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Why You're Not Getting Promoted (And What to Do About It)

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Are you finding yourself asking “why am I not getting promoted?”Learn what may be preventing you from advancing professionally and get guidance on the changes you can make to increase your odds of moving up and out of your current role.

How to get promoted at work: Avoid common promotion pitfalls

You could be hindering your path to getting promoted without even realizing it. Consider if you’re making any of the following common mistakes:

You’re assuming you’ve earned the promotion

Probably the biggest misconception about how to get promoted at work—especially among younger workers—is assuming you’ve earned it because you’ve put in time.

Studies show that 3 in 4 Gen Z workers believe they should be promoted within the first year of starting their first job and 1 in 3 think they deserve that promotion within their first six months. Earning a promotion takes so much more than just time on the job—it means exceeding your job requirements and developing the higher-level skills you’ll need to take on a new role.

Plus, promotions aren’t just a reward for an employee—they’re opportunities for both the company and the employee to grow, improve, or change an area of the organization. This means that to apply or be considered for a promotion, there has to be an open position available at your company for you to transition into.

You don’t have the skills needed to move up in your company

Think about the requirements of the promotion you want. Success in your current role might not translate to success in your desired position. For instance, someone who is successful at adding new people to a customer database might not have the technical skillset to manage the entire database. This doesn’t just apply to technical skills either. If you’re moving up to management, you’ll need sharpened soft skills like communication, leadership, and emotional intelligence as well.

Read more about why companies need managers with soft skills more than ever.

You aren’t actively incorporating feedback from your boss

A big part of getting promoted is positioning yourself for professional and personal growth. One way that employers judge your readiness for a promotion is whether or not you’re receptive to constructive criticism and feedback. They want to know you’re open to learning and improving your skills rather than being determined to prove them wrong when you receive feedback you don’t agree with.

You don’t take initiative in your current role

If your biggest priority at work is getting through your daily checklist and hitting the road by 5 PM, you’re probably not going to get promoted. This doesn’t mean you have to start burning the midnight oil every night, but you have to take initiative and step up to take on more when it’s needed. After all, you can’t act like an employee with minimal investment in a company and expect to be promoted to management.

You’re staying at a company that you’ve outgrown

Finally, don’t assume your next best promotion is at your existing company. Take the time to assess if you can still learn and grow where you work and if your next career step can be found there. It is completely normal to feel like you’ve peaked at a company and search for your next role elsewhere.

Now that you’ve considered potential promotion pitfalls, let’s consider strategies for increasing your odds of moving up from your current role.

Create an action plan

Hopefully you’ve now narrowed down potential reasons why you might not be getting promoted and you’re feeling energized to do something about it! It’s time to put together an action plan. Follow these five steps to start making those promotion dreams a reality:

1. Communicate your professional goals

How will your company promote you if they don’t even know that you want a promotion? Make sure you’re sitting down with your boss and letting them know both your short-term and long-term goals. Your boss can help you achieve your goals by giving you opportunities, holding you accountable, and keeping you in mind the next time a promotion comes up.

2. Document your success at work

Keep track of all of your moments of success. This can mean something as big as a presentation you absolutely nailed or something as small as a process you improved. As long as you personally championed it and it contributed to the success of the company, write it down. If you keep track, you’ll have plenty of success stories to bring up during your next performance review!

3. Make yourself indispensable to your boss

Is there something you can do better than anyone else? Maybe it’s an internal process people rely on you for or a specific area of expertise? If you make yourself indispensable to your organization, they’re more likely to want to promote you and keep you around.

4. Build your professional support network

You can’t be promoted without support. You need your colleagues, managers, and senior leadership all on your side to make it happen. Put time and effort into building relationships within the company and avoid burning any bridges. You never know who might influence that final decision.

5. Never stop networking

While this may seem counterintuitive, network with people outside your organization to avoid becoming isolated from the world at large. Networking will help you understand where you stand in the marketplace, the value you bring to your company, and what’s happening in other industries. The more you know about your worth, the easier it’ll be to assess whether the next best move for you is within your company or hopping to another.

Business school aids career advancement

Another way to get that promotion and accelerate your overall career advancement is pursuing a graduate business degree, like an MBA or business master's. A recent study of business school grads found that 87 percent of alumni felt that business school increased their employability. Four in five alumni said that it increased their earning power, with one in three reporting that their median salary increased from $50,000-$100,000 to over $100,000.

Interested in finding out which programs might suit you? Use our business school Program Finder