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Getting promoted is more of an art than a science. Long gone are the days of simply counting the number of days you’ve been in your role before getting bumped up to the next level. Unless you’re working for the government or a relatively small number of companies, your tenure in your position will not automatically qualify you for a promotion.

My guess is that if you have not yet been promoted, you are going about it the wrong way. Here are a few sure-fire ways to guarantee you won’t get that promotion… and what you should be doing instead:

1. Thinking Your Work Speaks for Itself

This is the biggest mistake you can make in your career — sitting back, hoping your work will speak for itself and be recognized. Thinking other people are noticing how awesome you are will get you passed over for a promotion, each and every time.

Think about it: in our culture, we tend to only take notice when things aren’t working well, not when things are going swimmingly. You’re expected to deliver at a high level — that’s the basic expectation your manager has for you. So unless you drop the ball, your manager isn’t really noticing — or talking about — your incredible work.

You may get noticed by a few people by sitting back and doing the work, but it will not put your name at the top of the conversation when leaders are seeking someone to fill the shoes at the next level.

Action: No one cares about your career more than you do, and that includes your next promotion. It’s time to put on your PR hat and start talking about the work you’re delivering. Not in a crazy annoying way, but you can subtly start mentioning the results you’re delivering, new ideas you’ve implemented and ways you’ve contributed as a team member during team meetings, casual conversations or recap summaries. Be your own advocate — don’t wait for someone else to see you.

2. Not Knowing the Key Influencers

It’s really easy to fall into our own little cliques and silos at work without paying attention to connecting with the right people, regardless of where they are in the organization. By overlooking key influencers in other areas of your current purview, you decrease your opportunities for not only learning from others, but also being a part of promotion discussions.

People make promotions happen – and usually it’s a group of people at the next level across a team or department. With people being the critical factor here, if you don’t know who will be sitting at the table and “voting” on your promotion, you’re several steps away from that promotion. If you continue to stay in your safe zone of people — or, even worse, sitting at your cubicle without building any type of connection — you will have lost out on your opportunity to be promoted.

Action: Understand who makes promotion decisions, then figure out who influences them. For example, if the VP of Sales is part of your promotion committee and you know she cannot survive without her Executive Assistant, then the VP and her assistant are key influencers. Direct and secondary contacts should be part of “who you know” at work; start building meaningful relationships with them.


3. Being “Difficult”

Before you roll your eyes here, know that even people who are difficult don’t believe that they are. Here are some characteristics that will guarantee you don’t get promoted:

  • Acting overly cocky and arrogant
  • Being a constant “know-it-all”
  • Having a reputation of not working well with others
  • Missing deadlines, turning in incomplete work, passing the buck

Remember that one of the first gut reactions people have when considering a candidate, whether to hire or to be promoted, is if they would like to be a peer of that person and how that person would impact their work environment, positively or negatively. You don’t want to be seen as the person who will annoying to interact with, or you will get passed over for promotion every single time.

Action: If you need to repair the perception of who you are, work on that immediately to build position connections and touch points — particularly for the key influencers. Take a good, hard look at your recent performance reviews or ask your direct manager if there are any areas for improvement or that they feel are holding you back from the next level. Let the feedback sink in, and start changing. Most people rely on the recency effect — remembering things that occurred most recent — when having a promotion discussion; use that to your advantage and take every opportunity to change people’s perception of you.


In the End

Getting promoted is not about the work you do — at least, it’s not only about your work. It’s more about the connection, the potential and the softer skills that get you to the next level. Remember that companies and managers are looking for leaders to support and foster.

You don’t have to be a people manager to lead, but you do need to start speaking up, making yourself be heard, becoming a known entity to the right people and not being a pain in the you-know-what.

This post originally ran on CareerMeh: smart, actionable advice for Millennials, by Millennials.