How to Advance in a Company

employees jockey for position
Too often, good employees fail to move up in an organization simply because they do not pursue advancement.

A small percentage of people in this world are lucky enough to be born rich. Even fewer manage to hit the lottery or somehow fall into large sums of cash. Generally speaking, the rest of us have to rely on good old-fashioned hard work if we want to get ahead. Unfortunately, not everyone who works hard will be rewarded for it. In addition to being dedicated and having the right skills, there are some important steps to take if you want to advance in an organization.

In your quest for professional promotion, the first stop should be your human resources or staffing department. Find out everything you can about the culture and values of your organization, so you can be sure you're towing the company line. Equally important as you step onto the corporate ladder is having a strong sense of your own abilities and what you want to achieve.


Before pursuing a promotion, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is your current position aligned with your career goals?
  • Do you possess skills that aren't being fully utilized?
  • Is something holding you back from achieving your goals (e.g., lack of a degree or specific training)?
  • What is your dream job (realistically)?

You also should talk to as many people in your company as possible. Find out how they advanced in the organization and whether they would be willing to serve as your mentor. If you're unsure of your career goals, these inquiries may give you valuable ideas. They may also open doors for working with people who are in a position to help you rise.

Another important consideration before asking for a promotion is whether you have improved the bottom line in your organization. Higher-ups tend to look very fondly on those who manage to increase productivity, generate new revenue or find ways to save money (especially in a down economy). But no matter how you do it, the trick is to demonstrate your value before you ask for a bigger slice of the company pie [source: Forbes]. Read on for more tips on impressing your company's leadership.


How to Impress Your Company's Leaders

Trying to impress the leadership in your organization can be a lot like trying to date the prom queen -- there is real danger of looking desperate. The best approach is to be a go-getter, but be reliable. In other words, it's important to take on extra assignments, but do so only if you are able to complete them thoroughly and on time. This is a sure way to get noticed by your superiors.

In general, the best way to impress your boss and other leaders in your organization is to be incredibly good at your current job. This is because anyone who is considering you for a promotion is going to first evaluate your current and past performance. And if being an ace at your work isn't enough to get you the job you want, here are some additional tips for getting noticed by the boss:


  • Be an excellent representative when dealing with people outside the company -- nothing is more impressive than having an important client sing your praises to the boss.
  • Be knowledgeable about the entire organization -- good leaders have a strong sense of the interdependence of teams and departments.
  • Be well-informed about your field -- having in-depth knowledge of a specific thing can be great if your goal is to have a niche in your company, but rarely are those with only a narrow subset of information considered for bigger roles.
  • Be good-looking -- OK, this isn't actually a tip for getting ahead, but some experts say that a good professional make-over can improve your image within a company [source: BNET]

Lastly, be sure your boss and others on your team are aware of your good work. Send a weekly summary of achievements to all concerned parties and keep a list of your major accomplishments and milestones that you can refer to during your performance reviews [source:]. And don't be discouraged if your efforts don't immediately pay off. It takes time to build up a solid reputation in an organization. Just be consistent, and your reward is sure to come.

Once you've thoroughly impressed the top brass in your organization, you'll probably be in a good position for taking on more responsibilities and earning more money. In the next section, we offer tips for successfully changing roles within your organization.


How to Change Roles in a Company

Sometimes changing roles at work can feel like a major transformation -- like you've just stepped into someone else's shoes, and you're not sure what to do first. Unfortunately, others may also have a hard time accepting you in your new role. This is basic human nature, so don't take it personally. The good news is there are some things you can do to make the transition as smooth as possible.

Before you take that important step forward in your company, be sure to establish as many good working relationships as you can, and this includes people in lower positions within the company. You can never have too many friends at work -- whether it's the receptionist, the mail room clerk or the one guy in the office who knows how to fix the copier. You need all the support you can get.


Once you do land the new assignment or promotion you've been dreaming about, be sure not to let the added pressure of your new role get the better of you. Sometimes moving up means increased anxiety, loss of sleep, co-worker resentment and a whole host of political issues within an organization. Build in time to take care of yourself and be sure to focus on keeping peace within your immediate team. Stress is a newly promoted employee's worst enemy.

Another point to keep in mind is that most people are so focused on moving upward in a company that they overlook the benefits of lateral moves. You may be stuck in a professional rut, or perhaps your current position has never been the best fit for you. In that case, any change at all can inspire newfound creativity and drive. This is an especially good idea if a move will increase your chances of rising later [source: Forbes].

For more tips for advancing in a company, check out the next page.


Tips for Advancing in a Company

In addition to the simple strategies for impressing higher-ups and successfully changing roles in your company, which we discussed in the previous sections, here are some important key steps you should take as you climb the career ladder:

  • Foster and build strong professional relationships.
  • Stay on top of new developments in your field.
  • Pursue continuing education and professional development.
  • Be professional in your appearance, demeanor and communication.

There are also some important examples of what not to do in your efforts to rise to the top. Under no circumstances should you:


  • Spend your work hours looking for other jobs.
  • Sabotage your competitors on your way to the top.
  • Pressure or give ultimatums to your superiors.
  • Falsely claim to have another job offer.

Not only will these actions hurt your chances for advancement, they may even get you fired. You should also make every attempt to get along with your superiors, even if you don't always agree with them. You'll garner more respect from the higher-ups and everyone else in the organization if you show you're a team player and are generally supportive of others [source: Forbes].

Another important consideration when trying to advance your career is, avoid letting a sagging economy discourage you from pursuing your goals. Even when a company is cash-strapped, executives still may recognize strong contributions from their employees. If you know that money is tight in your organization, consider asking for a promotion without a pay increase. This can be a tough choice, especially when you've been working overtime. But don't be discouraged -- when things pick up, you'll be in a good position to pursue that well-earned raise.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, be sure to ask for what you want. Too often, good employees fail to move up in an organization simply because they do not pursue advancement. Even if you're perfectly content in your current role, you can find ways to expand your responsibilities, earn more money or do both. So no matter what your professional goals, always be aware of the opportunities that exist within your organization, as well as the requirements for achieving them.

The next page has lots more information geared toward helping you advance in a company.


Lots More Information

Related Articles


  • Helmer, Jodi. "Drink, Go Blond, and 5 Other Ways to Make More Money." July 27, 2010. (Aug. 18, 2010)
  • Robert Half International. "9 Little-Known Ways to Advance Your Career." June 10, 2009. (Aug. 18, 2010)
  • Trunk, Penelope. "Managing Your Career by Managing the Stuff on Your Desk." Aug. 19, 2010. (Aug. 19, 2010);drawer-container
  • Weiss, Tara. "How to Ask for a Promotion in a Recession." Jan. 7, 2009. (Aug. 18, 2010)
  • Weiss, Tara. "The Fine Art of Sucking Up to Your Boss." Forbes. com. Feb. 26, 2008. (Aug. 19, 2010)
  • Zupek, Rachel. "10 Reasons You Won't Get Promoted This Year." Jan. 11, 2010. (Aug. 18, 2010)