Career Advice | My co-workers rely on me, but I have been passed over for several promotions.
Q: I’ve been in my job for several years. My co-workers rely on me, but I have been passed over for several promotions. It’s disappointing, and I don’t know what’s wrong.
—Andreas, 34, business analyst
A: You may need to pay more attention to blowing your own horn, but first, get a bit more information.
It’s great that you’ve gained trust with co-workers. Having a foundation of consistently delivering on your commitments is fundamental to earning advancement.
Unfortunately, it’s not enough. You’ll need to understand how those above you in the organization perceive you.
You also need to take a very realistic look at what may be holding you back. Often it comes down to relationships and the sense that, in the “intangibles” realm, you’d be an asset to move up. So ask yourself: Do I do good work? Do I step up when new needs come along, or do I stay in my comfort zone? Am I pleasant to work with and easy to get along with? Do I mentor and support newer employees and others around me?
Some of these are areas of perceived technical skill. If people think you’ve maxed out in terms of your capabilities, you have a responsibility to show them you have more to offer. One way is to simply ask for more challenges. Be persistent and also deliver, even if you already are busy. You’ll doom your efforts if you ask to demonstrate your capabilities and then don’t follow through.
Another is leadership skill. When you step up and help others, you prove your ability to lead. There may be nothing in it for you in the short run, but you’ll get a sense of satisfaction and you’ll prove that you are ready for the next level.
The final major area is teamwork. If you’re angry at work or otherwise showing disappointment in unhelpful ways, you’ll lessen your appeal as a new team member. This is not to say that your anger or disappointment aren’t legitimate. But don’t let them become toxic.
You might not know the answers to these questions. Use them as a framework for a conversation with your boss to get more information. Go into this conversation ready to listen and learn. Only ask follow-ups that clarify, and be sure to avoid any defensiveness or excuse-making. Ask for help, though, in making a plan to address any deficits so that you can advance.
Work hard to deliver on this plan, building skills and forming broader relationships, and stay connected with your boss as you do this in order to get the recognition for your commitment to growth.
Now, if you’ve done these things and still have not gotten new opportunities, it’s time to ask yourself why you’re staying.
As the job market opens up, it’s worth your time to consider where you might like to go next. Just keep in mind that going “away” from your current role rather than “to” a desired new role will not work. And anger will show through and limit your appeal to your next potential employer.
Submit questions to Liz Reyer at firstname.lastname@example.org.