Fighting for promotion

You work really hard, you meet and exceed all your targets, clients love you, and it feels to you that you deserve that promotion but again there is someone else who gets it! And then you ask yourself, ‘why certain people slide like butter from one promotion to another and you are still where you have been 3 years ago?’

You clench your teeth and decide to work even harder to prove how good you are…but again the promotion goes to someone else. Familiar situation?

That was the same for me until I have discovered a book that hit my face with sober reality of succeeding in competitive companies (too bad I have discovered it so late)Stealing the Corner Office: The Winning Career Strategies They’ll Never Teach You in Business School  by Brendan Reid

It is a very sincere and tough book that shows you reality of corporate competitive world as it is. The book is based on many real examples of real employees, it is very straightforward, and heart-breaking at times. Below I have summarised the main points of the book, but I would really recommend to read the book to take the most out of it:

1. Your main priority is your advancement

Career ladder

You know those guys who are considered to be “arse lickers” (excuse me my French) who irritate you so much by always being around your boss? Of course, you do. You turn away and think, “That’s disgusting, that’s below my dignity. I would never do that”. But guess what, those people just know what they do: they work on their promotion.

Their priority is not their righteousness or your sympathy, but promotion and better salary which they proudly bring home. They know that the closer they are to the boss, the more chances they have to get the best projects and get promoted. They schedule lunches with him, ask how they can help, push their projects through, and get ahead. And you sit there with your cheeks inflated from such unfair life and never get rewarded, even for your super great performance (that no one knows about but you). Do you see the point?

2. Your colleagues are not your friends

This is a logical continuation of point 1: when you have a priority of self-advancement, you have to forget about pleasing everyone and being “THE NICE ONE”. People will not like you for getting ahead and that’s fine. You are at work to climb that ladder and get a higher salary for your family and not to please people around you. 

3. Agree with management

You have got a brilliant idea and you think it is smarter than your boss’ one. So you start arguing letting your boss know (directly or not) that he/she is stupid. That’s a lose-lose situation. Remember, your main priority is your advancement, and not proving that you are smart. So, if you think you have got a great idea, present it to your boss but as a supplementary “maybe yes/why not” solution. If you feel your boss is willing to try it, great! You can work on it. If you feel resistance, don’t push, and go with a flow, it will pay off.

4. Forget about negativity

no to negativity

Are you the one who always complains about everything? You think that things could be better here and there and you go around spreading your negative attitude. What even worse, you bring it up to your boss thinking that you let him know about “dark areas” he doesn’t know about. The boss nods politely and moves you into back ranks inside his head, cause managers need positive people even in most frustrating conditions. Even if you have a valid negative point, don’t bring it to a table without a potential solution. Never! Don’t expect your boss to solve all the problems, help him/her to solve them and you will be more valuable asset in his/her hands.

5. Don’t be over-enthusiastic

Yes, being negative is bad, but being super positive and over-enthusiastic is also no good. For example, you have got an idea which you think can have a great impact on your department. On a next team meeting you are all excited, flushing like tomato, trying to push your idea through with maximum budget requested. People agree to try it and in 1 week your project fails and you look like a fool. So, how should you approach it?

Deliver your idea with cold heart and clear head letting people know that it might work, but also can miserably fail. If it works, it will be great, if it fails, it will be a lesson to learn from.  In that way your colleagues and boss will not look at you like an emotional loser but a balanced professional that sees opportunities, tests them on small scale, measures them, and then decides what’s best to do next.

6. Do big impact measurable projects and capitalise on low hanging fruits

I have worked in large corporate companies for 7 years, and learnt it the hard way that doing your core job perfectly well will not bring you anywhere. Taking care of social life of your team will also not help you as it is not a core job related activity.

You need to build relationships with your boss and key influencers who will prioritise you for projects with big impact. So many times I saw not too talented people who were in good relations with a boss getting juicy projects, getting juicy numbers out of those one-off projects and getting promotions. So, stop sweating over your daily routine work, go out there and get that juicy measurable project and squeeze the most out of it.

As for low hanging fruits: you know about them, right? Identify easy projects with measurable impact, implement, and present great results to your boss.

7. Work on your visibility

This point is very similar to the aforementioned. You have to spend at least 40% of your time on your visibility, otherwise all your hard work will go unnoticed. You might say, “This is too much, I can’t go around bragging about my good job”. Well, then you can keep on working like a horse in a field hoping that someone will tell what a great horse you are but probably no one will because in competitive environments people care about their own promotion, not yours.

Working on visibility is art in itself. Take time to learn more about it. For example, you can make case studies which will be both visibility cases and something useful for your team and clients.

8. Differentiate yourself from the herd

be black sheep

Do you know your strengths? Capitalise on them instead of trying to focus on what you are weak at and desperately fighting to improve your weak areas. For example, you are good in spotting new opportunities and jumping into their implementation without fear. Stress it to your boss, tell him, “I know that there are people in the team who are quite rigid and afraid of testing new things but I will gladly test that new product. I know that I am lacking a bit in Analytics, do you think John can help me in this so we could pull this project through and see if it can bring us additional revenue?” By such approach you let your boss know that even with your weaknesses you know how to organise people around you and get things done.

Here is a free Udemy course you can take on Personal branding: Get noticed! 3 Steps to Create a Personal Branding Statement by Jay Forte

9. Make vertical friendships

Do you only have job “friendships” with your peers? If yes, it is time for you to take an action and reach out to management. Senior people have better access to information, potential projects, influence, and therefore can play an important role in your career advancement.

If you don’t know how to approach managers, consider this: Seniors like when you ask their coaching in certain field. But watch out: don’t throw your problems at them, you don’t want to appear as a needy loser but rather as a professional who wants to learn best practices from an experienced person.

If you can make outside-of-work vertical friendship, that’s even better. For example, attending the same sport section as your boss does, could be a good start of semi-professional relationships.

10. Stick to your boss priorities

Your boss most probably has another boss over him who expects certain deliverables from your boss. Get to know what are your boss’ KPIs and how you can help him to achieve them.

For example, if one of the most important KPIs is revenue, propose a project that might bring additional revenue. But remember: what is more important than the project itself, is its results and how you present them. Compile the results into a powerful case which your boss and team can use for visibility purposes.


I would really recommend to read book Stealing the Corner Office: The Winning Career Strategies They’ll Never Teach You in Business School  by Brendan Reid as it gives very good examples of the aforementioned points and goes deeper into them.


Article author: Anna Boroshok

1 comment

  1. Pingback: [Article] How to get promoted. Cruel truth about promotions. | On Fedsmith

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