You feel like you’re doing everything right. You’re a hard worker. You’re good at your job. Your boss is happy with your work. So why do you keep getting passed up for a promotion?
The most important first step is to do an honest self-assessment, says Steve Wright, senior account executive at eHire and president of CompTIA AITP Atlanta.
“The main thing an individual can do to try to figure out why he’s being overlooked for roles is to take a good hard look in the mirror,” he says. “Try to answer the question of yourself first before you reach out to someone else to figure out what that is.”
Here are some possible reasons you may want to consider:
- Your employability or "soft" skills need work: Employability skills, unlike technical skills—which are often job specific and can be gained through educational and training programs—they tend to be a little harder to define and evaluate. Some examples include attitude, communication skills, work ethic, time management and teamwork.
“There’s attitude and aptitude,” Wright says. “You can have the aptitude for a job and know how to do things very well, but maybe your attitude is that you’ve got an ego about the work you’re pushing.”
Wright suggests engaging in some self-reflection to figure out areas for improvement. Small changes could improve the way you come across to others in your office.
“If you were to smooth out those edges—if you were to step up what you’re wearing, putting a smile on your face a little more, and just generally being a more pleasant individual—that could go a very long way,” Wright says.
- You avoid broadcasting your wins: Imagine that you’ve just completed a project for which you’re feeling particularly proud. You might be tempted to simply let the work speak for itself. Instead, you should make sure your co-workers and bosses know how you helped make it a success.
That can be tricky to do without bragging—and it doesn’t mean sending an email about it to the entire company, Wright says. He suggests following up with the people you worked with during the journey of the project. Make sure they know it’s live and how you helped get it there.
“The more your peers understand what you do, and the value you bring to the table, the more it will get up to your manager or the leadership inside that organization,” he says.
- You’re not taking initiative: Most people in the IT industry are already probably not working the traditional 40-hour work week. But if you’re looking for a promotion, you may want to consider being proactive about filling gaps in your time and solving problems that you see—even if no one else is asking you to. When you recognize something that’s not working, volunteer to get involved in finding the solution. Challenge yourself to stretch your skill-set so that management begins to view you as leader.
- You’re not involved in the community: Getting involved in the professional IT community can raise your profile as a “thought leader,” Wright says. That can be helpful in raising not just your own visibility, but also the visibility of your company because it promotes your company’s brand to a wider community.
“[Companies] want people who are involved in the community so they’re hearing about the next tool to solve a particular problem,” Wright says. “If you’re just compartmentalized in your own world, inside your own organization, you’re never going to get new ideas coming in.”
Community involvement can come in the form of CompTIA AITP chapter meetings or Meetup groups for technology users, but it can also be through social media. Your LinkedIn network might include many of those same individuals that you would see at an in-person networking event and could be a good place to strike up a conversation, Wright says.
“It’s all about visibility to me, when you’re talking about how you’re gaining reputation points inside and outside the organization,” he says.