How to Get Promoted: Break The Rules

Being “good at what you do” is an asset to your career, and it fosters a great attitude and a solid self-esteem boost.

But, unfortunately it’s not enough to get you a promotion. In fact, if you’re excelling at your current position, it might be a good reason to keep you where you are instead of promoting you. It’s quite the conundrum; if you’re great at your job, your company might never dream of putting you anywhere else.

So, if it isn’t excelling at your work, then what makes someone “promotable”?

Quite a bit of research has been done on promotability.  We’ve also discussed different strategies to move your way up.  Although it’s difficult to conduct fact-based research on it, they have come to a few general conclusions on how to get promoted:

  • An employee can develop skills for higher-level jobs if they are regularly faced with “challenging” work. “Challenging” work is defined as work where the current rules and routines won’t suffice in getting the job done, forcing the employee to innovate new routines.
  • An employee who does non-challenging work (mundane work where the current rules and routines are sufficient) never develops higher-level job skills, and thus may be less “promotable.”

So, how do we get promoted? Ironically, it sounds like we have to break a few rules.

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Peter is Vice President of Digital Marketing at an investment holdings company in Washington DC and Co-Founder at True North.


  1. jjroox on the 30th July

    My management keeps telling me he would be promoting me but at the same time keeps throwing me mundane jobs… what happened?

  2. Josh Arguello on the 30th July

    We’ve all seen Office Space right?

    Truth is… it’s more spot-on than people want to believe… I’ve always watched the screw-ups and people who are basically worthless get the promotions…

    But that’s just how it works… Banks and Wall Street give out huge bonuses to employees for running their companies (and our country) into the ground… so why wouldn’t the people who don’t deserve it get the promotions?

  3. Curt Moreno on the 30th July

    “In fact, if you’re excelling at your current position, it might be a good reason to keep you where you are instead of promoting you. ”

    I just cannot agree with you enough on this point! It is amazing to me how many people cannot seem to understand this. “Surely being the best at Job A will get me into Job B where my performance is untried.”

    I think that breaking out of your role is completely akin to being promoted, or even side-moted! So why would someone who wants a change not want to break the rules?

    Great post! Thanks for making me think.

    – KFD –

    • Nunanimo on the 7th December

      I’m sorry please don’t assume u will get promoted being good at your current job unless it’s happened to u. Example, I work in the tv industry, and the runners (lowest job in the company) are all trying to get promoted into something more technical and higher paid work. Those runners who are GOOD at runner work and show excellence in the job are simply given the title ‘head runner’ after a while. Same pay, same work, they just become more team leaders and it could have taken them 10 months to get there. However, the runners that ‘break rules’ e.g sneaking in training sessions for their desired position during lunch breaks and quiet patches, bugging the boss for a chance to move up, making contacts within the company and having good words put in for them. THOSE guys get promoted within 2-3 months. They hunger for it, they chase it, and can’t be bothered to wait for someone to notice them, instead they do stuff to be noticed all the time.

  4. DL White on the 12th September

    As a former corporate VP, I can tell you that being good at your job is rarely enough to get you promoted. Unfortunately, it is more about politics and popularity. The good news is that if you are good at what you do AND learn how to use politics to your advantage, you can really give yourself the edge. One tip is thoughtfully securing the right supporters. Learn how at

    • Lynn on the 19th October

      Hi DL White,

      Yup, I totally agree with you! I was there. The whole world is full of politics. And if one is fortunate enough, would really get a good grip, but if there’d always be dark clouds hanging over the latter, then no matter which approaches he/we uses nothing would seem to work.

  5. Ben on the 15th October

    I think the key to getting promoted isn’t how well you do your current job, it’s how well your employer thinks you’ll do your new job. They can be very different!

  6. Tom Anderson on the 22nd May

    I totally agree. Firstly people don’t get promoted for the right reasons (like being good at your job). If your good in your current role there is no incentive for your boss to promote you. That will leave a gap and your replacement isn’t likely to be as good as you.

    A true Job Hacker would take their desired role by stealth. It’s the only reliable way of showing you can do it and opening a placement for yourself.

  7. Tom Anderson on the 30th June

    I did some more thinking. This is my list

  8. WorkeHow on the 15th August

    This is only half true, the work we do should be visible and we should be willing to do self promotion of our work to be promotable.

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