How to get promoted at work

Getting promoted at work is a goal most people aspire to. We take a look at some tips to ensure that sought after promotion.

Mentor talking to a younger employee


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Being promoted at work is always very rewarding – you feel recognised for what you contribute, that you’re valued… and importantly you’ll get a welcome boost in salary.

But what many people get wrong is thinking that a promotion will just come to them in time. That attitude could mean you end up being left behind. If you’re asking yourself ‘how can I get promoted quickly?’ or you’re wondering when to ask for promotion, there are some important steps to make sure your hard work is recognised and rewarded.

With that in mind, here are five important tips on how to get promoted at work.

1. Speak up

Don’t be afraid to make it clear that you’re looking to take the next step. Employees are expected to own their own career development, so book some time in with your manager to talk about your aspirations. They might not even have realised that you have an ambition to be promoted, and you can have an honest discussion about your chances.

In some rare cases you might even find that promotion is not available to you – which will stop you wasting any more time seeking it out, and could prompt you to look for better opportunities elsewhere.

More likely, your manager will be able to explain what they will want from you in order to reach the next level.

2. Set clear goals – and achieve them

Make sure you and your manager set clear targets and a time-frame for promotion. Get some clear goals and document them, so that it’s really obvious when you’ve achieved them. Then you can focus on delivering what you’ve promised – and do take every opportunity to highlight your successes.

This can demand an even greater focus on prioritisation. If a new project comes in that puts your promotion objectives at risk, flag it to your boss and gain clear direction on what’s expected of you.

3. Develop your skills

To progress your career you should actively seek out development opportunities. Get others’ opinions on your strengths and the areas where you need to improve. Go on courses, take part in seminars and networking events, seek out a mentor.

Being seen to pursue these opportunities is a clear demonstration of your ambition and ongoing commitment to work.

4. Take the lead

Showing leadership skills like trustworthiness, confidence and encouraging others is enormously important in getting promoted at work. The first step in becoming a leader is acting like one. Seek out opportunities to ‘own’ a new situation or a challenge – but without treading on anybody’s toes. Try to volunteer, rather than take over.

You should also avoid negative behaviours like getting involved in office politics – try to act positively in every situation. Never be late or miss deadlines. Employers want their leaders to be role models for others.

5. Act at the next level

Lots of management experts recommend that if you want to get promoted at work, you should behave as if you’ve already achieved it. Not in an arrogant way, but subtly – even perhaps in how you dress at work.

Take ownership of something on your boss’ behalf, help to calm an office situation or by solving problems. Once your manager sees you as a trusted peer, they will find ways to give you that promotion.

Other ways to get promoted at work

If you’ve faithfully followed these tips but are still overlooked for promotion, don’t give up hope. There are other ways to achieve your goals:

  • Move to a different department. If you work for a larger organisation and something is blocking your progress in your current team, move elsewhere and start afresh. You might even be able to move directly into a more senior position.
  • Change companies. Loyalty doesn’t equal promotion in today’s workplace. The people that rise up the career ladder the fastest are often those that change jobs often – every 2-3 years or so. Seeking out new challenges is a great way to build your confidence, too, which is also an important factor in gaining a promotion.
  • Find another job. Similar to the above, an assertive way to aim for promotion is to be offered another job, and then give your current employer a last chance to promote you. If they recognise your potential, this might convince them to give you the promotion to persuade you to stay. Of course, this is a risky approach – if they call your bluff you’ll need to accept the other job. So make sure it’s something you want!

Reasons why you’re not getting promoted

If you feel that you’re being unfairly treated in not getting that promotion, look into whether you have a potential case for discrimination.

For example, there’s a common misconception that part time workers can’t get promoted. But in fact it’s against employment law to treat someone differently based on the hours they work. All employees should get the same treatment across pay and benefits, pensions, holiday entitlement, career development, promotion and redundancy.

There are 9 ‘protected characteristics’ by law, where it’s illegal to discriminate against someone due to:

  • Age
  • Race
  • Disability
  • Sex
  • Marital status
  • Religion/belief
  • Sexual orientation
  • Pregnancy/maternity
  • Gender reassignment

If you feel that you have been overlooked for something purely because you have one or more of these characteristics, you could have a case for discrimination.

Even so, it often pays to ask calm questions before making any threats. It may not have occurred to the team to consider you for an opportunity or role. You could also have a confidential discussion with the HR department. Opening the lines of communication can often be a better way to approach the issue for everyone involved.

If you’re unhappy with the outcomes of these discussions you can seek legal advice – many companies offer employee assistance packages with free legal support. They can help you decide whether to pursue an employment tribunal.

Want more advice? You are invited to our online Career Fair >>

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