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6 Proven Ways to Get a Promotion

Tejas Vemparala
Updated Aug 05, 2022

Here are six proven ways to grab your boss's attention and get the promotion you want.


  • You can use many different techniques to secure a promotion at your current workplace.
  • Even if you don’t get a promotion, there could be many other possibilities for your career, both within your current organization and at other companies. 
  • Consider internal and external possibilities if you are looking for a higher salary, a better work-life balance, or more responsibility. 
  • This article is for employees who are looking to move up in their companies. 

There are always opportunities to move up in the corporate world. If you wish for a better title, a bigger paycheck or more responsibility, but your boss hasn’t indicated that you’ll be moving up any time soon, you may need to make some changes. Here are six proven ways to grab your boss’s attention and secure that promotion.

If you try these suggestions and still don’t receive a promotion, consider other avenues, such as leaving your current company or finding volunteer work that will boost your skill set. 

How to get a promotion

1. Track your accomplishments.

Highlight your accomplishments whenever you are asking for a promotion or a raise. Tracking your previous achievements can highlight your wins for the company – and signal to your boss that those victories would not have been possible if not for you. Limit yourself to three to five recent accomplishments.

2. Dress for success.

You’ve probably heard the phrase “dress for the job you want, not the job you have,” and research shows it’s true. The way you dress definitely plays a part in how others form their first impressions of you, and it can do the same when you’re looking to advance in your career.

Research from OfficeTeam shows that 86% of workers and 80% of managers think wardrobe choices affect an employee’s chances of earning a promotion. Some workers make their wardrobe choices a priority, spending an average of 11 minutes each day picking out their outfits.

If you work in a casual office, showing up in an expensive suit every day may not be the best option, but you can still dress to impress. Observe what your supervisor or those who work in your dream department wear and follow their lead. Dress appropriately for your work environment and find ways to incorporate your personality into your wardrobe, too.

Also, according to research by University of Hertfordshire professor Karen Pine, your clothing can impact your self-confidence. You’re definitely more likely to impress your boss when you feel confident.

Did you know?Did you know?: Standard pay increases range from 3% to 6% on average. If you ask for a raise, request at least a 10%-20% increase. This is a good way to open negotiations.

3. Improve your skills with career development goals.

A promotion sometimes requires additional skills. Prepare yourself by learning those skills prior to asking for a promotion. Online lessons in soft skills, like leadership and communication, can prepare you for the next level. You can also learn specific hard skills for your next role, such as training in the software that the company uses.

4. Act like a leader.

No boss will promote an employee who doesn’t demonstrate good leadership skills, especially if a promotion means you’ll be in a more managerial position. According to Harvard Business Review, if you want to move up in your career, you have to “act, think, and communicate like a leader long before that promotion,” and doing so will ultimately make you more likely to get promoted.

So how can you prove your leadership capabilities without a team to lead? Harvard Business Review had some suggestions: First, make sure you’re not so distracted by your ambitions that you forget to excel at your current role. Get your work done, and do it well. From there, look for extra tasks, neglected business needs and smaller leadership roles that aren’t being filled, and volunteer to take them on. Build relationships with important figures at the company. And don’t let your ego get in the way – instead, focus on what the company needs and maintain some modesty.

5. Be sociable.

Another way to prove yourself to your boss is to socialize with other employees. Attending after-work events or joining group activities like a company softball league or trivia team shows that you’re invested in the company beyond just putting in your 40 hours per week. Building relationships with other employees demonstrates that you’re well liked and can add to the idea that you would make a strong leader. 

A study by professor Timothy Judge from the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business found that extroversion is the best predictor of leadership effectiveness. According to CareerBuilder, building positive relationships at work not only increases teamwork, but also increases the relationship-building employees’ chances of promotion, since they make the workday more pleasant. 

When you’re socializing with co-workers, make sure you’re doing so appropriately. For example, attending a work happy hour is fine, but drinking too much could hurt your reputation. In addition, when you’re talking to your co-workers, avoid venting, because you never know who your remarks will get back to. Keep conversation light and positive, and avoid controversial topics that could upset people or get you in trouble.

6. Just ask for it.

If you don’t talk to your boss about growth opportunities and your career trajectory at the company, your boss might not even realize you’d like a promotion. Make it clear to your supervisor that you’re looking to take on a bigger role.

