3 Reasons Why You Can’t Get a Promotion

It happens to the best of us. You did not get the promotion you wanted and think you deserved. This hurts, it is frustrating, but it is not a career ender. You can choose to mope and get angry, or you can learn from this experience by taking a look at yourself and the situation to figure out the reason you were skipped over.

Here are three common reasons even the most talented, qualified professionals can’t get a promotion.

1. You Are Not Promoting Your Work:

One of the more common reasons I see hardworking professionals get passed up for a promotion is because they fail to promote the value they bring to the organization. Many people believe working hard, achieving goals and going above and beyond will speak for itself to the value they offer. But, let’s get real, your boss is not psychic and we live in a world where we have more to do than the hours in the day will allow! It is all about gaining visibility. If your manager can’t easily name the key areas in which you have contributed to the organization, you are missing out on possible career advancing opportunities.

I want to be clear, when I speak of promoting your work, I am not asking you to be a self-interested, self-absorbed, self-promoter. I am saying it is time to stop relying on corporate lip service and start focusing on how to be recognized for the merit of your work and overall contributions.

Here are four simple way’s to promote the value of your work without looking like a braggart:

  1. Send weekly updates to your boss, telling him/her what you are working on and what you’ve accomplished.
  2. Focus on the work – talk about the outcome instead of what you did to accomplish it.
  3. Tell a story – talk about your accomplishments in a way that will help others who are working on similar projects be successful.
  4. Volunteer to facilitate meetings or for projects that will showcase your strengths.

2. You Are Not Open To Feedback:

Being closed off to constructive feedback is a promotion killer without a doubt. We have all been guilty of this at times, but I am referring to individuals who consistently:

  • Act defensively to a perceived criticism.
  • Think the problem is always with others, never with themselves
  • Refuse to change, even though what they are doing is not working

The hardest part of doing good business is not necessarily the day-to-day tasks involved, but managing the human behaviours. Criticism is hard to take, but it is essential for you to not only identify weaknesses and areas of improvement, but just as important, to foster business relationships that are open and honest.

When we hear criticism or areas of improvement, it can hurt and feel personal. Additionally, it does not help people are not that great at giving feedback, so hearing it is not always easy. Here are three things I find helpful in receiving and processing feedback:

  • Don’t react. At the first sign of criticism, before you do or say anything – stop. You have a minuscule window to set the tone for how the conversation will go. Try not to react at all! It is important to show the person giving you the feedback that you are open to what they have to say and care about their opinion. Sometimes this means more than the feedback itself. People want to know you are approachable and willing to work on areas of improvement.
  • Listen! Just as receiving criticism can be hard, it can be just as hard to give. This is not the time for rebuttal or to think of a way to defend yourself. Allow the person to share his or her complete thoughts, without interruption. After the person is done talking, repeat back what you heard, so he or she knows you were listening and understand their issues.
  • Define a plan for addressing the issues. A plan is the best way to put you back in control of the situation. Send a follow-up email to the person who gave you the feedback, with what you heard and your plan to make the appropriate changes. It is also important to review your plan weekly to assure you are on track.
  • Be proactive. Receiving feedback; good or bad, is essential to your professional growth and to understand the expectations your manager and others have of you. Don’t wait for the feedback to be shared, seek it out regularly. You will not only gain the respect of your manager and peers, but help foster good business relationships.

3. You Don’t Take Initiative:

You do your job AND only your job. You do not move up the ladder for doing your job; you get paid for it. Getting promoted is about doing more than expected, discovering opportunities, and providing immense value. If you meet expectations, feel free to pat yourself on the back, but don’t be surprised when you get passed up for the promotion.

It is one thing to be a top performer doing merely what you were hired to do, but it is those who use their talents to help outside the scope of their job who get promoted. This does not mean you wait to take the initiative until it means helping with something that will get you noticed. In fact, many times your help can be less important than what you were hired to do. This means you take the initiative to help wherever needed, with the one goal in mind – the success and growth of the company.

Some easy, but recognizable way’s you can start taking initiative is by asking your boss if there are other things you can do to help grow the company or a project. Be available to help, even if the task is outside your job description or scheduled work hours. Offering help before it is asked of you will be much more memorable when it comes time to think about the best candidates who should be considered for promotion.

No hard work goes unnoticed if done for the right reason. Your efforts, big or small, will be recognized, and you’ll be viewed as a team player; all the right ingredients to move up the corporate ladder.

Gone are the days employees are “tapped on the shoulder” for promotion simply by showing up to work and not making waves. Take these lessons and learn from past mistakes to get you started down the right path to your next promotion.


Author: Christine Karel is the co-founder of Resume2Employed, an online resume writing & LinkedIn makeover company specializing in helping job seekers crush the competition. When she’s not dishing out career advice or teaching job seekers (and entrepreneurs) how to leverage social media to generate cool career opportunities, she’s most likely spending time with her husband and two children or on her yoga mat.

Follow Christine on Twitter: @ChristineKarel

Image Credit: Shutterstock

By Christine Karel

Christine Karel is the co-founder of Resume2Employed , an online resume writing & LinkedIn makeover company specializing in helping job seekers crush the competition. When she’s not dishing out career advice or teaching job seekers (and entrepreneurs) how to leverage social media to generate cool career opportunities, she’s most likely spending time with her husband and two children or on her yoga mat.