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How to Get a Promotion at Work

You’re up for a challenge, aren’t you? You’re hungry to grow. You’re longing for more responsibility, more influence and more fulfillment in your career. You’re the kind of person who’s got their eyes on the summit of the mountain. And I dig it.

My life calling is to help you find your life calling! And chances are, the journey toward your dream job involves taking on more responsibility. So, let’s talk about how to get a promotion at work.

But I need to make something clear before we jump in: You must earn your promotion. Your leader isn’t going to hand you one just for taking up space at a desk for a few years. In order to demonstrate you’re ready for the next gig, you have to knock it out of the park in your current position. You must know your role, accept your role, maximize your role, and develop your character along the way.

1. Know your role.

The first step of moving forward is taking radical responsibility for your job—not comparing yourself to people around you. Use these three habits to know your role:

Get crystal clear on your responsibilities.

You need to know exactly what’s expected of you in your current role. Hopefully you’ve been given a job description with clear details of your responsibilities and expectations. Whether you have that document or not, ask your leader, “What does it look like for me to win in this role?” And then go do it!

Ask for feedback.  

Your leader is probably pretty busy with their responsibilities. You don’t have to wait for your six-month or annual check-in to ask how you’re doing and make sure you’re on track. Asking for their opinion will develop rapport and give you valuable information to help you keep improving.

Be a good listener.

If you’re going to ask for feedback, you’d better be ready to receive it! Ask the question, then shut your mouth and listen. You’ve got to eat a big ole slice of humble pie to fully apply constructive criticism—but it’s the only way to get better.

2. Accept your role.

Accepting your role is all about developing your attitude. Are you positive? Do you bring a creative spark to everything you do? Where you are today might not be your dream role, but there’s no next if you don’t crush the now. Focus on developing an infectious attitude of gratitude by adopting these habits:

Hone your craft.

Whatever your calling—engineer, nurse, chef, developer, marketer, fill-in-the-blank—commit to being the absolute best you can be. You should know your craft backward and forward and see each day as an opportunity to practice.

Take initiative.

As you grow in your skill set, look for problems that can be solved. Offer up your solutions and ideas. If you see something, say something! It takes self-awareness to know what you bring to the table and then contribute to the success of your entire team.

Be collaborative.  

Begin to branch out and make connections with your teammates and even with the broader professional community in your area. Don’t hesitate to reach out across departments and disciplines. Think of yourself as a bridge that connects people across islands. This helps lay the foundation for developing rapport with people who will help you continue to grow.  

3. Maximize your role.

All right, folks, it’s time to go from wins to wows. Self-discovery is a key component of maximizing your role—knowing who you are and what you’re capable of. To earn a promotion, you must go above and beyond your current responsibilities. As long as you’re not overstepping boundaries, try to do the work of your next job before you get the job title.

Learn, learn and learn some more.

Improving your skill set is a lifelong endeavor. Develop daily habits that will allow you to continue to grow. Start to think strategically about the big picture of your team or department and make ideas go from good to great.

Value people.

Relationships are the most important factor of determining how quickly and effectively you move forward. Period. Dive deep with your leaders and your teammates. Practically speaking, this means being present in your organization. Don’t eat lunch in the break room alone every day. Go to lunch, grab coffee, attend fun events, and get to know your coworkers outside of work hours. Make yourself valuable by becoming an indispensable part of the community where you work.

Help your teammates win.

If you want to advance personally, commit to being a key player on your rock-star team. When you look out for the good of your teammates, you’re advancing the good of the entire organization. And as you support and encourage other key players, they’ll open doors of opportunity for you.

Set specific goals.  

From planning to ask for a raise to taking on more responsibility, write out your goals clearly and put them on a timeline so you know when and how to execute them. And don’t assume your leader knows you want a promotion. Talk to them about your desire to grow and earn more responsibility. Ask them what certifications, skills, or qualities you should have in order to reach that destination.

4. Develop your character.

In addition to improving your hard skills (things like programming, writing or sales), you need to focus on becoming the kind of person who deserves more responsibility. We’re talking about character. Here are four specific character qualities that will help lead you to a promotion:

Be likeable.

People should smile when they cross paths with you at the coffee station or walking down the hall. Be kind. Now, this isn’t an expectation for you to be perfect, but you must do your best to bring joy to others.

Be coachable.

Two specific areas come to mind when I think about coaching:

  1. The first is instruction. When a new opportunity, piece of technology, or policy gets put on your plate, soak it up like a sponge. Be an A+ student. Find a mentor to pour into you.
  2. The second area is correction. Don’t get defensive when your leader notices an area that needs improvement. Choose humility and embrace the opportunity to learn.

Be reliable.

Being reliable is about building trust over a consistent period of time. Ask yourself questions like these:

  • Are you trustworthy?
  • Will you do a good job with more on your plate?
  • When your name is on a project, do your leader and teammates immediately know it’s in good hands?

Deliver on the promises you make—day in and day out.  

Be honorable.

This is all about integrity. Consistently treat people the way you want to be treated, and respect their needs and their ideas.

You deserve to win at work. Our new book and assessment will show you how.

Spend some time reflecting on these four qualities. Ask your family and a trustworthy friend at work to give you some honest input on where you’re doing well and where you need to grow.

Grow in Your Career Every Single Day

If you follow these four steps—know your role, accept your role, maximize your role, and develop your character—then before you know it, a promotion will find you. You can’t always predict the exact moment, but when the time comes to throw your hat in the ring, you can rest assured that you’ve done the work necessary to earn your spot.

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Ken Coleman

About the author

Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman is a career expert and author of the national bestselling book From Paycheck to Purpose and the #1 national bestseller The Proximity Principle. He hosts The Ken Coleman Show, a nationally syndicated, caller-driven show that helps listeners discover what they were born to do. Ken makes regular appearances on Fox News, and he co-hosts The Ramsey Show, the second-largest talk show in the nation. Through his speaking, broadcasting and syndicated columns, Ken gives people expert career advice, providing strategic steps to grow professionally, land their dream job, and get promoted.  Learn More.

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