If you want to get promoted, you need your employer to recognise your contribution. Taking on new tasks and learning new skills can help with this. Sometimes you may need to change employers to develop your career.
You will stand a better chance of overcoming barriers to promotion by:
- deciding what you’re aiming for, and taking responsibility for developing your skills
- looking for opportunities to expand your role by doing something that your employer wants or needs
- talking with your colleagues about what they're working on and asking questions about things you're interested in
- mapping out your strengths and the weaknesses you can work on
- finding a company or sector with more opportunities to develop
Decide what you're aiming for
Look at roles in your organisation and on job websites to find the type of job you want to have. Look at the required skills and experience. Think about what skills you already have, and which ones you need to develop.
Finding a job you like
Opportunities to expand your role
People might wrongly assume that you're happy with your current job. Challenge this in a positive way by showing that you're keen to explore new ideas. Think about the experience you’ve gained, and what you know that you are capable of. Also think about how you might get credit for taking on new duties. Ask yourself:
- what do you like about your current job?
- what are your strengths – what are you doing well?
- what skills do you want to develop?
Take on new duties
Talk to your line manager or someone else senior who you trust about what kind of new duties and projects you might be able to take on. These should help the business and help you to develop the skills you need. Agree to take on work that you feel comfortable doing. Be realistic about how much extra work you can do.
Ask for training
Ask about training budgets, support for employees and plans for learning and development in the organisation. If your employer cannot pay for you to learn new skills, can they give you time for independent study? You could also ask about working in another team or shadowing someone doing a different job. This will help you to understand what a different role is like.
Move into a new role
It might be easier to take on new duties in a smaller organisation, but it might be easier to move between roles in a larger organisation. For example, moving on from being a receptionist by becoming a secretary or executive assistant.
Talk to your colleagues about what they’re working on
Getting to know people at work is a good way of finding and creating opportunities. You should:
- be interested
- ask questions
- be proactive
Getting to know people at work
Mapping out your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats
Looking at your strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and potential threats (SWOT) to your career help you make a plan. Map these out by doing a SWOT analysis.
Work out your strengths and weaknesses. What do you do well and what could you improve on? You could always ask a colleague if you’re stuck. You will be better at roles which rely on your strengths.
Opportunities are the chances you have for career development. Use these opportunities to your advantage. For example you can ask for training to develop your skills, or find a suitable mentor in the organisation.
Threats are obstacles that you face. This could be things like competition from colleagues or working for a small organisation. Identify these and think about what you can do to reduce their impact.
Some things can be an opportunity and a threat at the same time. If your organisation is small, it might be difficult to get promoted (threat), but it might be easier to expand your current role (opportunity).
An example SWOT analysis
Some career paths require a lot of study and qualifications. Others need more on-the-job experience. Work out which type of career path suits you best.
Learning new skills
Online learning can be an effective way of learning new skills. Do not assume that you must pay a lot of money or go for a well-known brand.
You can also get face-to-face training on courses and conferences. Some are free and are also a good way of building your professional network.
Meetup.com is a mixture of paid and free events to help you learn and meet people.
Future Learn offers short courses with some free materials.
Open Learn is free online learning from the Open University.
EdX has free online courses.
Find a mentor
A mentor can help you to think about things differently and to plan. Big organisations might have their own 'buddy' system. Ask your HR department.
Make a list of people you respect who work in your field. If they are doing your dream job, or have in the past, all the better. Once you have this list, try approaching them. Many will be happy to help and may be flattered to be asked for their advice. Start by looking on LinkedIn or Twitter. Personal recommendations are also good.
Begin by asking if you can have a short meeting with them to get some advice. If they’re willing to continue, you can discuss an ongoing arrangement.
Listen to your mentor, but you do not have to do everything that they say. It's fine to leave your mentor if you've learned all that you can from them or it's not working.
Ask to shadow your mentor if you want to. Use it as an opportunity to get to know new people.
Mentors for disabled people working in the City of London (City Disabilities)
Last reviewed by Scope on: 18/05/2018