceive you? Talk to a trusted colleague or manager. There’s no harm in getting advice on how you can enhance your skills and teamwork – in fact, it’s likely to work in your favour, as it shows ambition.
The first thing to look into is the promotion pathway at your company. Are there schemes in place to advance ambitious workers? Are there well-trodden paths to the top? Don’t be afraid to ask managers how they got where they are. If you’re friendly, humble and open, it will count in your favour.
The second thing is the competition. Think carefully about rivals’ abilities and be prepared to explain to your boss why your strengths are better suited for promotion. Just make sure you don’t put others down when you're talking up your strengths – it’s the mark of a poor team player, and is likely to give a negative impression.
How can I advance my career in-house?
Lots of jobs are never advertised on the open market, with companies opt to promote from within instead. Many execs started out in the metaphorical trenches of their organisation – here’s how you could join them.
Take on responsibility
If you're on top of your responsibilities, ask your boss for more. It serves as a reminder that you’re great at what you do, and shows you have the ambition to step up. Before you ask though, consider which responsibilities you enjoy, can perform well and have time for.
Keep an eye out for opportunities
Most medium or large companies will share current vacancies on their intranet, but you can get ahead of the game by speaking to colleagues about staffing changes. Try to have at least one contact per department to cover as much ground as possible.
Don’t neglect contacts outside of the company – clients, former colleagues and industry contacts can all be a great source of information. If you cultivate a network you can really trust, someone might even recommend you for a role.
Sometimes a ready-made chance will present itself in the form of holiday or maternity cover, or just a busy period. If you take the initiative and prove yourself, you’ll be in a strong position to be considered for the role if it becomes permanent.
Share fresh ideas
If no opportunities arise, you can always make your own. A CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) survey found that employers value workers who actively try to improve. Specifically, ‘pushing ideas and researching new ways to gather information’ and ‘being proactive – using your own time to learn new things’ ranked highly.
To demonstrate that you're management material, consider how your job functions. Are there ways to make it more efficient? Are there any skills you need in order to do the job better?
How can I manage my time more effectively?
To do all this, you’ll need to run at maximum efficiency. Don’t worry if you’re not a master of the diary right now – there are plenty of ways to get to grips with your goals.
Time management skills
Planning is the foundation of good time management, and it’s doubly important if you’re angling for a managerial role, where you’ll be handling the schedules of a whole team. Start with a breakdown of everything you need to achieve each day, and how long it will take. Next, break complex tasks down into smaller steps you can chip away at.
List tasks by urgency, noting how long each will take, and add time-specific jobs to your calendar so they’re done by the deadline. Remember to leave slack in the schedule for impromptu meetings and unexpected tasks.
If you struggle to stay on top of your lists, join the club! Many people find this a challenge, but the good news is that there are lots of clever apps out there to help:
- Productivity apps like Sunsama are great for organising tasks.
- Browser extensions like Todo can help to tame your task lists.
- To-Round is great for visualising your to-do list.
No man (or woman) is an island. If it’s more efficient to trade tasks with a colleague, do it – you'll save time, and show initiative in the process. If you’re already in management, make sure you’re delegating effectively. Start with the time-consuming, routine jobs. Teaching a teammate the ropes will free up your schedule in the long run – and show off your training skills.
Techniques and tools
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, so do some exploring to find the right time management techniques for you. The internet is packed with ideas and innovations to organise your schedule. The Pomodoro Technique, for example, divides your day into 30-minute productivity sessions – a tactic many people find helpful.
More flexible workers may prefer ‘positive procrastination’. This philosophy advocates using the urge to procrastinate as an incentive to complete smaller tasks – so you take a break, but still get things done.
How can I impress at my appraisal or interview?
Whether it’s a performance appraisal, an internal job application or an interview for a new role, the same rules apply.
Interviews aren’t just about making an impact on the day. You need to have a business case ready, so you can prove your worth. Include:
- Performance data, such as sales, efficiency savings or tasks completed
- Projects completed or customer feedback
- Achievements, like winning a new client or introducing new software or management structures
- New qualifications you’ve earned in training or education
- Client feedback (assuming it’s positive!)
While you’re in the meeting, try to keep the conversation centred on your performance, or suitability for the job you’re interviewing for. Don’t let yourself become distracted by more abstract life goals – or, worse, office politics.
Once you’ve made your points, it's good to look further into the future – a willingness to discuss your personal development and career progression can show ambition. If you have ideas about how to improve your performance, such as training or finding a mentor, even better.
