Five Reasons You Might Be Passed Over for a Promotion

The economy is slowly turning around, and that means companies will be looking to reward IT employees who have distinguished themselves during the downturn by offering them advancement opportunities. Have you positioned yourself for a possible promotion? Here are five reasons you might be passed over for a promotion, along with advice you can use to move up the career ladder at your current place of employment.

1.    Your boss doesn’t know you want a promotion. You might think your manager knows you’d like to advance — after all, you feel like you’ve been pretty obvious about your career aspirations — but it’s never safe to make that assumption. Signals you’ve sent about your ambition may have gone over his or her head or may not have been as clear as you thought they were. To make sure your supervisor is aware of your interest in advancing, schedule a time to sit down and talk about your long-term career goals. Be upfront and let your boss know you’d like to take on more responsibilities. Ask what qualifications and experience you need to assume a higher-level role, and work with your manager to develop a step-by-step plan for achieving your objectives.

2.    Your name isn’t widely known. If you’re a software engineer, sure, the other software engineers you work with on a daily basis probably know your name and what you bring to the table. But what about the people who aren’t on your team, especially executive management who may have a say in promotion decisions? The phrase “It’s not what you know; it’s who you know” may be cliche, but it still holds water.

The good news is that getting your name out there can be relatively easy. Make an effort to get to know people in other departments by volunteering for cross-functional projects or simply attending company events, like office celebrations and trainings. Also, ask your boss for opportunities to work with managers and executives in other departments, so more high-level decision makers are aware of who you are and what you can offer the organization.

3.    You can’t see the big picture. Those in leadership roles are able to see beyond their jobs to the bigger picture. They understand the company’s goals and priorities and how their unique responsibilities can help the firm succeed. Have you demonstrated that you have this vision? For instance, if you’re tasked with helping to select a new software product, you need to consider if it meets not only the organization’s current requirements but also its future needs. Is the product scalable to accommodate business expansion? Will it work with new systems that may be put in place over the next few years? Asking these types of questions and providing insightful solutions shows that you know how to think long term.

4.    You lack the appropriate soft skills. When managers consider candidates for a promotion, they look for those with the ability to motivate others, encourage collaboration, influence key stakeholders and communicate the company’s vision. These and other soft skills are often more important than technical skills as you move up the ranks. If you lack leadership experience, you can build your skills by volunteering to oversee small projects, such as a cross-departmental task force or the department’s internship program. Also, look for training options, both internally and externally through the Web or local colleges. A trusted mentor may also be able to provide helpful advice for developing the necessary soft skills.

5.    You’re simply not ready. A promotion may sound exciting, especially if it involves a raise or an impressive title, but have you considered if it is really right for you? Are you ready to take on the added responsibilities — and do you know the full scope of those duties? A new position could require you to manage a large team, travel extensively or do less of the hands-on technical work you enjoy. Talk to your boss to make sure you have a clear idea of what a higher-level position would actually entail.

Also, consider other aspects of the role, such as having to put in more hours at work, discipline staff members or even oversee individuals you consider friends. Make sure you’re ready for a promotion before throwing your hat in the ring.


Dave Willmer is executive director of IT staffing firm Robert Half Technology. He can be reached at editor (at) certmag (dot) com .

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Dave Willmer

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