How to get promoted

job promotion

aidas | March 6, 2023

Promotion was never a clear topic to me. I didn’t know how to ask for one or what I needed to accomplish to climb a step higher. But I did want to get promoted. So I kept on wondering: “if I’m doing my job and everybody’s happy, maybe it’s time? Or maybe I need to work longer hours? Maybe excel in some particular area? And should I insist and be persuasive when asking for a promotion, like in that blog that I read the other day? Or should I give only little hints that the current responsibilities are too simple and that I’m searching for new challenges?” Weeks were passing like that with no real change. I continued digging my little tunnel in the darkness with no clear path.

From my experience, it’s the lack of clarity that makes the difference between action and inaction. And the more clarity there is, the more precise action I can choose towards where I want to go.

I remember how in one of my jobs we were setting individual goals. They served as a helper to keep one’s direction and be aware of personal progress. One day when reviewing the goals I realized that I had no clear vision on which color of light I’d like to see at the end of the tunnel. So during our 1x1 meeting with the manager, I shared that there might be a vague promotion goal. I mentioned carefully: “I don’t know what the requirements are and how long it might take, but maybe this could be something I could start working on?” He updated the notes. The meeting finished. Blink, blink.

Next week my manager came to our 1x1 with a sheet he prepared. It was a document, where the requirements for the promotion were written.

“To get promoted, we need to satisfy the requirements. We’ll nail them down one by one. After we’re done, you’ll have a green light for your promotion.”

“Green,” I thought, “that’s the color I want to see at the end!” And suddenly I started to see a slight green gleam at the end of the tunnel. Although the light was dim, I could already see the contours of the path! We were reading through the requirements, we talked about each of them in detail to be sure that we both understand them and we’re on the same page. At the end of the meeting it was more than clear for me what to do.

Next steps were to identify how I could satisfy each of the requirements. Answer depended on the situation. Maybe I should:

  • start doing something I haven’t been doing yet?
  • have some additional responsibilities?
  • increase the impact of my work?
  • raise my contributions to the next level? Maybe there’s some technical stuff I have to learn which I don’t know yet?

There might be various ways of fulfilling the requirement. But as soon as I have clear goals (requirements) and I’ve worked out the actions which are needed to achieve them, all that’s left to do is to act. When I felt stuck, I could ask for other colleagues' opinions. When I needed additional inspiration, I looked at what people in higher positions are doing. There were also some points which I couldn’t start addressing immediately. So I loaded them on a tight spring in my subconsciousness so that as soon as the right opportunity comes, it shoots its way straight to the target before anyone else has a chance to interrupt. In the end I had a clear roadmap on how to achieve the promotion.

The clarity is what made the difference for me. It’s not simply “work harder” or “do more”. That’s unmeasurable, hence meaningless. When I’m trying to follow this kind of advice I end up feeling like a Skinner’s pigeon (original article). If the requirements are not there, we can create them. If they are changing, we can agree on them temporarily. Being clear and specific serves both sides.

And finally, when you have the roadmap you can always choose if you want to go with it. Maybe for some reason you decide that it’s not worth it. But it will be a conscious, justified choice. Having it written black on white (or white on black, if you like dark mode) gives you the opportunity of knowing what you’re choosing.

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