How to Get Your First Promotion

Get Promoted
Get Promoted – YouTube Video

Maybe you just landed your first “real” job or finally got your foot in the door in an industry you’ve had your eye on for years. Either way, before too long you’re going to wonder what’s next in your new career. So today I’m going to over four tips that will help land you your first promotion.

In order to get promoted, you’ll need to master your current job, understand how promotions work at your company, get clear on what you want, and create your advancement roadmap.

Getting Your First Promotion After Starting a New Job

So you’ve started at your new job and you’re just excited to be there. Whether you’re fresh out of college or simply moving into a new job field, it won’t be long until you start thinking about how you can progress toward the next step in your career. Before you get too far in cultivating your future plans, remember that you’re here to do a job first. This brings me to my first step in getting that first promotion, which is to master where you’re at before even thinking about that promotion.

Step 1: Master Where You’re at Before Thinking About a Promotion

Unfortunately, we live in a world where hard work doesn’t always get us ahead. When it comes to getting your first promotion, you will need to, at the very least, be competent. It’s a prerequisite to anybody wanting to promote you.

Notice I said getting a person to want to promote you. This isn’t really part of the four steps, but keep in mind that nothing is owed to you, even if you’re amazing at your job. You’ll still need somebody in your corner to be willing to take a chance on promoting you, and that’s much easier if that person wants to see you succeed.

Now I’m not saying you need to fully master the area that you’re in. Honestly, that could take years, but, you do need to be able to do your job and do it well. Once you feel like you’re an expert at what you do day to day, it might be time to start thinking about what will come next in your career path.

In an ideal world, the promotion process is transparent, and you know exactly what you need to do to get that first promotion. While that sounds nice, it’s rarely that straightforward.

Granted I’m coming from the Air Force where the first few promotions are literally just time in service as long as you didn’t mess up too badly. And you know what, there was something nice about knowing EXACTLY when you’d rank up.

Unfortunately, most jobs in the world aren’t that straightforward, and that brings us to our next step. If you want to get your first promotion faster, you’ll need to learn the ins and outs of your company’s promotion structure!

Step 2: Learn Your Company’s Promotion Structure

This is rarely on the company website Q&A page. You’ll need to talk to somebody who really knows the promotion structure at the company you’re working at. Hopefully, this is a supervisor who wants you to succeed, but don’t be afraid to reach out to others in the company and get their perspective.

Information is the key to success because there’s nothing worse than spinning your wheels for months (or even years) just to realize that you’re not going anywhere. To make sure that doesn’t happen to you, you’ll need to get clear on what it is you actually want.

Step 3: Get Clear on What You Want

When you’re just starting off, you don’t know what you don’t know, and the whole company outside your small team may seem like a vast unknown world, but as you get a little bit more used to the position you’re in, be sure to branch out and understand what surrounding areas your team works with.

Figure out where your position fits into the larger picture and start thinking about possible paths you see yourself moving into. It’s not always just as simple as “moving up the ladder”. A lot of the time your “advancement” will involve seemingly lateral movies to round out your skillset.

This is of course going to depend on the company, but the core concept is universal. If you don’t know which direction you’re moving, it’s going to take you a lot longer to get there. I would argue the direction you choose to go is actually less important than just going in a direction, especially if you’re just starting out and don’t really know what you want.

In those situations, a breadth of experience is a good idea to get yourself some perspective. Just be aware that as you progress further in your career, you’ll really want to specialize in a specific area and become a subject matter expert. That’s actually something I talk a lot about in my video about becoming a T-shaped employee.

For now, if you’re in a supportive environment, then you’re going to be surrounded by people who want to help. But even the best manager can’t help you if you can’t tell them where you’re trying to go. Once you’ve got that somewhat figured out, you can move into the final step which is creating your plan, sharing it with your manager, and actually executing it.

Step 4: Create a Plan, Share It With Your Manager, and Execute

One of the best ways to spin your wheels is to not have a plan. Even if you make a plan though, if you don’t have your foundation built from the first three steps we went over, this plan is likely to fall apart when things start to change around you.

Now I’m not saying you shouldn’t go out of your comfort zone and try new things as they come along, but in general, you should have a roadmap put together that shows where you are, where you’re trying to get to, and the things you’ll need to accomplish along the way to get there.

Once you’re in a position where you’re able to accomplish your daily tasks with relatively little challenge, it might be time to move on to something more challenging and rewarding. It’s at this point you need to do some research and figure out where it is you want to advance to and put together a clear roadmap with the steps you’ll need to accomplish to get you there.

Take some time with your supervisor or a mentor and really lay out these steps. If your manager is any good, they’re going to want to help you get there, because they know a motivated employee is the kind of employee they want on their team. It benefits you both to have clear expectations and milestones set so that you can be working together towards the same goal.


Key Takeaways

As you move throughout your career, there are usually different paths to advancement. Sometimes that’s lateral moves, sometimes that’s a brand new job. But when you first start out, there are four simple steps that will ensure you’ll start your career advancement on the right foot.

Step 1 is becoming an expert at your job. If you can’t do your current job, it’s unlikely anybody will want to give you a chance in a more important role. Use the opportunity to show those around you what kind of worker you are and they’ll reward you with more responsibilities (and more pay).

Step 2 is learning your company’s promotion structure. This is different everywhere, and there’s no point putting in time and energy to get promoted if you’re never going to get promoted that way. Work smarter, not harder, and get the lay of the land as soon as you can.

Step 3 is getting clear on what you want. Don’t fall into the trap of doing something just because you can. As your skills grow, so too will your skillsets, and several paths will start opening up for you. Figure out what you want and be deliberate about your advancement choices.

Step 4 is making your plan, discussing it with your manager, and executing it. It’s one thing to have an idea of what you want, it’s another to plan out the steps it will take to get there. If your manager is any good they’ll be able to help you out with this. It’s way easier when your manager is working with you, so loop them in once you have a plan. Then, of course, execute!

Promotions are rarely if ever, guaranteed. You need to work to get them, but by following these four steps, you’ll be putting yourself in the best position to snag that promotion and move up in your career.


James is an Air Force veteran and software developer. He's passionate about personal development and sharing that knowledge with those who want to learn. He loves to mentor students to land their dream job, and excel once they’ve got it.

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