Constantly Overlooked for Promotion

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about being passed over for promotion:how do I get noticed in order to advance? I have done everything by the book and let my work speak for itself (and them some!) but plum promotions evade me and go to other less deserving/qualified.

What am I doing wrong? I have been employed at the same company for 15 years. I am conscientious, knowledgeable and reliable, yet people around me (Some less qualified both in experience and education) get promoted above me. Case in point – a colleague just became the PR person for the company – English is not his first language, he is difficult to understand and cannot write press releases etc. We both took media training together and he flunked – I did well according to the instructor who notified our boss how both of us did. Another lady got a position I was interested in. She has less experience in the required work than me. I spoke to the HR manager recently and told her I would like to do more for the organization and I used the latter above as an example of how I am just as qualified (I am actually more qualified but I didn’t say that) than the lady who got the position.

She told me that the executive staff thinks very highly of me and even acknowledged a recent project I worked on that finished a month early and made the company and the executive staff look great. She actually said, “You need to market yourself.” How do I do that? And with whom? (She is the HR manager! – can’t she recommend me?) She said they are under the impression that I “get bored easily.” Let me explain that one – In 2001 I was promoted to a PR Supervisory position which I was very happy about – However, I got no PR work to do from my boss (Despite my communication with him that I wanted to do more for the organization) I never complained about the lack of work – I even made up my own work and wrote some promotional material which the organization won awards for –

In my effort to define my own career path, (due to lack of follow-up from my bosses) I have asked for additional duties. (I have taken on more work than I am being paid for.) If this is considered “getting bored easily”, then that’s not accurate. How do I get rid of this misconception to the decision makers? More importantly, how do I get noticed in order to advance? I have done everything by the book and let my work speak for itself (and them some!) but plum promotions evade me and go to other less deserving/qualified.

Signed, Passed By

Dear Passed By:

From what you tell us about yourself, you have and are making a contribution to your company. You are discouraged because recently you have not gotten promotions and others, less qualified, did. That is enough to make anyone unhappy. You did get one promotion: “in 2001 I was promoted to a PR Supervisory position which I was very happy about.” You even got an award for that one although your boss did little or nothing to help you map out a career path.Are you sure you want another promotion?

Promotions are not always upward nor are they always more enriching. Sometimes rather they are simply more headaches, paper work and load without more pay. So if you genuinely want promoted you need to explore the kind of work you can do and make a case for it. You have begun to do so by discussing your job with HR.Fifteen years is more than enough time to prove that you are worthy of career progress. I see a hint or two in your story of discouragement of passion about what you have done or can do. If I were to chat with you, probably you could describe times that you really delighted your external or internal customers. Probably because you had/have no boss or mentor collaborating with you about where you want to go on your career path, you feel more like one in the trenches, who digs and digs without receiving genuine appreciation for all the heavy lifting. But remember you didn’t have to fish for compliments for the project you completed ahead of time?

You got awards and HR said what you did was well done: “She told me that the executive staff thinks very highly of me and even acknowledged a recent project I worked on that finished a month early and made the company and the executive staff look great.” So now, is it not time to take HR’s challenge and do self-marketing? Marketing, like advertising that Bruce Barton once likened to church bells being rung each Sunday, is not a one-time event. Marketing of self is like balancing on a tight rope between bragging and humility.

But perhaps the real balance is between ego and wego. And if you have scanned our Archives, you know WEGO is whole-hearted interdependent mindedness. If you were your boss or mentor, what steps would you map out for the next few weeks, year and there after? What do you really find interesting? Any thing within your current projects? Any projects you see in your area that you think need doing? Map out what you really want to do, why, when and where. Put in a succinct business plan. Then make several copies and schedule informational meetings with your immediate boss and HR. Ask for their reaction, advice and help. Possibly they will recommend you speak to others. Possibly they will assign you to projects to prepare you for where you want to go. Do not conclude these sessions without scheduling a time to meet with them again and again.

Also carefully and quietly have a plan B. Should you not be encouraged after a concerted career surge, move your troops elsewhere is advice that you might consider. Will you take time to weigh these thoughts and have them spark some of your own? WEGO is making your boss, co-workers and yourself look good and cheering about that. Meanwhile, find activities outside to pamper yourself and others.

William Gorden