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Why You (Don’t) Deserve a Promotion



“So tell me, why did you leave your previous company?”

“There was no path for growth.”


This is a conversation I have seen play out thousands of times. This is almost always a terrible answer, and that’s the brutal truth. I can think of one example where I was impressed by this answer. The candidate moved her way up to the level of Director in marketing within her current company (multiple promotions within the company) and truly felt like she had gone as far as she could and was open to new opportunities. Other than that, this answer is typically a red flag.


“Growth” can be interpreted differently. It can refer to monetary growth. It can be growing your responsibilities. It also can refer to growing your skillset. In an ideal world, every promotion comes with a truck load of cash. However, this is not always the case. There can be lateral movement within a company that can be just an beneficial in the long run as upward movement. However, when candidates tell employers that they had no path for growth it usually is more of a reflection on the employee rather than the company. How so? Because you’re basically telling your potential future employer that either a) you took a role without knowing your path for growth within the company or b) the company simply did not see you as being “promotable”.


From a recruiter’s perspective, being “promotable” is one of the greatest things an employer can do for anyone. There is a big difference between being truly deserving a promotion and simply wanting a promotion. This is not an exhaustive list, but here are some signs you do not deserve that promotion you desperately want.


You don’t jump at the chance to take on more. “Outside of your job description” exists. This is an old cliche, but it still rings true. I’m not saying you have to jump on every project or task that no one else wants to do 100% of the time. But, be willing to jump in, sit in on meetings that expose you to more outside of your role, and be genuinely interested to learn things that only may benefit you in the future.


You have a bad attitude. This might the single biggest detriment facing anyone up for a promotion. Attitude trumps nearly everything. No one wants to manage someone with a bad attitude, period.


You don’t give them a reason “why” you want it. If you want a promotion, you have to give them a “why”. Furthermore, why you earned the promotion and why you want the promotion are two very different topics. What can you bring to the role that others cannot? Being good at your current job does not necessarily make you the best fit for the potential new job. Prove that you put serious thought into “why” beyond that fact that you feel you deserve it.


Real world example: An employee is in an individual contributor role and an opening comes up for a manager position on their current team. The employee is excelling in their role and has the longest tenure on the team. The employee feels deserving of the opportunity to take on the manager position. The employees performance may have earned them the opportunity to interview for the role, however their performance alone does not warrant them being the best fit for the role. In addition to their performance, the employee needs to vocalize what they can bring to the role that others cannot. They need to vocalize why they are the best fit and why they want the role, not simply why they deserve the role.


You don’t verbalize your desire to receive it. Make your goals known from very early on. If your manager knows your goals and your performance level mirrors your desire levels, they will do what they can to ensure you reach them. Know the the right time and place to outline your goals to your manager. My opinion is that it is easier to set them on the front-end of your employment versus later.


Your boss meets with you more than others on the team. Do you feel like your boss meets with you more than others at your level to ensure you are handling your responsibilities? Do you have to constantly go to him/her for things you should be capable of in your role? These are signs you may not be ready for that promotion.


You’ve been at the company a long time. Typical millennial opinion, I know. Duration of employment does not equal automatic promotion. It could play a factor, but more in terms of allowing you the time to build your skills and relationships compared to those internal candidates with less experience within the organization. Companies that promote only based on years of experience are quickly becoming viewed as “old school”.


Real world example: I recently met with a former coworker who left the organization to pursue a new opportunity. He had stressed how one of the biggest factors in deciding to make a change was that his new boss was able to move up through the company very quickly. He even went on to exclaim how “young” his new boss is for the level they are at within the company. Interestingly, this trend is seen as a great “selling point” for companies recruitment efforts. He stressed the culture of the company is one around recognizing employees for their performance versus only their years of experience.


Your boss has to remind you to do things. I feel this is pretty self-explanatory. Can you predict needs of the business/team and get out ahead and do things without being asked? That is the sign of someone truly keen on deserving growth.


You are fully meeting your job expectations. This reason may sound slightly odd. The hard truth is that every employee is expected to fully meet their expectations. As I said previously, being good at your job and meeting your expectations does not merit a promotion. The goal of a company’s recruitment efforts is to find employees that fully met their job expectations, not necessarily to promote employees out of roles they are successful in. Prove to the company you are someone who has the desire and performance to warrant a promotion. Prove to the company that you will not be satisfied being stagnant. Your performance must mirror your desire for growth.


Whether you are actively looking for a new role or actively seeking a promotion, keep in mind the “why” behind your desire for growth.


More to come next week when we sit down with a fellow talent acquisition professional in our second installment of our “Talent Speaks” series.

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