A 2011 Accenture study found that only 44% of women and 48% of men said they have asked for pay raises, and only 28% of women and 39% of men said they’ve asked for promotions. But of those employees who did ask, the majority got a positive response. Seventeen percent were promoted to a new role that was even better than they’d hoped to land, and 42 percent got the role they asked for. Another 10% got a new role, but not the role they asked for, 5% got new responsibilities but no promotion, and only 10% got nothing in response.

Even if you don’t think you’re ready to outright ask for a promotion, talking to your supervisor about your goals and ambitions is still a good idea. If you’re lacking in certain areas, your boss can tell you what you need to work on to be considered for a promotion or a pay raise. Not only will it give you an idea of changes that you need to make in your work and your behavior, it will show your boss that you’re actively trying to improve, which will definitely get you noticed in a good way. [Related article: 10 Negotiating Tips to Sharpen Your Skills]

What to do if you don’t get a promotion

You might have tried one or all of the above tips, but still didn’t receive a promotion. That might be because of a lack of budget for a promotion and raise, recent employee layoffs, or a direct supervisor who doesn’t appreciate you. Regardless, it’s important to keep your head high. Consider alternatives that can provide the same outcomes you wanted from a promotion.

Stay the course and revisit in six months.

If you are patient, consider staying in the same job and continuing to work hard. This will highlight to your boss that you are a good worker and deserve this promotion. Then, revisit asking for the promotion in six months. This is difficult to do when you have been rejected for promotion once, and requires significant strong will to continue working diligently when you feel unappreciated in your role.

Consider finding a new job.

The Great Resignation is prompting several million people to look for new jobs monthly. If you feel underappreciated in your current role, look for a new role that provides more income or more responsibility – ideally both. Use online tools that can help you find a new job, whether that is a similar role at a competitor with more pay and greater responsibility, or a role in the same field that allows direct supervision of junior employees. [Related article: 14 Ways to Quit on Good Terms]

Look for positions within the company.

If the company has been outperforming revenue goals but your boss doesn’t believe now is the right time for promotion, consider whether your boss financially appreciates the work you are putting in. If they don’t, it might be time to seek other positions within the company that will give you more responsibility. A lateral move might be the right choice if you want to stay at the same company. You will have the opportunity to work under a different supervisor, and may have a better opportunity to move up.

Ask to do more.

Sometimes a direct supervisor might want to see your capability in a temporary supervisor role before determining if you have the current capacity to have a promotion. Asking to do more work highlights to your boss that you have the schedule and capacity to take on greater responsibility in your current role. That can lead to a promotion sooner than expected.

Find work that can supplement your full-time job.

A lot of people with a full-time job also find supplemental incomes through part-time work. Sometimes these side jobs are within the same industry as the full-time job, but in a consulting role, which means you can earn a nice additional sum for the same work that you do in your current role. Other part-time jobs have no relation to the current full-time job, but are a pathway for you to pursue your passion and make money doing it.

Did you know? Some part-time jobs offer benefits as well! You can find supplemental income with a part-time job that includes healthcare benefits, retirement plans and more. 

Volunteer.

Volunteering is a great way of giving back to your community, but it can also be an opportunity to find a higher-paying job or more responsibility from your current role. You can learn many of the skills you would need in a corporate setting with the safety of a nonprofit, including bookkeeping, people management skills, customer relationship management (CRM) software, and other soft and hard skills that your current boss might need. Volunteer work can also signal to business decision-makers or supervisors at other companies that you are the right talent to bring to their company.

Adjust your attitude.

Before you even think about getting a promotion, make sure you have the right attitude. If you want to advance in your career, ditch the glass-half-empty mentality and be more positive and optimistic.

According to a CareerBuilder survey, 62% of employers said that a negative or pessimistic attitude hurt an employee’s chances for promotion. Employers considered a bad attitude just as egregious as regularly showing up to work late, and worse than using vulgar language, regularly leaving work early or taking too many sick days.

No one can be sunny and smiling every minute of every work day, but if you’re the type to complain frequently, be more aware of how you come across and try to make some changes. 

Earning a promotion

There are many avenues to a promotion. You can do the groundwork now to help highlight to your boss that you are ready for more responsibility, a higher salary and the ability to directly supervise other employees. However, if your boss or company says that now is not the right time, there are ways to signal that you are actively learning the hard and soft skills to add to your skill set. [Related article: Soft Skills Every Tech Professional Should Have]

Learn those skills at your leisure to be ready for a promotion in the future, or gain real-world experience quickly through part-time jobs or volunteering. Leverage the experience to either secure that promotion horizontally within your current company or at your company’s competitor.

Brittney Morgan contributed to the writing and reporting in this article.

Image Credit: Bacho/Shutterstock