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How to get a promotion at work

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.

Employers have different rules for promotions and pay. It may be discrimination if they are not consistent or do not make reasonable adjustments.

Disability discrimination at work

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

SWOT analysis

Look at your strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and potential threats (SWOT). This is called a SWOT analysis.


What do you do well? You could always ask a colleague if you’re stuck. You will be better at roles which rely on your strengths.


What could you improve on? 


Think about the chances you have for career development. Use these to your advantage. For example, you can ask for training to develop your skills or find a suitable mentor in the organisation.


List 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 both an opportunity and a threat. If your organisation is small, it might be difficult to get promoted (threat), but it might be easier to expand your role (opportunity).

SWOT analysis

An example SWOT analysis

Think about 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 can do. 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?
  • What goals do you want to achieve?

Take on new duties

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.

Looking at job specifications for the role you want can help you to see what experience or qualifications are needed.

Talk to a manager you trust about what kind of new duties and projects you might be able to take on. These should help you to develop the skills you need. Agree to take on work that you feel comfortable doing or work with someone who is more experienced. Be realistic about how much extra work you can do.

Ask your manager to review how things are going. This will allow them to give you feedback.

Ask for training

Ask about learning and development in your organisation. If your employer cannot pay for you to learn new skills, you could ask about some 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. 

Online training

Online learning can be an effective way of learning new skills. You can access some of the courses for free:

Future Learn

Open Learn


LinkedIn learning

You can also get training on courses and conferences. Some are free and are also a good way of building your professional network.

Training for work

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 or have done your dream job, 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.

Job networking tips

Begin by asking if you can have a short meeting to get some advice. If they agree to be your mentor, you might want to discuss:

  • how often you meet
  • what goals you’d like to achieve
  • your future career plans

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)

Reasonable adjustments

Some employers have a set process for promotions. For example, an interview or assessment.

You may need reasonable adjustments to give you the same chance as your colleagues. There is no set definition on what is ‘reasonable’. It depends on your condition and how your employer promotes people.

Reasonable adjustments could include things like:

  • larger text
  • a quiet room
  • a sign language interpreter

Reasonable adjustments at work

Is it discrimination?

If your employer has a set process for getting promoted, it could be discrimination if all of the following apply:

  • you need reasonable adjustments because of your condition
  • you asked for reasonable adjustments in advance
  • you did not get the adjustments you needed

If you think the assessment may affect your chances, talk about alternatives with your manager or HR department. This will help to show that you think you can do the job.

If your employer does not have a set process for promotion, it can be harder to show it is discrimination. It might be possible if:

  • your employer promoted someone else instead of you
  • you can show that you were not promoted because you are disabled

Pay rises

You need a reason for a pay rise, such as:

  • Your pay is not at the market rate. You can research what other people are being paid by looking at jobs advertised at a similar level.
  • You’ve recently taken on extra duties.
  • You have satisfied your employer’s criteria for a pay rise.
  • Your pay is less than the National Minimum Wage. This is illegal.

Is it discrimination?

If rules are unfair to disabled people, this is discrimination. For example, if pay rises depend on attendance records and do not allow for disability-related absence.

It is not discrimination if the non-disabled people you work with are treated the same.

To prove discrimination, you need to know that other people have been paid more while you have not. If you know your colleagues have received a pay rise, ask why you have not.

You can start by emailing your line manager or someone in the human resources (HR) department. You could also try talking to them in private: “I am aware that other people have had pay rises and I’ve noticed that I haven’t. Please can you explain why?”

There may be a good reason. Each company handles pay differently. But if there are rules, they must be consistent.


Find out what criteria your employer uses. Sometimes, applying the same criteria to all staff can be discrimination.

Is it discrimination?

For example, if your boss wants staff to network, and the venues are not accessible to you.

If you have had to take time off work because you are disabled, it could be discrimination if your employer does not make allowances for this.

If you think the way performance is measured is discrimination, speak to your line manager about how you might change this. There may be other ways of measuring performance that are accessible to you. Working out what's possible is what the law calls 'reasonable adjustments'.

Warning Claim discrimination within 3 months

You can get free, impartial advice from the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS). Their advisers can also discuss the pros and cons of taking a discrimination claim to an employment tribunal. You must do this in less than 3 months of the discrimination taking place.

Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS)

Employment tribunals (GOV.UK)

Last reviewed by Scope on: 02/02/2022

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