What’s stopping you getting that promotion (and what can you do about it)?

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33% of UK employees feel that their career progression has failed to meet their expectations.

If you count yourself in that number, here are five things that could be holding you back and advice on what you can do to change them.

1. You’ve yet to sell yourself

You might think it’s obvious that you’re doing a great job and deserve to move up the ranks, but your achievements may not be at the forefront of your boss’ mind.

What to do about it: Schedule a meeting with your manager (you don’t have to wait for your yearly appraisal) and make your case for a promotion. Before you go into the meeting, we recommend taking some time to prepare.


“Describe how your achievements have contributed to the company’s success” says Angelia Darrison, CEO of C-Suite Coach. “…take a brag sheet and use it to tell a story about your strengths and how you’ve exceeded expectations and furthered the company’s growth.”

2. There’s no promotion available

Companies do not easily hand out promotions to those doing an outstanding job. This could be because they’re constrained by organisational structure or even company policies limiting the number or timing of promotions.

What to do about it: If you’ve reached the top of the pile and there’s no role available for you to step up to, there are several things you can ask for instead. What’s most important to you? It might be more flexible hours or the ability to work from home more. Maybe there’s some training and development that your company can fund. Perhaps you’d benefit from more visibility amongst the senior team. Mentorship from a colleague in a higher position will allow you to develop yourself for future promotion opportunities.  You could even ask for more holiday days. Progression in your career isn’t always about a new title.

3. You’re not ready (yet)

This might be hard to hear, but you might not be ready for that promotion.

What to do about it: Sometimes it takes a prolonged period of demonstrating your value to get the recognition and promotion you want. Some of the positions you apply for might require additional qualifications or skills, even for an internal candidate. We recommend you don’t wait for your company to offer you additional training. Instead, take matters into your own hands and commit the extra time to upskill. Even if you don’t get this particular role at your current company, the additional qualifications will be a bonus on your CV for when another role comes up or if you decide to look elsewhere.

Ros Toynbee, director of The Career Coach, says, “A ‘no’ might be a ‘no, not right at this minute’, so if it is a ‘no’, ask with a smile, ‘OK, what would make it a ‘yes’ next time?’ And ask for a time to review this.”

She also says ”Don’t let a ‘no’ faze you – in fact, almost expect a ‘no’ initially, and that way you’ll stay strong and confident”. Let a ‘not just yet’ motivate you to meet the objectives you’ve agreed together.”

4. Someone else is in the running for it too

There may be times in your career when you’re up against another team member who wants the same promotion as you.

What to do about it: In this scenario, we recommend being open about you both being in the running. TheMuse offer a great suggestion of how to word it:

“I heard that you’re applying for the [insert job role here] role. I also put in my application, but I think that you’d do a great job, too”.

Once you’ve got any awkwardness out of the way, it’s time to demonstrate why you’re the best person for the job. If you have to apply, make sure you answer the following questions in your application:

  • What results have you achieved?
  • What positive impact have you had on the business?
  • What are the tangible reasons you deserve to be promoted and will be the perfect fit for the next role up?
  • What are your salary expectations?

Finally, whatever the outcome, be sure to ask why they made the decision they did – this will give you a fantastic insight into what they’re looking for and how you can continue your development.

5. You’re at the top of your game

If your role is very senior, you may have reached the top of your profession and therefore can’t be promoted.

What to do about it: There are a couple of options to consider.

If you love your job, your team, your company, sometimes that satisfaction is worth staying in your current role for.

If not, it may be time to start your own venture, or move into a new industry to find the next challenge. It’s very common for senior professionals looking for a new challenge to transfer their experience, skills and knowledge to a new field.

Whatever the reason you’re not getting promoted right now, there’s always something you can do about it. So often, we get frustrated that we’re not being recognised, when a few simple steps would make the world of difference.

ICS Learn is an online learning organisation. They have been a pioneer in teaching skills and qualifications at a distance for over 130 years, giving you the opportunity to learn while earning and to fulfil your ambitions..

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