“When my boss left, I took on her work PLUS my work. I figured if I did a good job, I’d be considered for her role automatically. Then, a few months later when the storm passed over, they told me they were hiring someone else. I was heartbroken.” – M.R., 29
“I’ve been here for 3 years. I’ve always gotten good performance reviews – a few things to work on, but lots of praise and positive feedback. But everyone around me seems to be getting promoted but me. I’ve talked to my manager about it, and nothing. Maybe I just need to find a new job.” – J.P., 33
At an organization you love with no way up in sight?
In the last six years, I’ve navigated promotion after promotion and helped a half dozen friends navigate the same struggles – and learned a lot along the way. More importantly, I’ve learned the reasons behind our passed-over-promotions. Although every situation is different, the promotion challenges I’ve seen usually touch one of these five areas:
You Didn’t Ask
You’d be surprised how many people see an opening at their company they think they’re ready for, and just sit on it – waiting to be noticed. If you’re not willing to ask for the job, or even sell your boss on why you’d be the best choice, then don’t expect to get it. Tenure and traditional career tracks based on seniority alone are dead. You get what you work for – and you get it by asking.
You Have a Performance Blindspot
It’s easy to get an inaccurate perception of our standing in a company. Just ask the millions of people let go each year for performance issues, who didn’t see it coming. It’s even trickier to draw the line between good performance and promotion-worthy GREAT performance. If your manager isn’t great at direct feedback, loose with praise, or generally positive in their communication, it can be easy to mistake “getting by” or being a solid performer with being ready for a promotion.
Your EQ and Leadership Presence Isn’t Where It Needs to Be
Do you have a lot of interpersonal issues in the workplace? Are you awkward at networking events, holiday parties, and other occasions? Can you connect with people easily? Do you read people well? As you go up the career ladder, emotional intelligence gets more and more important to your success. If your EQ isn’t up to snuff don’t worry: there are lots of resources out there to get better at connecting with others and navigating your emotions. With that said, it won’t just improve over time: seek out tools and techniques to get better in this area.
The Right People Aren’t In Your Corner
A lot of internal hiring decisions get made with input from senior leaders across the organization. Do you have the right mentors and sponsors in place to speak to your qualifications and skills? Do you have leaders actively seeking out opportunities on your behalf? If you don’t that might be a roadblock for getting into a leadership-level role.
You’re Not Visible Enough
Do people across the organization know what you’re doing? Have you made a point to connect with teams outside of your division and be useful? Do you communicate and advocate for your priorities? Do people come to you for input or advice in your areas of expertise? If not, maybe they don’t know how good you are – because you haven’t told or shown them. There’s a careful balance between too much or too little self-promotion, but if you’ve hit a major milestone, made a huge and relevant process improvement, or otherwise crushed an important, far-reaching goal, make sure others know it.