How to Advance Your Career When Promotion Isn’t An Option

Author, activist, and CEO, Gloria Feldt, suggests considering “role negotiation” or opting to upgrade your daily work activities during times when promotions may be unavailable at your current place of employment. While an actual title change may be your ultimate goal, she recommends that employees do not fail to recognize the power of role changes, as they may be the stepping stones toward your success in the end. However, Feldt points out that this form of negotiation may not entail the formal act of sitting down with your boss, and requesting more comprehensive responsibilities, but rather simply seeking out and volunteering for the right types of projects.

Career Advancement - No Promotion - Businessman holding blank businesscard

Feldt continues, “Every company’s top performers look for ‘stretch’ projects that might take them outside their formal roles, and companies value that”.  She provides the example: “…if your end-game is to become CEO of a global company, look for internal opportunities, exposure to operational issues, P&L experience, and special projects with high visibility”. However, avoiding setting arbitrary limitations on yourself is the key toward enhancing your versatility within any company.

So, how can ambitious employees boost their careers before a promotion becomes available? Feldt offers some valuable options:

Avoid holding out for important assignments.

“Keep a lookout, and speak up as soon as you spot a project you want a hand in,” Feldt says. This reiterates the concept of being in the game to win, rather than waiting for a sit down negotiation session with your boss.

Communicate with those succeeding at your goals.

There is no underestimating the power of pure inquisitiveness. Feldt adds, “Be curious – and conspicuously so – by asking questions of the colleagues who are working on projects that bring real value to your organization”. This is not the time to be concerned with ranking levels. “Think of it as in-house networking. Take the time to investigate, and you’ll be better positioned to make the best case for your inclusion in an ongoing project or one you propose,” says Feldt.

Focus on acquisition of new skills.

What is the best way to acquire new skills? Stretch your comfort zone by volunteering to help out coworkers and superiors. In fact, according to Feldt, the simple act of helping others can work wonders. “This lets you try on a new job function on for size and build your skill set gradually before drawing up a plan and going full in”.

Create and reveal your vision.

The ability to view the big picture can be quite inspiring to those around you. However, the view you have of yourself and exactly where you fit into the whole equation is likewise as important. Feldt asserts, “Regardless of your job title, you need to see yourself as a leader. Don’t settle for being the one who keeps the trains running on time”. If you’re uncomfortable with the concept of power, attempt to envision it more as a tool for innovation, creativity, and leadership.

Businessman holding a pen for working on his plan project

Keep the chain moving.

Feldt reminds readers to stay focused and avoid impatience when it comes to your professional leadership goals. She says, “The path to the leadership role you’ve got your eye on might not come through a steady march up your company’s org chart, [but] once you’re finally there, pay it forward”. Just because you had to handle your own form of role negotiations does not mean you should deny someone else a learning opportunity through mentorship.

Feldt suitably concludes on this topic, “After all, you’ll need their brilliant ideas and passion on your team when you’re running the show”.


Fred Coon, CEO

At SC&C we offer Career Analysis to help senior decision-makers from all walks of life identify strategies and tactics to increase their value-add employment potential.