Q: I’ve been working in the same role and team for 3 years.  I know I’m ready for a promotion but not seeing an opportunity to move up.  What should I do?

A:  It sounds like you are getting frustrated by lack of moving up in the organization.  The first thing to do is think about what skills are needed for the next level in the organization.  How would you rate yourself on those skills?  How do others rate you on those skills?  Think about what else you can do, in addition to what you are doing today to demonstrate and continue to build those skills/behaviors/knowledge that will help you be successful at the next level in the organization. Time in a role isn’t necessarily a qualification for a promotion, so be prepared to think about and demonstrate the skills needed at the next level. 

Another area to look is at what you envision will be different when you are in the new role.  Imagine I wave a magic wand and tomorrow you are promoted.  What is different?  Do you imagine yourself having more authority, more skill, more time?  How likely is it that you will get those things when you move up?  Talk with someone in a role like the one you want to have and see how they feel about their authority, skills, time, etc.  Then think about whether the promotion is really what you want, or is it more flexibility in your current role, a stretch assignment, maybe a different role altogether. 

Have you made your boss aware that you are looking to be promoted?  Not everyone has the same ambitions.  If your boss doesn’t know that you are interested in being promoted, it may not occur to him/her to be on the lookout for that.  I believe we often assume that our boss knows or “should” know what we want, but when we don’t tell him/her, we are asking that in addition to their own job, they know what I want, and what each of my team members want and are actively working on all of it.  That seems a bit unlikely for most bosses. 

If you talk with your boss and he/she agrees you have the skills and talents to be ready for promotion, but there is no where to move you, ask for a stretch assignment, see if there is work you can take on that will help others beyond your team see what you do and get you more exposure in the organization.  You can also think about a lateral move to another group where you can pick up even more experience and skill and become more valuable in the organization. 

If there truly is no way for you to move up in your current organization and you are sure that you are qualified, have been demonstrating the right skills and have asked for the opportunity, perhaps it is time to dust off your resume and look beyond your current company.  That can be really tough to do, but not as tough as looking back after 10 years and realizing you should have taken a chance on yourself years ago.  Best to you as you navigate your career.

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