How to Get Promoted – The Complete Guide to Moving Up

October 1, 2018

How to get promoted at work – your complete guide.

Many of us would love to be promoted. Advancement usually means more influence, more money and more control over your day-to-day tasks – just to name a few perks.

But how do you get promoted? Isn’t it out of your hands?

Not really. Yes, the decision to be promoted is one your organization ultimately has to make. But, by proactively pursuing a promotion, you drastically increase your chances.

So, what’s the best way to pursue a promotion? It comes down to two things: acting in a way that’ll warrant a promotion and asking your boss for that promotion.

This article covers both.

The Qualities You Need to Exhibit to be Promoted

Promotions aren’t just handed out because you want them. You need to earn your promotion by first acting in a way that’s promotable.

What does that mean, exactly? Well, here are the qualities you need to display to be seriously considered for a promotion:

    1. You need to be good at your job.

This sounds obvious. But, if you aren’t performing above-average in your job, it’s nearly impossible to be promoted.

So, put your focus here first. But being good at your job isn’t enough – being good at your job just proves that you are good at your current job. To be promoted, you need to prove that you’d be good at a bigger job.

The rest of the qualities demonstrate that.

    2. You prove you can develop yourself.

This is the difference between a high-performing employee who will stay in their role forever and a high-potential employee who will quickly move up the ladder.

A high-performing employee will do their job well, yes. But their performance reviews will look the same year-after-year – the same portfolio of strengths and weaknesses.

Conversely, the high-potential employee proves to their employer that they are not just going to excel in the role they have, but push themselves to continually improve. This means they take on new and different responsibilities. It means they are aren’t afraid of lateral moves, if it means the chance to master new skills. It means they actively solicit feedback from others to understand what they are weak in. And, it means they learn on their own time.

If you do those things, it’ll show that you have a growth mindset, not a fixed one. And that’s how you become seen as a high-potential employee, instead of just a high-performing one.

    3. You are easy to work with and have strong relationships across the organization.

Being promoted isn’t a decision your boss makes in a vacuum. At most organizations, promotions require the green-light of other people within your organization as well.

And there’s no quicker way to hurt your chances of getting promoted than making enemies. Instead, you want to do the exact opposite – you want people to be on your side, to root for you to get promoted.


It’s simple, really. Be a good partner. Treat people with respect, even if they don’t treat you with respect. Be aware how you show up.

Remember – it might feel good in the moment to get frustrated at someone or blow someone off, but that can kill your chances to move up within an organization.

    4. You see the bigger picture.

Being promoted means getting a bigger role within the organization. And the best way to show that you are worthy of that bigger role is by seeing beyond your day-to-day and thinking strategically about how your efforts can most help the organization.

This means really understanding the business you are in and how your role – and your department – fits in. That’ll empowers you to make more strategic suggestions to your manager. It also means understanding the culture your organization is looking to build and acting in a way that exemplifies it.

    5. You are a “yes” person.

This doesn’t mean you should agree with everything your boss says – in fact, disagreeing thoughtfully will help your career.

No, instead, this means saying “yes” when there are opportunities to expand your role. Maybe there’s a group you can join within the office. Or a pilot you can be a part of. Or a new, lean team that needs members.

Whenever possible, say yes if it means an expanded scope.

Obviously, you need to prioritize smartly here. But, if you can start taking on new responsibilities and projects outside your core role, you prove to your boss that can handle a bigger job – while also building relationships with more people across the organization

    6. You listen.

There’s this misconception that you need to dominate every conversation you are in to prove to everyone you are indeed a leader.

In reality, the exact opposite is true.

One of the best ways to improve yourself, to form great relationships with others and to become more strategic is to actively listen. If this isn’t a strength of yours, make it one – this course can help.

    7. You are purposeful with what you say and how you say it.

As LinkedIn Learning Instructor Elizabeth McLeod said, “Language is everything. Your words tell people who you are – your language is imperative in your ability to get promoted.”

What should you say? In her LinkedIn Learning course Learning to be Promotable, McLeod explains:

LinkedIn Learning Instructor Elizabeth McLeod explains the language you should use if you want to be promoted.

How to Ask Your Boss for a Promotion

The single-biggest mistake people make looking for a promotion is they think if they keep their head down and work hard they’ll get one.

That’s giving away your power. Instead, be proactive – if you believe you are worthy of a promotion or would like to earn one down the road, ask your boss for it.


Here are a few best practices:

    1. Ask your boss what it’ll take to get a promotion, instead of demanding one that moment.

Unless you are truly willing to follow through, it’s not a good idea to give your boss an ultimatum like, “Give me a promotion or I’ll quit.”

Instead, you should tell your boss with what you want early in your relationship with them and work with them to make it happen. If you want to be promoted, tell your boss that and ask them what it’ll take. This will also give you a realistic timetable and guide to getting that promotion.

This will also turn your boss into your biggest cheerleader, instead of a potential adversary.

    2. You have a business case ready for why you should be promoted.

If you followed step one, when you officially ask your boss for a promotion shouldn’t come as a surprise. But still, regardless of how good of a relationship you have with your boss or what you’ve agreed upon with them before, many times you’ll still need to make the business case on why you should be promoted.

