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A 4-Step Plan to Getting a Promotion at Work

By Daniel B. Kline - Updated Feb 15, 2018 at 3:56PM

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You need to take an active part in advancing your career.

Just being good at your job does not mean you will get promoted. Sometimes you have to make things happen yourself in order to get where you want to go professionally.

Of course, there are good bosses and great companies that help employees manage their careers. With those fabulous employers, you always know where you stand and never have to guess about your next professional step.

At most companies, though, even with really good employers, you need to be active in managing your own career. That means having a plan to get the promotion you want.

It's not just about deserving a promotion: You need to make sure all of the boxes are checked off on the list below.

A wooden figure walks up wooden steps.

Moving forward in your career requires that you be active in managing it. Image source: Getty Images.

1. Do your current job well

It seems silly and a given, but you would be surprised by how often in my management days I had employees who were not performing all that well get angry when they got passed over for promotion. That thinking comes from the mostly outdated idea that seniority matters more than performance.

In general, it's very hard to get promoted if you're not a standout performer at your current job. Go above and beyond expectations while being open to new responsibilities. Treat your current job as important, not merely a step on the way to where you ultimately want to be.

2. Make sure you are qualified

Sometimes you may be in line for promotion but lack a required skill or certification. Some things may be negotiable, but your chances improve if you meet every technical requirement.

In some cases, just working toward a requirement  -- like being in classes toward your master's degree -- will be enough. In others, you actually need to have everything locked down. Whatever your situation is, take the steps needed to be ready.

3. Talk with your boss

If you don't tell your boss where you hope your career goes, he or she may think you're content in your current position. Have a meeting with your boss where you openly discuss your goals. Ask for input as to what you should be doing in order to get where you hope to go.

Be open to constructive criticism and consider it an opportunity. If your boss says you need to work on something, that gives you the chance to listen and act on the advice.

If possible, don't just have one meeting. Set regular check-ins to document your progress and see where you stand.

4. Execute

It's one thing to know where you stand and what you should do, and another thing entirely to do it. Use the steps above to create a plan, one that hopefully has buy-in from your boss or bosses. After that, it becomes your responsibility to check off each box and make sure that when an opening crops up, you're the right person to fill it.

Be patient

Sometimes you may be ready for a promotion and there's simply no opening. In other cases, you may check off all the boxes, but your bosses want someone who has put more time in. Don't be passive, but do be patient.

Checking in with your bosses two or three times a year will let you know if you're on track. As long as you are, and you haven't been repeatedly passed over for jobs you think you deserve, have faith in the process. Be ready and willing, but put in your time so when a position opens up you are the clear choice to fill it.

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