Ten Secrets to Getting Promoted

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You have a spotless attendance record, a blemish-free work record, you have even attended those office weekend outings and gamely did the "trust" exercises, and still, when promotion time rolls around, you find yourself shut out again. What went wrong?

"I've seen too many people make basic, avoidable, mistakes that are held against them and affect their promotability for years," says author Carolyn Thompson whose new book, 'Ten Secrets to Getting Promoted,' tackles that touchy subject.

With over 20 years experience in executive recruiting and coaching, Thompson engaged the help of many executives who had both promoted people, and been promoted themselves, to share their insights into what makes someone promotable.


Q. What are some examples of mistakes people make when trying to get promoted?

A. The majority of mistakes fall under communications:

  • Something they said (or typed), with the best intentions, was misinterpreted.
  • Openly finding fault with or questioning management's motives in the workplace. While they may think that no one is listening, they are really setting themselves up for failure.
  • Offering opinions on things without being asked rather than sticking to the facts, and when upset or angry they voice those opinions in the workplace, which creates a reputation of being a complainer.

Q. Without giving away your entire book, what are some of the secrets to getting promoted?

A. It sounds simple, but dress for success, surround yourself with others that are getting promoted, and be professional and courteous to everyone even if they've made a mistake on your payroll. Kindness goes a long way and is noticed and rewarded by others.


Q. One point in your book I found interesting is keeping the contents of an inter-office e-mail to three sentences. Why? And why three and not four or two?

A. Four sentences runs into what could probably be better and more efficiently expressed in a conversation, particularly if a response is required. Improving interpersonal communications is high on executives' lists of areas for improvement in the work force. One or two sentences could be interpreted as being short and, again, people read between the lines for the subtext and tone of your note, which can be easily misinterpreted by the reader.


Q. How do you tread the fine line between "brown-nosing" and trying to get ahead?

A. Being genuine in your interaction and focusing on what's in it for them and not what's in it for you will ensure you're not over the top.


Q. What happens if someone has followed all these "secrets," but finds him- or herself being passed over? Should they stay or go?

A. Sometimes it's time to go; but you shouldn't immediately exit unless you've truly applied yourself to solving any issues that have arisen. The root of all conflict is unmet expectations. If you find yourself frustrated with your boss or coworker, ask yourself, "What is the expectation I have of them that they aren't meeting?" Similarly, if your supervisor is not appearing pleased with your performance, try to identify what expectation they have of you that you're missing. Asking them professionally and privately is a great way to find out, but you have to be ready to receive the information constructively and not take a defensive posture.


Q. Right, the "blame game" -- blaming others for getting passed up.

A. I hear a lot of people complaining that their career path is being controlled by someone else, and that's just not true. We are all in control of our own futures. If someone finds themselves blaming others for everything that's gone wrong in their career, it might be worth it to look inward to see what behaviors they may have displayed that caused them to be so disgruntled in the first place.

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