Promotion Precautions and Practical Tips
By Chelse Benham
“You must sell yourself and do it at every opportunity.” – Anonymous
Since its genesis in the 1970s, the term "glass ceiling" has come to symbolize
the invisible barriers blocking women from rising to the top of the corporate pile,
but it is not only women who suffer the arbitrary, artificial and restrictive barriers
men must also face challenges that prevent promotion. Cultivating an aura about
one’s self as the obvious choice for the promotion requires confidence, patience
According to authors, Dr. Jo-Ellan Dimitrius and Mark Mazzarella, in their book,
“Put Your Best Foot Forward” great impressions that lead to job promotion are
formed by four characteristics: trustworthiness, caring, humility and capability.
Furthermore, social scientists estimate that people are perceived by others in
Verbal – seven percent of our message is interpreted from the words we
Vocal – 38 percent is picked up from our voice – speed, tone, pitch,
Visual – 55 percent is in our body language.
Getting promoted is a process. Before you are considered for a promotion it is
necessary to get noticed and in the right way. Cultivate your professional
persona at every turn. By acting and dressing like a professional, career experts
say it is easier for a person to be perceived as a responsible worker capable of
the demands of the new position. However, there is a caveat that works against
the presumption of the “best person for the job” scenario.
“The Peter Principal,” written by Lawrence Peters, argues that in a hierarchy,
every employee tends to rise to his or her level of incompetence. Why would
someone be promoted who is unable to perform the job? According to author
Edward P. Lazear, in his article published in the “Journal of Political Economy”
called “The Peter Principal: A Theory of Decline,” there are two fundamental
reasons why this might occur.
Lazear writes, “The most traditional is that the prospect of promotion provides
incentives, which vanish after the promotion has been granted. Another is that
output falls purely as a statistical matter. Being promoted is evidence that a
standard has been met. Regression to the mean implies that future productivity
will decline on average. Usually, firms inflate the promotion criterion to offset the
Peter Principle effect, and the greater the amount of the inflation of the standard,
the larger the dispersion of the pre-promotion error.”
What this means is that managers must be chosen carefully and trained
thoroughly. Without extensive training and development, new-manager
orientations and mentoring this unacceptable situation is likely to continue.
“Mentorship may be the single most important reason why among the equally
talented, men tend to rise higher than women. They tend to mentor each other
more than women do,” said Susie Chapa, coordinator for special programs for
the Career Placement Office at The University of Texas-Pan American.
“Mentorship can give you the big picture. Mentors can also help you find a
suitable style by cluing you into the ‘rules of the game’ commonly known as office
politics. Mentors will be the one person or persons who you will learn from, help
you establish yourself and help you achieve career success.”
Quintessential Careers Web site reported, in the article “Moving Up the Ladder:
10 Strategies for Getting yourself Promoted,” that a recent study found that “in
four out of five promotions, those promoted had a mentoring relationship with
someone higher in the company who helped spread the good word about them.”
The site offers other sound advice for promotion success.
Quantify Results – While promotions are not necessarily based on
your past performance, you can certainly make a much better case
for a promotion by showing detailed information about your past
successes. Those who get results get ahead.
Keep a record of everything you do that enhances the company's
bottom line, that puts the company or your department in a good
light, that is creative and innovative, and that shows your loyalty
and commitment to the organization.
Practice Self-Promotion – We are taught by our families that
modesty is a virtue, but just as with job-hunting, if no one knows
how great you are, you simply will not get ahead. Be a known
quantity. If you have had major accomplishments or created new or
award-winning programs, make sure people know about them,
especially the people doing the promoting.
Establish a Bond with Your Boss – It might help to think of your
boss as one of those border guards between countries. S/he can
either be raising the gate and waving you onward and upward to
your next position within the company, or s/he can be keeping the
gate down and blocking you from any movement within the
company. Use all opportunities to make your boss a key supporter
of your promotion.
Acquire New Knowledge and Skills – It goes without saying that
one of the best ways to succeed in getting a promotion is to expand
your knowledge and skills sets in areas that are critical to the
organization. As technology and other environmental forces change
rapidly, you need an ever-increasing skill set not only to perform
your job, but to stay marketable.
Build Your Network – The more people who know you – know
your strengths and abilities, know your value to the organization,
and know (at least some of) your ambitions – the more likely your
name will be discussed when opportunities arise.
An added benefit of networking is that you will learn much more
about the company if you network with people in other areas of the
organization. Learn more about networking here.
Ask for More Responsibilities – Volunteering to help out other
departments or teams or simply asking for more responsibilities
increases your value within the organization. Asking for more work
shows your interest and desire to help your department and
company to succeed as well as putting a spotlight on your value to
Be a problem-solver – Do not go to your boss with problems. If a
difficult situation arises, be sure to come up with at least one
solution before seeking your boss's blessing for dealing with the
situation. Problem-solvers get promoted. Complainers who expect
the boss to solve all their problems do not.
Be a Team Player – Because so much of work is now
accomplished through teams it becomes even more important to
share successes with your team and to avoid pointing your finger
when there are failures. By being a team player, you only build your
reputation and increase your value to the organization.
Create Your Own Opportunities – After studying the needs and
challenges of the organizations, if you see an area that has been
neglected and you have key skills in that area write a proposal for a
By creating your opportunities and networking, you are refining your image and
creating personal power. Personal power provides the foundation to achieve
positional power – that power obtained through the formalization of authority
through a particular job title.
One key to growing your power is to recognize the simple fact that we now live in
a project world. Almost all work today is organized into bite-sized packets called
projects. A project-based world is ideal for growing your brand: projects exist
around deliverables, they create measurable criteria and they leave you with a
listing of achievements that clearly identify contributions made to the company.
Professional career experts suggest that if you are not spending at least 70
percent of your time working on, creating, or organizing your tasks into projects,
you are not generating opportunities upon which you can be judged and
measured for promotion.
"Be courageous. It's one of the only places left uncrowded." – Anita Roddick