Three Mistakes to Avoid When Looking Forward to a Promotion

I spent 14 years in the corporate environment, and now that I am reflecting back on success, and as I embark on a new journey, I want to share the three most common mistakes about promotion that I have observed from people I have worked with and how they were doing it wrong.


Expecting It to Happen

There are employees who expect a promotion to happen simply because they worked hard and have been consistent all throughout. When an internal position is made open to everybody, some employees do not submit their application, believing that they should be promoted based solely on the merits of their performance.


In some companies, career promotions happen without the need for formal applications, usually after the annual performance review.

From a hiring manager’s perspective, all employees deserve an equal chance to apply. If a department, including your own, released a career advertisement, you have to apply.

You may be the strongest contender but if you do not demonstrate willingness to get promoted—by making your intent known—chances are you won’t. You need to tell your supervisor or manager what your career aspirations are. If you don’t, your bosses may never know.

Talk to them; many leaders value listening.

This expectation is tantamount to hoping. We hope because something makes us afraid and uncertain. We hope because we are afraid of rejection—it is painful.

I applied four times before bagging my first promotion; twice for the second one; once for the third; twice for the fourth; three times for the fifth, and five times for the sixth. I have been rejected many times and at one point I thought of disappointment as my best friend.

But I have to tell you, you can never beat somebody who never gives up.

Not Looking for an Alternative

Don’t you think you should have moved somewhere else? I have advocated to several of my colleagues not to be afraid to move out. If you are ready for a promotion and your company cannot give it to you, ask yourself seriously what you value more—your career or loyalty.

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This choice is yours and yours alone. You may stay in a company for a long time for various reasons: friends, comfort level, location or proximity, benefits, and more. All these are good reasons to stay. However, if your career values are driven towards advancing, then by all means, explore what is out there.

Moving out of your current company is a very tough decision to make. One way or another, you will lose many things that you currently enjoy—friends, mostly. You will be out of your comfort zone.

You will be facing a new challenge—jumping into a void of uncertainty. You will meet new people, several of whom may reject you. I’m telling you, moving out is going to be tough. Your new job may be too difficult for you. Anyway, sometimes it is good to bite more than you chew.

Just make sure you keep on chewing.

Working Smart But Never Working Hard

This is a good subject for debate. For me, there is no way you can succeed if you do not work hard enough. It’s just not going to happen. Even CEOs, rich businessmen, and geniuses worked like a cow. Plow the field yourself before telling someone else how it is done.


Working smart is great but there are only two ways you can achieve this: you either work hard or have somebody mentor you. Working hard allows you to experience things. It allows you to be sandwiched between problems and find solutions on your own.  It involves dealing with people, using your time wisely, planning, organizing, and finally executing.

The forerunner of working smart is working hard. After years of working hard, you would have had enough experiences that will allow you to work smart—you will not repeat the same mistakes, you will find ways to be efficient, you will create action plans that will solve two problems at a time, you will make decisions that will prevent future problems, and so on.

A mentor, on the other hand, shares what he already knows. He allows you to learn faster than what it would take if you go at it on your own. But how often does one find a mentor who will share what he knows?


Before you attempt to work smart, you have to work hard. If you can do both at the same time when you are just starting out in your career, good for you.

Always remember, people who are on top of the mountain did not fall there: they climbed.


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