You may be thinking about how to get promoted, but it’s not all about you. Think about the team as a whole, and be ready to take responsibility for any blips in performance. It might give you an opportunity to make those proactive suggestions. Show your ability to see both sides of a debate and find a solution. If there’s no middle ground, it’s fine to justify your thoughts with evidence – but be ready to concede gracefully if there’s no win in sight.
Should I take a promotion I don’t want?
Sometimes a promotion isn’t what you expected. When you’re lucky enough to face this situation, take time out to calmly break down the pros and cons before making a decision.
Assess the value
Even it’s not exactly the offer you wanted, try to rationally examine what each new element brings. For example:
- Salary. How much more are the earnings? Work out the value they bring to you by considering the monthly take-home it represents.
- Perks. Benefits like a company car, health benefits or pension contributions can work out better than salary. Just remember to factor in tax implications.
- Opportunities. Does the role put you on a pathway to even higher positions? Or offer skills training that might have long-term benefits?
Understand the offer
There will be reasons you’ve been offered this particular promotion, or why it hasn’t come with a pay rise. For example:
- Your job is under threat and the promotion is management’s way to keep you on.
- It might be a ‘stretch assignment’, designed to push you out of your comfort zone and test your ability to step up.
- A new management structure has redefined job roles, in which case saying 'no' to the new position would reveal you no longer fit.
Consider the cons
If a promotion just doesn’t feel right, you need to ask yourself why. Think about:
- Work-life balance. Will you lose too much by giving the extra time and energy to work?
- Responsibility. Are you equipped to handle the stress a new role can bring?
- Ethics. Does the job demand tasks you aren’t comfortable working on?
- Career progression. Does the role move towards work you love, or your dream position?
- Money. Is the pay simply not enough for the extra workload you’ll step into?
Although you're well within your rights to say no, be prepared that it may be perceived as a snub, and the decision-makers may take offence if it arrives unexpectedly. Instead, chat with your manager before making a decision. Explain your concerns in detail – it may be that they've misunderstood your situation, and will happily adapt. Training might be on the table if you’re worried about getting the job done, and performance metrics could be negotiated if you’re willing to consider long-term salary rises.
Still unsure? Raise the idea of taking the promotion on a temporary basis. It shows team spirit and willingness to compromise, which might stand you in good stead for the dream job.
When should I look for promotion elsewhere?
If you’ve been asking for a promotion and haven't seen any progress, have been turned down, or have been offered a role that simply isn’t right, it could be time to seek pastures new. These are some common indications that the time is right to consider switching employers.
When companies go through a period of change, you may feel the culture of your workplace is no longer a good fit. Think about how the teams are structured and tasks allocated. If nothing looks right for you, you may be better elsewhere. Similarly, procedures vary from workplace to workplace. If you just can’t get on board with the way things are done, it’s worth exploring how other companies tackle the same task.
Support and training
If you’ve been overlooked for being underqualified, but your workplace isn’t offering training or education, you’re not alone. Just 41% of UK workers think their employer gives them the skills they need for the future. Take matters into your own hands with adult learning courses. You’ll be fully in control of your course and your schedule. Make the right call and your new vocational qualification could boost your earning power by between 5-23%.
Sometimes it could be that you need a completely fresh challenge. Whether you want to move to a more creative or hands-on role, or simply a new industry, re-training is a viable route. Home Learning College research shows that just under half of bosses would hire someone for an entry level position who had a relevant vocational qualification but no direct experience.
Just because it didn’t work out with your current employer, that doesn’t mean they can’t still help you advance. Before you leave, ask what you could have done differently. The feedback will provide useful information on how to prepare for the next opportunity. Stay on good terms with colleagues and clients too – your network will become a valuable resource for references, tips and support.
How to get promoted, in a nutshell
Whether you’re looking for an in-house promotion or an improved role elsewhere, this is your pathway to success:
- Establish a strong reputation. Do this by setting an example, working well with colleagues and charming clients.
- Tame your schedule. To step up effectively, you’ll need to make room for more responsibility.
- Be proactive. Look for smart solutions to improve your team’s performance, train new colleagues or simply ask the boss for more responsibilities.
- Build a network. Lots of businesses don’t advertise job roles, so get a head start on fresh opportunities by staying in touch with influential peers.
- Compile your business case. Have your most important qualifications, work stats and successes on hand and ready for management to examine.
- Stay focused. In applications, appraisals and interviews, keep the conversation about the role and how you’ll perform it.
- Be open to opportunity. Not every promotion is the one you imagined, but assess each offer on its merit and be ready to compromise or negotiate.
Still waiting for your dream offer? Upload your CV to Monster and get it in front of the UK's biggest recruiters. Don’t sit back when it’s done, though – you can also take control of the process by exploring available positions with our job search.