Many people believe that if they work hard and perform well they will get the promotion they deserve. Unfortunately this is not the case and getting promotion requires a bit more focus and effort than that. Part of the problem is that people believe that those involved in making a promotion decision will know what a good job they do. But why should that be the case? Often promotions involve a job move to report to a line manager who is not your current boss. So although he or she may know what a good job you do, the prospective new boss may not.

A second issue is that people assume they know how the succession planning system (or process for promotions) works in their company. Again in my experience that is not always the case. Your immediate line manager may tell you that he or she thinks you are ready to be promoted, but who else is involved in that decision? I know as an ex HR Director that the line manager’s boss may not agree with the promotion rating. Or at a senior level the company executive committee review all potential future promotions. Here all the Directors will give their view on whether someone should be promoted. But do you ever find out what they really thought?

If these are key issues, what are the solutions? Well the first thing to do is to make sure you understand how the decision is made about the promotion you are looking for, and that entails asking your line manager and his or her boss. Where possible you could also talk to someone in HR. Find out who makes the decisions and who else has an input. Ask how you would get feedback on what people think. The best time to do this is probably around the annual performance review, in this way it would be a normal part of that conversation.

Once you know how the system works and who makes the decisions you need to make sure you are noticed and are on the radar for promotion. The most obvious way to do this is to make sure that people are aware of the great job you are doing. For example, if you are expected to put in monthly reports take time over what goes into them and report on achievements against important objectives. Make sure you talk at team and department meetings about achievements or new initiatives you have implemented. Another good way of being noticed is to ask to be put on company or cross department project teams. This demonstrates your capability to a range of other influencers in the business if you choose the right project.

With your line manager’s agreement you also need to let the right people know you are looking for a promotion. Do this by asking to have a coffee with people who will influence the decision. These are likely to include the senior manager in the department to whom you currently provide a service, your line manager’s boss, the manager to which the role you want reports to, and the HR person involved in managing the succession plan. Let them know what you are considering and why you think you are ready. Ask them for their views on your plans and any development they feel you may still need. In this way you can make them aware of your ambition, get their involvement in helping you achieve it and find out how they rate your chances. Finally it is always a good idea to ask a senior manager to act as your mentor from early in your career. If that relationship works well you will get good insightful advice and potentially an important sponsor for your career.

So remember, promotion does not happen because you happen to be successful in your current job. You have to be proactive in driving your career ambitions. If you do this well you should achieve the career that matches your potential.
About the Author:

Tony Goddard is the Director of an Executive Coaching company which specialises in career development. A key part of the work done by the company is to support Managers in getting the next career move. Prior to becoming an Executive Coach Tony spent ten years as the HR Director of a large FTSE 250 company. As a result of this he has a unique insight into the way that decisions on promotions are made. More information on Career Coaching is available at

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