On average only 9% of employees get promoted within the same company. That means 90% of professionals don’t get a promotion.
It may be tempting to think it’s because they are not capable of doing the job, but that’s not true. What prevents most people from getting a promotion is a misconception about what it actually takes to level up. We’ve been told that doing our job well, being loyal and waiting for our turn is the way to earn a promotion.
But times change. What is expected of employees who want to level up has evolved over time, and completely changed the rules of the game. Simply doing the work is no longer enough.
If you have been passed on for a promotion or you keep making lateral moves it’s time to evaluate what you have been doing (or not doing) and learn how to put yourself on the fast track toward a promotion.
The 5 mistakes that are stopping you from getting promoted
First, let’s set something straight: No one owes you a promotion.
Getting a promotion is determined by the value you bring to the company NOT how long you’ve worked there or how hard you work.
The more value you create, the more valuable you become.
So how do you actually do that, and more specifically, what mistakes should you avoid?
Mistake #1: Just doing your job
Doing your job well is how you stay employed. It doesn’t automatically qualify you for a promotion.
By definition, the next level in your career will require you to do new things. Doing more of the same doesn’t prove you are ready to solve bigger problems or take on more responsibility.
If you want to be considered for a promotion you need to demonstrate you are capable of doing next level work.
How to fix it:
You can try and talk your way into promotion. Convincing your manager to have faith is possible… but it’s a long shot. It’s much easier to act your way into a promotion. Show the company you are ready by actually doing the work.
Early in my career I was working as an account manager. I was one of 6 individual contributors at the company. We all had the same level of experience, we were recruited around the same time, and we were all doing our job well. 8 months into the role I decided to take initiative and came up with a plan to improve efficiency and increase productivity. It was nothing more than a few bullet points on a word document with simple ideas.
That plan landed me a promotion on the spot because it demonstrated my ability to see the bigger picture, to think strategically about the business and take initiative.
Show, don’t tell.
The document that started everything
Mistake #2: Being invisible
You work doesn’t speak for itself. No matter how hard you work or even what results you deliver. If the right people don’t know what you have done, it’s like it never happened.
Your manager doesn’t read minds. Neither does your manager’s manager or the executive team. They have so much stuff on their plate, they barley notice what you work on. It’s not that they don’t care, they just don’t have the bandwidth to think about everything you do.
How to fix it:
You don’t need to share every tiny detail (the last thing you want is to waste your manager’s time). Your goal is to make sure they get the highlight reel. The need to know about your most valuable contribution.
Send out a weekly summary email with a few bullet points to track top KPIs
Share an executive summary for projects to keep top stakeholders in the loop
Create a quarterly report to share progress with the company
Collaborate with stakeholders so they can see how you work
You can’t grow your career if no one knows what you are doing.
If it feels weird to advocate for yourself don’t do it for yourself, do it for others. Share your achievements as a way to help your manager look good or help your team get the appreciation they deserve. After all, your work reflects on them.
Mistake #3: making it impossible to replace you
It’s important to be an invaluable employee, the kind that does excellent work, but if you become irreplaceable, you’ll never be promoted.
If no one knows what to do when you are not around, you are irreplaceable.
If you don’t delegate and have to sign off on everything, you are irreplaceable.
If you are the only one who knows “how the system works”, you are irreplaceable.
It may sound like a good thing, that’s why so many professionals make this mistake, but if you are irreplaceable, you are not going anywhere. It will be easier for the company to promote someone else than to try and replace you. That means you can forget about a promotion. How to fix it:
Don’t be a micromanager, delegate.
Empower your team members. Teach them how to make their own decisions.
Scale your knowledge. Create resources and guides for everyone to use.
Don’t position yourself as irreplaceable, position yourself as a force multiplier. The kind of team member who knows how to extract the best of people.
Mistake #4: You don’t have a support team
The decision about your promotion will happen when you are not in the room. You need a team of advocates who will speak on your behalf to help seal the deal. You need to convince the right stakeholders that you have what it takes to level up and you’ll add value to the company and to them if you get the promotion. You’ll need to earn their trust and that takes time and effort.
What I see often is a last minute hail Mary. Professionals reaching out to any and every stakeholder they can find begging for a favor. That rarely works. It’s too little too late.
How to fix it:
Build relationships in advance. Start by identifying the right stakeholders and find ways to get on their radar.
Set up an introduction meeting
Join a project they are leading
Invite them to an event your team is running
Ask for their help as experts in a particular field
Regularly check in and keep them updated so they have visibility to your work and a stake in your success.
Mistake #5: Starting too late
If you start thinking about a promotion when a headcount becomes available you are too late.
Setting yourself up for success requires preparation: qualifying yourself by doing next level work, advocating for yourself and getting the right stakeholders to support you takes time. You can’t build your reputation overnight.
How to fix it:
If you want to give yourself the best possible chance to land your next promotion you need a plan. You need a playbook you can easily follow to position yourself for a promotion. A strategy to help you choose the right projects for visibility, get you out of your comfort zone and help you engage with the right stakeholders while avoiding the most common pitfalls.
You can guarantee your next promotion
If doing your job isn’t enough to get you promoted, it’s time you start thinking more strategically.
If you are not sure what that looks like, let me save you hundreds of hours.
After years of sharing my promotion playbook with clients and helping them get promotion after promotion I finally put it all together in one digital course.
It will take you 90 minutes to learn how to guarantee your next promotion.
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