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  • Writer's pictureDr. Vera Alves

Want to be Promoted? Consider these factors. Part 1

Updated: Oct 27, 2021

Have you ever wondered why people around you get promoted, and you might have been left behind? Moving ahead in organizations has historically been critical for both individual employees and the companies themselves.[1] Still, we often feel promotions are governed by unwritten and fuzzy rules and may seem random and political [2] rather than based on performance or a sense of fairness.

Climbing the corporate ladder is not just about letting your work speak for itself and getting recognized for it. Different factors impact promotion recommendations, including employees' performance evaluations and ratings, challenging job experiences, organizational politics, interpersonal relations, and employees' potential. In addition, job fit, gender[3], job dedication, people's connections, and even similarities to supervisor1 can also play a decisive role in promotion decisions. In part one of this two-part series, we will look into some of these factors and suggest how you can better navigate some challenges to prepare you to make the most of your next promotion opportunity.

Non-Negotiable Skills

These are factors that are absolutely fundamental for you to be considered for a promotion. In a very thought-provoking HBR article, Beeson (2009) indicates the following items as non-negotiables for promotions into senior management, and they apply to leadership positions as a whole:

  • Consistently demonstrate strong performance.

  • Display a deep sense of ethics, integrity, and character.

  • Assume higher levels of responsibility and embrace leadership roles.

However, you will need more than non-negotiable skills to be the next choice for a promotion. Here are other relevant areas you should focus on.

Add Value Where You Can

To advance in your career, you must consider what your employer expects of you. Making a conscious effort to provide value is one of the best methods to be noticed and considered when promotion opportunities are available.

  • Make a conscious effort to contribute with possible solutions to the company's challenges. Be innovative!

  • Collaborate with your colleagues from different departments and develop a systemic view of your company.

  • Make relevant contributions whenever you find grounds to participate. Refrain from trying to be the center of attention at all times.

  • Look for ways to improve your efficiency and look for projects that stretch your skills. Get out of your comfort zone!

Look for Sponsorship

To be considered for promotion opportunities, you need someone in that decision room who will speak in your favor when the moment comes. It is not enough to find a mentor who will listen to you and give you advice. You need to find a sponsor. A sponsor will advocate for you, drive your career vision, and help you advance. Once you have recognized a potential sponsor in your organization, approach them and develop a trustworthy relationship. Share your career goals and ambitions with them and ask for advice and particularly for support.

Seek Feedback from your Supervisor

Getting a promotion also entails a clear understanding of the expectations regarding the new position and your strengths and areas for improvement. Ask your employer or manager for transparent feedback. Some suggestions are:

  • Ask your manager what skills and capabilities you need to demonstrate to be a strong candidate for higher levels of responsibility in the (near) future.[2]

  • Activate your "active-listening" mode.[2] You can ask clarifying questions but avoid challenging the content. Be careful with your body language. Be open to this transparent feedback and reflect on how you can incorporate their suggestions to strengthen and develop your skills.

  • If the feedback you get is vague and unclear, ask for examples and clarification. Make sure you clearly understand what you are being told. Some people avoid saying the real thing and being specific about their concerns. "It's up to you to ferret out the real reasons you're not getting the job."[2]

  • Make it clear to your boss that you want to advance in your career. Learn to humbly brag about your accomplishments, acquired skills, expertise. Be prepared to provide numbers and specific examples that reflect your contribution to the company.

Getting a promotion will require much more than an outstanding performance in your current position. Be prepared to develop abilities and behaviors that will help you get to the next level and acknowledge the relevance of soft skills. We will look further into those in the next blog post.

Let us know your thoughts on the promotion process and how you have navigated these sometimes troubled waters. Leave a comment here or send us an email at

Vera Alves is the Chief Consulting Officer at Leader Essentials Group, with extensive experience in leadership development and business management. With over 12 years of experience as a C-suite executive, Vera is highly skilled in the areas of leadership, strategic planning, operations management, organizational behavior, and change management. She possesses highly developed communication, training, and linguistic skills reflective of a very strong and charismatic leadership style.

________________________________________________________________________ [1]Gurbuz, S., Habiboglu, O. S., & Bingol, D. (2016). Who is Being Judged Promotable: Good actors, high performers, highly committed or birds of a feather? International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 24(2), 197-208. [2] Beeson, J. (2009). Why you didn’t get that promotion. Harvard Business Review, 87(6), 101-105. [3]Ibarra, H., Ely, R., & Kolb, D. (2013). Women rising: The unseen barriers. Harvard business review, 91(9), 60-66.

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