How to Get Ready to Be Promoted

Sorry you didn’t get the promotion. Who knew Larry over there had potential to be middle management?

I know you have the potential too. But it’s just not your time. When will it be your time? You need to take these steps first.

Make connections

The first time you meet the decision makers in this company should not be when you interview for a promotion. You need to make positive first impressions now.

This means going to company functions and being friendly. Volunteer for committees. Strike up conversations in the elevator. Make eye contact and ask questions.

I don’t want you to suck up. Be yourself. But you need to set the groundwork now for when managers are deciding if they want you to join their ranks.

And be a social butterfly outside the building. Meet people at networking functions and trade association mixers. Get to know other people. Socializing is a skill that you need to practice. And who knows. The good impression you make in the community could become known to the decision makers here. Yeah, that’s a double-edge sword. Bad impressions travel too.

Learn more

You need to keep up your education. Work on your masters, take adult ed classes or enroll in online learning. Whatever it takes. You need to be on top of this industry.

Maybe all it will take is to keep reading. Buy the books and magazines. Spend a few minutes with Google to find blogs and newsletters. Things are always changing and no knowledge is wasted at this company.

By the way, it won’t hurt to let someone know that you’re learning.

Look at who’s a manager

Who gets promoted around here? And don’t say “Suck ups.” That’s just going to cement you in that seat. But all these managers come from somewhere. What is their path to now?

Here’s why it’s important. They tend to like prospects following in their footsteps. It’s a tribute to their career. And they feel like they know what the prospect has to bring to the table. And given half a chance, they will groom people to follow similar paths.

Assess yourself – privately

Unfortunately, management doesn’t like to promote without consulting a set of tests. If they’re not using Myers-Briggs, it’s something similar. Personally, I abhor the concept. But if this is the game you want to play, these are the rules.

So get an advance scouting report on yourself. Take a Myers-Briggs test and see what it says. You might learn something about yourself that you can emphasize or change to make you a good candidate for management.

Take responsibility and show leadership

There are two types of people in this office – people who manage and people who manage to avoid responsibility. Just because you’re not part of management, that doesn’t mean you can’t manage projects.

Take responsibility for getting things done. They’re looking for someone who’s not afraid to lead without a title.

Did I tell you the time I applied to be our supervisor? Joe was doing the interviewing and told me that I wouldn’t get the job. He had it reserved for someone he had been watching who took on leadership roles.

Joe said management was all about making mistakes. Every manager made them. The key was to find someone who has made mistakes and learned from them. The guy who got the job I wanted had been leading small groups and managing projects. He didn’t do it perfectly. But he made the mistakes when the stakes were low.

You can take on informal leadership roles too. Some of the managers have this theory that there are workers who are influencers and have followings. They tend to give good jobs to the influencers so they will encourage their followers to be happy worker bees.

It’s pretty lame, and I haven’t seen it work. But those perceived influencers get the opportunities to advance.

Develop skills outside the office

Join a club or volunteer at a nonprofit organization. But don’t just sit there or do what you’re told. Take on responsibility. Learn those management mistakes outside the office.

I worked with a woman who joined an outdoors club to meet hunky men. But she got into the whole hiking and skiing scene. It wasn’t long before she started organizing and leading trips into the wild. She said she learned a lot about management that way. Her most important lesson was the importance of communication. It was a challenge to make sure everyone knew what was needed to be safe and reach their goals.

And she’s now Director of IT Services.

If you want to stay indoors, try Toastmasters. It’s a public speaking club. Not only do they have a lot of training for speakers but they have a lot of leadership positions. Thus it attracts a lot of people with control issues. But it’s a chance to work on those management skills while learning a thing or two about presentation and confidence.

OK, that’s all I got. I don’t know if this will make you feel any better. But you’re not stuck in a dead end job. You have the opportunity to advance. But you have to prepare yourself.

Just don’t forget us little people.

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Cubicle Curtis is the guy sitting at the next workstation. He's been in this office longer than anyone else, so he's a valuable resource of who does what and how to get things done. Before this job, he has worked just about every job between pizza delivery and accounting. Now, he's all about getting the job done and helping you figure out how to survive yours.


  1. Brad Mahaffey on the 12th December

    Great thoughts

  2. on the 12th December

    Really Great Post. Thanks a lot 🙂

  3. Jeremy Olson on the 5th June

    I’m a college student. Beginning at entry-level I have received two raises in my first year at the company resulting in 5X the pay I began with.

    How? Read Seth Godin’s book, “Linchpin”. That’s what I did. A lot of it has to do with the points you mentioned above. The main thing is to take initiative. Do beyond what you are asked. Take a personal interest in the success of the company and go above and far beyond your job description.

    Also, do amazing stuff (in your niche) outside of the office that promote your personal brand. I learned how to program for the iPhone and built a reputation as a successful iPhone developer. That made me worth multiples of what I was worth before to my company both in the work I could do and in the influence I had in the industry.

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