Your 24-step plan for getting the promotion you want and deserve

Ever wonder how everyone else keeps getting promoted, but you keep being left behind? You don’t have to wonder any longer. The good news is, the entire process is not as mysterious as it seems from the outside. It just takes time and commitment. Before climbing the corporate ladder, you need to learn how to get a promotion.

First and most important, promotions are not a given. Very often, we have an expectation that if we work for a company for a certain amount of time, we’ll get promoted. Or, we assume our intelligence or speed will always equal a promotion. Assuming you should be promoted is a quick way to hold yourself back.

It’s important to realize that you must create and manage your own career path — through one or multiple organizations. And remember that a promotion is not always an upward path. Sometimes — especially in today’s changing business environment — you may need to make a lateral move to position yourself for a later upward move.

How do you develop your promotion plan? We’ve compiled 10 strategies that are are the keys to how to get a promotion.

1. How to Get Promoted: Develop Mentoring Relationships

One recent study found that in four out of five promotions, those promoted had a mentoring relationship with someone higher in the company who helped spread the good word about them. The person is often called an advocate.

Some companies have formal mentoring programs, but even if your company does not, there are still ways you can build relationships with people in higher positions in the company. Mentors can also be great sources for information and career guidance.

2. How to Get Promoted: Quantify Results

While promotions are not necessarily based on your past performance, you can certainly make a much better case for a promotion by showing detailed information about your past successes. Those who get results get ahead.

Keep a record of everything you do that enhances the company’s bottom line. Make a list of everything you do that puts the company or your department in a good light. Remind your boss of the things you do that are creative and innovative, and point out acts that highlight your loyalty and commitment to the organization.

Keeping track of this information will also help you to keep your resume up to date, as you consider long-term career opportunities.

3. How to Get Promoted: Practice Self-promotion

We’re taught by our families that modesty is a virtue, but just as with job-hunting, if no one knows how great you are, you simply won’t get ahead. Be a known quantity.If you have had major accomplishments or created new or award-winning programs, make sure people know about them — especially the people doling out the promotions.

Sell yourself — and let it be known that you are seeking a promotion. One professional we know sends out a monthly email to his boss and his boss’s boss to keep them updated on his progress on various projects, which helps him to share any accomplishments and accolades that occurred in the previous month.

One recent study found that in four out of five promotions, those promoted had a mentoring relationship with someone higher in the company who helped spread the good word about them. The person is often called an advocate.

4. How to Get Promoted: Establish a Bond with Your Boss

Your boss can be one of your best advocates for a promotion. He or she can either promote you to your next position within the company, or can block you from any movement within the company. Use all opportunities to make your boss a key supporter of your promotion. Seek counsel from your manager and stress your interest in staying with the company.

Use performance appraisals not just to go over your accomplishments, but to talk with your boss about potential roadblocks to a promotion — and how to overcome those roadblocks. Some experts also suggest building rapport with your boss by learning more about his or her outside interests and hobbies — and then chatting about them during conferences, parties, or other informal activities.

5. How to Get Promoted: Acquire New Knowledge and Skills

It goes without saying that one of the best ways to succeed in getting a promotion is to expand your knowledge and skills sets in areas that are critical to the organization. As technology and other environmental forces change rapidly, you need an ever-increasing skill set not only to perform your job, but to stay marketable.

Technology is no longer just for IT. Everyone in the company needs to be up to date on the technology that impacts their role so understand the tools you use to do your job. Experts also suggest that employees who want to get ahead should not only keep current with industry news and events, but should also pay attention to trends and events outside their area of expertise.

6. How to Get Promoted: Build Your Network

The more people who know you, your strengths and abilities, your value to the organization, and (at least some of) your ambitions, the more likely your name will be discussed when opportunities arise.

An added benefit of networking is that you will learn much more about the company if you network with people in other areas of the organization. Plus, if you don’t get the promotion you are seeking, networking will set you up to find a new job at another company down the road. It’s a win-win.

7. How to Get Promoted: Ask for More Responsibilities

Volunteering to help out other departments or teams — or simply asking for more responsibilities — increases your value within the organization. Asking for more work shows your interest and desire to help your department and company to succeed. It also helps put a spotlight on your value to the organization.

8. How to Get Promoted: Act Professionally at All Times

This cannot be overemphasized. Earn a reputation for being dependable, professional, and cooperative. Act and look the part. Dress professionally and neatly, even on business casual days. Ask questions when you aren’t sure how to do something. It’s always better to admit you don’t have all the answers than to be a know-it-all.

Dare to be different; it’ll make yourself stand out from the pack. Also, keep a positive outlook on things, even when in tough situations. Don’t whine or complain, and never blame others, when things don’t go your way. Make a name for yourself — at both your organization and in your industry — through conferences you attend or lead, articles you write, and speeches you give. Work as long as it takes to get the job done and don’t be a clock-watcher.

Finally, be a problem-solver. Go to your boss with problems only as a last resort; he or she will appreciate it if you make every effort to solve the problem on your own. If a difficult situation arises, be sure to come up with at least one solution before seeking your boss’s blessing for dealing with the situation. Problem-solvers get promoted. Complainers who expect the boss to solve all their problems don’t.

9. How to Get Promoted: Be a Team Player

Because so much of work is now accomplished through teams — departmental or cross-functional — it becomes even more important to share successes with your team and to avoid pointing your finger when there are failures. By being a team player, you only build your reputation and increase your value to the organization.

10. How to Get Promoted: Create Your Own Opportunities

After studying the needs and challenges of the organizations, if you see an area that has been neglected — and you have key skills in that area — write a proposal for a new position. Even if the company does not go for the new position, you have again shown your initiative, creativity, and value to the firm. These things can only help you the next time you request a promotion.

Problem-solvers get promoted. Complainers who expect the boss to solve all their problems don’t.

Mistakes People Make When Trying to Get a Promotion

There are a number of ways you may prevent yourself from getting a promotion. Here are a few examples:

  • Expecting a new title for the same job. Many people expect to receive a promotion for doing the same work they were hired to do. Unfortunately, your boss is not likely to pay you more or give you a new title to do the very same job. You’ve got to take your career game to the next level to land your next promotion.
  • Continuing to do the minimum. If you have the attitude of “they don’t pay me for that,” you most likely won’t get a promotion. Volunteer to work on projects that are a stretch for you. Help out your boss with projects they’re working on.
  • Not growing your skills. You can’t rely on your current base of knowledge. You must learn new skills. If your company has a training program, take advantage of it. But, if not, look for opportunities to learn on your own.

Finally, whatever you do, don’t threaten to leave your company if your boss doesn’t promote you. This is a huge mistake young employees often make. They’re convinced they are so invaluable that they begin to make unreasonable demands. Before long, they find themselves without a promotion, and possibly, without a job at all.

Put LiveCareer to work if you find you need help learning how to write a resume. You’ll find guidance on best resume formats, plus full details on what goes into each resume section (plus much more!).

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