Why you didn't get that promotion

Despite stellar results and glowing reviews, you got passed over for a promotion.

Why you didn't get that promotion

Despite stellar results and glowing reviews, you got passed over for a promotion. You’ve asked where you’re falling short, but the responses have been vague and unsatisfying, leaving you angry, frustrated, and unsure of how to get ahead. Promotion decisions seem arbitrary and political. What’s going on?

The Unwritten Rules

In most organisations, promotions are governed by unwritten rules—the often vague, intuitive, and poorly expressed feelings of seniors regarding individuals’ ability to succeed in higher positions. You might not know those rules, much less the specific skills you need to develop or demonstrate to follow them. At the end of the day, you’re left to your own devices in interpreting feedback and finding a way to achieve your career goals.

Strategies for Securing a Promotion

So what can you actually do?

1. Get in the Driver’s Seat Early On

   - Set Clear Goals: Share your goals with your manager regularly, not just at promotion time.

   - Align on Strengths and Weaknesses: Identify areas for improvement, ones that align with the organisations aspirations and work hard on them.

   - Regular Updates: Measure your progress and share weekly or fortnightly updates with your manager. 

2. Think and Act at the Next Level

   - Mindset Shift: Start acting as if you already have the promotion.

   - Take Ownership: Engage with projects that align with higher-level responsibilities if you can. This might take some time to set up and make happen.

   - Cross-Team Impact: Work across teams to have more impact and increase visibility.

3. Take on Challenging Projects

   - Beyond Current Role: Seek out projects that go beyond your current responsibilities.

   - Next Level Scope: Look for opportunities that challenge you and help you grow.

4. Build Trust with Leadership

   - Manage Up: Provide updates and manage expectations proactively. Sometimes things don’t go to plan, if tasks are falling behind, then let your manager know in advance.

   - Reliable and Trustworthy: Demonstrate reliability and ownership of projects.

5. Leverage Mentorship and Growth-Minded Peers

   - Direct Mentorship: Seek out mentors who have successfully navigated the path you aim to follow.

   - Work with Top Performers: Join projects with high performers to learn from their experience and thinking.

Addressing Vague Feedback

When receiving vague feedback, it’s crucial to ask specific questions to uncover the underlying issues:

- Ask for Specifics: “What skills and capabilities do I need to demonstrate to be a strong candidate for higher responsibility?”

- Active Listening: Avoid defensiveness and ask clarifying questions.

- Identify Core Issues: Look for underlying concerns masked by general terms like “leadership” or “communication skills.”

Final Thoughts

 Navigating the path to promotion is nuanced and requires understanding and addressing the unwritten rules of your organisation. Given that these are unwritten, it can be challenging to understand them.

Setting clear goals, taking on challenging projects, managing up, and seeking mentorship, you can start to work strategically towards your next promotion.

Focus on the key areas of development relevant to higher-level roles and be proactive in demonstrating your readiness for advancement.If all of these things don’t lead to a promotion at your current organisation, don’t stress - you’re setting yourself up with new skills that open up new opportunities.

Find a way to document your goals and achievements that works for you. Kaleida can help with this, check out Kaleida for developers.

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