Plotting a Course Toward Career Promotion

You’ve probably heard me say this before because it’s such an excellent metaphor!  Getting ahead at work requires you to plan ahead like you’re using a GPS device.  You put in the address of the place you want to go, and it helps you plots a course to your destination.

Here are some tips to help you plot your course toward a career promotion:

  • Start with a skills/experience gap analysis.  Determine what skills or experience you have or need to gain in order to get where you want to go.
  • Come up with a basic plan, and, depending on your available resources, flesh it out with someone who can help you move it forward.
  • Most of the time, this is your immediate manager.  Sit down with your manager and explain where you want to go.  If you can get buy-in, see if your manager and the organization will support you.  Support can come in different forms, including moral support, a career promotion plan you make together, funding for a degree, class or certification, etc.
  • If you can’t do this because your manager isn’t supportive, then look for people outside your organization who are doing what you want to be doing. Ask them questions about what it will take for you to do what you want to accomplish in your career path.  If appropriate, ask them to mentor you.  Maybe they will even let you shadow them in some way.

Two things you should start doing now so you’ll be ready to ask for or justify your promotion (or simply prepare for your performance review):

  • Make a personal “kudos” file.  In it you will keep any on-the-spot awards, thank you notes, kudos or recognition you get from colleagues, managers, clients, vendors, etc.  When you get a compliment via email, put it in the file, too.
  • Maintain a list of your accomplishments.  Organize the content of each one using the SAR method.  Identify a situation (S) you’ve been in or problem you solved that demonstrates a special competency; write the actions (A) you took to resolve the situation; and explain the results (R) in quantifiable terms (e.g. saved the department $5000). Whether you work for nonprofit, government or for-profit, usually the best accomplishments demonstrate how you have impacted the factors of time and money.  Keep that in mind as you compose this list.

In the old days, you might have been able to readily rely on someone higher up in your organization to notice your drive, determination and talent.  Maybe someone more experienced would offer to take you under his or her wing and advise you through your career path.  Of course, this still does happen nowadays, too.  Honestly, though, you can’t count on it like you once might have been able to.  Just like in life, if you want your career to move forward, it’s truly up to you to do it.

Entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker, Jim Rohn once said it well: “If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.”


Angela Loëb helps people rediscover and use their gifts so they can bring who they are to what they do. To learn more, please visit:

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