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What Will Help You Get a Promotion?

Cite this article as: Jason Mance Gordon, "What Will Help You Get a Promotion?," in The Business Professor, updated December 16, 2019, last accessed April 8, 2020, https://thebusinessprofessor.com/knowledge-base/what-will-help-you-get-a-promotion/.

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In this article, we discuss some of the factors that give rise to an employee’s promotion. Notice that I use the word “help” in the title. Ultimately, getting a promotion is dependent upon a lot of things. Below are some of the things that contribute to professional promotion.

You Ask For It

This final method seems to be the most obvious method of getting promoted – you ask for it. Surprisingly, most employees (particularly women) are reluctant to ask their employers for a raise or promotion. Absent some of the factors discussed below, there is little motivation for an employer to promote you. Therefore, if you want to be considered for promotion, you have to ask for it. You do not have to straight out ask for a promotion. You can start by asking what will be required of you for promotion. Have your employer lay out specific education, credential, experience, or skill qualifiers. When you meet these metrics, you have solid ground to ask for a promotion. At the same time, you should ask for a periodic review schedule. During these meetings, it is not awkward or out of place to bring up the topic of promotion and benefit increases. Remember, you should always get these things in writing – the performance metrics and the periodic reviews.

Time in Position

There are many jobs (particularly those with the federal and state governments) that only allow for promotion after a set period of time. In these positions, you will generally have annual reviews. Based on the results of these reviews, you may receive some level of salary raise. At the end of a specified period, you become eligible for promotion to a higher pay grade or level. Likewise, when applying for internal jobs, you only become eligible after a specified number of years in a subordinate position. For this reason, Government work can be frustrating for those who have a high personal need for performance reward.

Specific Opening

Sometimes you simply need the right opening to come up in the company. This can result from someone leaving the company (job change, retirement, death, etc.), when a company expands operations, or when the business opens a new line of business. When a specific position comes open, your acquired knowledge and experience make you the most suitable candidate. This scenario is often behind the meteoric rise of certain employees in an organization. They have a specific skill set. The company decides to put more emphasis or resources in that particular area. The low-level employee quickly becomes a senior employee.

Work Performance

Some jobs reward quality work performance (though far fewer than you might otherwise believe). If you are in a job that has specified performance metrics that you readily exceed, it may entitle you to be considered for a higher-responsibility job. This is particularly true in sales and business development careers. For example, in a consulting firm, if you can bring in high-dollar clients, you will be promoted very quickly. An accountant, on the other hand, is far less likely to move up based upon the quality of their work.

New Credentials

Many people are considered for promotion upon completing additional education or receiving career-specific certifications. An MBA program is likely the best example of this scenario. There is an assumption that additional education makes you more valuable to the company. Also, it makes you more valuable to other firms, so your company has to pay more to keep you.

Competitive Offer

Having another company try and hire you away is good leverage for a raise or promotion. If your company does not want to lose you, they must raise their compensation or provide you the incentives (such as promotion) to keep you from leaving.

Riding Superior’s Coattails

The most common way in which people get promoted is to have a good relationship with their superiors. People tend to hire and promote people with whom they have a high degree of fit. An average performer who is close with her superior is far more likely to get promoted than an exceptional performer who does not have this positive relationship.

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