In her LinkedIn Learning course Having an Honest Career Conversation With Your Boss, Instructor Lida Citroen explains how to do that:

LinkedIn Learning Instructor Lida Citroen explains how to put together a business case for getting promoted.

    3. Don’t make these four mistakes when asking for a promotion.

There are several mistakes people make when asking for a promotion that’ll hurt your chances. Some of the most common are:

  • Don’t compare yourself to others. Don’t tell your boss that you should be promoted because your colleague – who does half the work you do, mind you – just did. This can make you come across as unprofessional and criticizes both the person who was promoted and the people who agreed to promote him or her.

  • Don’t think a good personal relationship with your boss will lead to a promotion. It helps to have a good personal relationship with your boss, sure. But that alone won’t mean a promotion – your boss needs to justify to their boss that you are worthy of promotion, and them saying “I like this person” isn’t going to cut it.

  • Know the state of the business. The worst time to ask your boss for a promotion is after a layoffs – you better have a really, really compelling business case. Know the state of the business – along with being a key quality to getting promoted, it’ll help you frame your business case.

  • Getting emotional if your boss doesn’t promote you. If you believe you deserve a promotion and you don’t get one, you might get emotional. That’s fine – if you do it alone. But don’t get emotional toward your boss. It could ruin your relationship with them and paint you as unprofessional.

How LinkedIn Learning Can Help You Get Promoted

One of the best ways to prove to your organization you are worthy of a promotion is committing to learning new skills. This shows that even if you don’t have the skills needed to do a bigger job yet, you could learn them.

So, really, learning any new skills relevant to your job is a major plus. But what online courses will help you the most, when it comes to getting promoted?

Here are a few suggestions:

    1. Learning to Be Promotable

Instructors: Elizabeth McLeod, Lisa Earle McLeod

Course Description: To land a promotion, you need to do more than just excel at your current job. You need to have the right skills, say the right things to the right people, and demonstrate your ability to lead. In this course, authors and leadership experts Lisa Earle McLeod and Elizabeth McLeod discuss the behaviors and language you need to put yourself on the promotion track.

    2. Having an Honest Career Conversation With Your Boss

Instructor: Lida Citroen

Course Description: To get what you want, you need to ask. Dialog is what opens doors. If you're at the place in your career where you need to have a truthful conversation about what comes next, this is the course for you. Personal branding expert Lida Citroën helps you prepare to have an honest career conversation with your boss. She helps you navigate common career conversation topics such as asking for a promotion, requesting additional training, or confessing a potential career-ending mistake. Learn how to request, prepare for, and lead the conversation, and keep the meeting focused and professional-even if your request is denied.

    3. Developing Executive Presence

Instructor: John Ullmen

Course Description: Learn to project self-confidence, clarity, and credibility even under conditions of stress, pressure, and uncertainty. In this course, John Ullmen, PhD, a professor from the UCLA Anderson School of Management, shares key research insights and step-by-step methods he uses to coach leaders around the world to develop executive presence. He outlines the four key factors that drive executive presence, and the specific actions that make them work for you. He also explains the difference between "internal" and "external" presence, and how to enhance both to increase your self-assurance and self-possession. He addresses how to do all of this without being fake or feeling inauthentic, and how to be "fully present, persistently."

    4. Strategic Thinking

Instructor: Dorie Clark

Course Description: Strategic thinking is the ability to think on a big and small scale, long and short term, and into the past and the present. While strategic thinking is a valuable skill for everyone in an organization, it becomes increasingly essential as you ascend the ladder. In fact, you may have a difficult time being promoted or succeeding as a leader without it. Yet, no one formally teaches strategic thinking—so it's critical to take the initiative and learn how to do it yourself. This course teaches managers and leaders how to use strategic thinking to guide the direction of their teams and come up with solutions to key business problems. Career and personal branding expert Dorie Clark shows you how to carve out time to think about strategy, gather data, learn from the past, create a vision for the future, and implement strategic thinking within your team.

    5. Defining and Achieving Your Goals

Instructor: Dave Crenshaw

Course Description: Plenty of people have had the experience of setting goals and then failing to achieve them—think of all the New Year's resolutions that are never realized. But with the right strategies, even your loftiest professional goals are attainable. In this course, career and personal branding expert Dorie Clark helps you identify what's most important to you, and provides specific strategies for achieving your goals, such as getting an accountability partner, making your intentions public, and more. She also helps you maintain your goals by sharing tips and techniques for turning your goals into habits.

The Takeaway: Promotions Come to Those Who Show They Are Worthy and Ask For It

Here’s the bigger point – promotions are like anything else in this world. Wanting it isn’t enough – you have to go get it.

The best way to do that is first to act in a way that’s promotable. And again, that doesn’t mean just excelling in your current role. It also means demonstrating qualities that show you are capable of a bigger role as well.

Secondarily, you need to ask your boss for the promotion. It can be awkward, yes. But it’s also empowering – it means you are taking control of your career, instead of waiting for others to recognize your great work.

Let this article serve as your guide on how to best make that happen. If you follow the advice listed, there’s still no guarantee that you’ll get promoted.

But it’ll drastically help your chances.