How to Get a Promotion

You have to be proactive to get ahead

Businesspeople shaking hands before meeting
••• Thomas Barwick / Getty Images

That promotion you've been waiting for is probably not going to just drop out of the sky. You have to work for it proactively. Then you need to ask for it diplomatically. And then, gracefully, you will accept it. Here's how.

Do All the Right Things

Before you get the next step up the ladder, you have to prove you've excelled at the one you're in. Before you seek a promotion, make sure you can say all of the following things about your current performance.

  • You're doing a great job. The way in which you perform in your current position is going to be key when you're considered for a promotion. Excellent performance reviews and your reputation as an above-average employee carry weight.
  • You're a team player. Volunteer to help with new projects. Serve on committees or task forces. Offer to help your boss and co-workers whenever time permits. You'll be known as a team player and someone that colleagues want to work with.
  • You don't miss work. Be on time and don't take more days off than you are allocated. If you're known as a sloucher it will be held against you.
  • You network. Attend company parties and gatherings. The more connected and engaged you are with your colleagues, the more you'll stand out when it comes time to consider you for promotion. Managers are more likely to promote an employee they know well than an unknown applicant.
  • You're upping your skills. If your company offers opportunities for professional development classes, take as many as you can. If your skills need updating or advancing, take continuing education or college classes.

Be Prepared to Ask

Your employer may recognize your star qualities and offer you a promotion. Or not. If everyone is thrilled with your performance in your current job, you might have to make them aware that you're ready and eager to take on the next step.

Talk with your boss about opportunities for promotion within the department, if that appears to be an option.

Looking Outside the Department

If there's no opportunity for advancement within your department, look for an opportunity elsewhere in the company. Always let your boss know that you are interviewing for a new position. You don't want the boss to get the news from a human resources person, or the manager of another department.

Most large companies and many smaller companies list job openings on the company website. Some positions may be open to internal candidates prior to being available for external applicants, so you'll have a jump on the competition. Check regularly for new listings and apply for jobs that are a good fit for your background and experience.

Don't Assume You'll Get the Job

As an internal candidate, you may have an edge, but that doesn't mean the job is in the bag. Take the time to update your resume and write a targeted cover letter for the job, just as you would for an outside company. Follow the application process, if there is one for applying for internal job postings.

Get references, too. A letter of recommendation for a promotion from your current supervisor or another manager you've worked with will carry a lot of weight.

Now all you have to do is ace the job promotion interview and send a thank you email message to everyone you interviewed with, reiterating your interest in the position.

Moving on Gracefully

If all goes well and you're offered the promotion, take the time to say goodbye to your current co-workers and to let them know you'll stay in touch. Be sure you wait until the company formally announces your promotion to make your graceful exit.

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