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How to get promoted

How to get promoted

When I started my career I believed that if I did a good job I would get promoted.

I thought that was fair. There was a good exchange of value between myself and the company. It is what everyone tells you, your teachers, your peers, your boss. Yet all around us we see people working hard and not getting promoted.

“Work hard = promotion” is true only to a point. In my case I was in junior management before I realised there was more to getting promoted that just working hard.


People make the decisions

Think about the promotion process. Who promotes you? It is always a person above you in the management chain, pulling you up another level. As you get more senior, those promoting you become a group of people above you.

So, to get promoted the person above you (or “your sponsor” ) needs to like you and also believe that you fit in with the next level, always assuming that you are performing well in your current role.

Do you know of a person not liked by their manager being promoted? I am sure it happens, but I have never seen it.



This is the ‘get past go’ criteria. The first critical hurdle. If you are not performing at least reasonably well, you are very unlikely to be considered for promotion.

Research has shown that performance only accounts for around 10% of the “do I promote this person” decision. This is much lower than people expect.


Image – How you are perceived

How you are perceived counts for around 30% of the promotion decision. Performance contributes to your image. The quality and style of your relationships with colleagues contribute a lot more.

Are you a happy, optimistic person at work? Do you lift your colleagues’ moods? Or are you the opposite? Positive people are more likely to get promoted. We all prefer working with uplifting people.

As you progress up the ranks, more of your role is about dealing with people and getting the best out of them. How does your behaviour and actions demonstrate these important skills?

Do you help or hinder your manager? Your colleagues? How do you treat junior through to senior staff members? How do you handle stress or a crisis? How do you make decisions? Do you like the company you are working in? Are you loyal to it?

All of these aspects and many more contribute to your work image.


Exposure – who knows about you and what you do

“Who you know is more important that what you know” is an old saying. This still holds a lot of truth for promotions. Who knows about you counts for 60% of a promotion decision.

You need to positively influence more people the further you progress. The bigger the organisation the more important your networking skills become. These are critical skills in senior management.

“Fit” is a very important factor. Does the next layer of managers perceive you as one of them? If you don’t “belong” in their eyes, you are unlikely to get promoted. What does the next management layer do that you do not?


Action trumps knowledge

When you know what to do, you then have to go and do it. This can be a lot harder that it sounds.

Being promoted often means giving up things, as well as accepting new things. Your lifestyle may have to change, your relationship with work friends may change, you may have to work different hours, you may see less of your partner, the kids and so on. Are you prepared to make the sacrifices required in exchange for the promotion and more responsibility? These are all choices that we make at an individual level. What choice are you going to make?


Read more about career promotion & interview coaching >>


Jess Coles coaches individuals to achieve a career promotion. Visit to book in a 30-minute no obligation coaching session with him or call 0203 500 6300