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Think you are entitled to a promotion? Prove it

Posted by Meg Bear on August 22, 2008

  Really.  I mean it.  Prove it.  And don’t attempt to give me a lame story about how Joe, who is way less qualified then you, got promoted and you didn’t.  The world is full of people who got jobs they might be questionably qualified for.  No one wants to hear about how unfair this is for you.  Seriously. 

If that’s all you got to prove you are entitled to a promotion, then go talk to someone who is legally obligated to be on your side.  It’s possible life is unfair for you, it is even possible you have a legal case but I hope you can do better then it’s not fair.  Maybe I spend too much of my non-working day with the pre-school set, but I can promise you that while I might be polite and listen to your case, what I’m thinking on the inside is nobody likes a tattletail or a whiner.

So what’s a person to do?  How do you make a case for promotion that is likely to get my attention, or even better garner my support?  Well this is not attempting to be a comprehensive list by any means, but here are some of my thoughts on the topic. 


  • A promotion is a campaign — treat it like one.  Respect the process.  It’s about you and how you are qualified.  So first start with getting together a good story about your qualifications.  Have examples.  Why do you think you are qualified for that job?  What evidence can you give to support your opinions?


  •  Being excellent at what you do is necessary but not sufficient – it’s not enough to be great at what you do today.  I’ll say it again, just because you have outstanding performance ratings does not mean that you should be promoted.  It just means you are good at your job.   I’m happy to give you a gold star for that, but it doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll be rushing out to give you a bigger role.


  • A promotion campaign takes time – it is insulting to the process to bring it up after it’s time to get one.  A promotion discussion is most effective before you are anxious for a promotion.  Ideally at least one year before, so that there is sufficient time for both you and your manager to plan and execute the campaign.


  •  Start building examples of how you are doing the next level job – it’s hard to argue if you are “ready” when you are already doing the job.  Be sure you are well aware of what the skills are for the job your want.  Know people who are excellent at that job and see how you can learn from them. 


  • Get the right people to support your candidacy – most promotions require the support of several people for approval.  Know what the approval process is within your company and make sure you have made appropriate connections with the people who matter.  They need to know who you are and they need to have a favorable impression of you, or they can present a roadblock to your career.

Of course, for you, it is less important what I think and much more important what your own manager thinks about this topic.  Have you talked to her about the subject?  If you haven’t I will have a hard time believing that you are seriously ready for a promotion.  Your career is your job to manage, expecting others to do it for you just proves to me that you are not ready.

7 Responses to “Think you are entitled to a promotion? Prove it”

  1. Laurie said

    I can’t even handle how awesome this is…

  2. Gretchen said

    Look out – Meg’s on a rant. And she’s 100% right! Thanks for getting this one out there.

  3. vivianwwong said

    Excelent post Meg – Thanks so much for sharing your words of wisdom!

  4. J said

    What you say is really wise and true, Chief Bear.
    I think of “doing the next level job – it’s hard to argue if you are “ready” when you are already doing the job.” as a direct corollary of:
    ‘work speaking for itself’,
    ‘action louder than words’.

    But how good are geeks at handling the campaign and self-promotion part?

  5. Meg Bear said

    exactly true, geeks are uniquely disadvantaged in the promotion game but if you are a smart geek you learn to find a way (which is a lot to my point).

    Good news is that most geeks are competing for pomotions in fields that handicap (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Handicapping) for this a bit.

  6. […] you are interested in being promoted, especially to the more senior grades, a network is probably critical.  Most people do not […]

  7. […] are uniquely skilled and you know what it takes and most importantly, you learn from what doesn’t work and build a plan that gets results.  […]

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