How To Get Your First Promotion

Maybe you just landed your first “real” job or finally got your foot in the door in an industry you’ve had your eye on. Either way, before too long you’re going to wonder what’s next in your new career. So today I’m going to over four tips that will help land you your first promotion.

So you’ve started at your new job and you’re just excited to be there. Whether you’re fresh out of college or simply moving into a new job field, it won't be long until you start thinking about how you can progress towards the next step in your career. Before you get TOO far in cultivating your future plans, remember that you’re here to do a job first. Which brings me to my first step in getting that first promotion, which is to Master where you’re at before even thinking about that promotion

Step 1: Master where you’re at before thinking about a promotion

Unfortunately we live in a world where hard work doesn't always get us ahead, but when it comes to getting your first promotion, we DO need to, at the very least, be competent. It’s a prerequisite to anybody wanting to promote you.


Now I’m not saying you need to fully master the area that you’re in, honestly that could take years, but you do need to be able to do your job and do it well. Once you feel like you’re an expert at what you do day to day, it might be time to start thinking about what will come next in your career path.

In an ideal world, the promotion process is transparent, and you know exactly what you need to do to get that first promotion. While that sounds nice, it’s rarely that straight forward.

Granted I’m coming from the Air Force where the first few promotions are literally just time in service as long as you didn’t mess up too bad. And you know what, there was something nice about knowing EXACTLY when you’d rank up.

Unfortunately most jobs in the world aren't that straight forward, and that brings us to our next step. If you want to get your first promotion faster, you’ll need to learn the in’s and outs of your company's promotion structure!

Step 2: Learn your company's promotion structure!

This is rarely on the company website Q&A page. you’ll need to talk to somebody who really knows the promotion structure at the company you’re working at. Hopefully this is a supervisor who wants you to succeed, but don't be afraid to reach out to others in the company and get their perspective.


Information is the key to success, because there’s nothing worse than spinning your wheels for months or even years, just to realize that you’re not going anywhere. To make sure that doesn't happen to you, you’ll need to get clear on what it is you actually want.

Step 3: Get clear on what you want

When you’re just starting off, you don't know what you don't know, and the whole company outside your small team may seem like a vast unknown world, but as you get a little bit more used to the position you're in, be sure to branch out and understand what surrounding areas your team works with.

Figure out where your position fits into the larger picture and start thinking about possible paths you see yourself moving into. It’s not always just as simple as “moving up the ladder”. A lot of the time your “advancement” will involve seemingly lateral movies to round out your skillset.

This is of course going to depend on the company to an extent, but the core concept is universal. If you don’t know which direction you’re moving, it’s going to take you a lot longer to get there. I would argue the direction you choose to go is actually less important than just going A direction, especially if you’re just starting out and don’t really know what you want.

In those situations, a breadth of experience is a good idea to get yourself some perspective. Just be aware that as you progress further in your career, you’ll really want to specialize in a specific area and become a subject matter expert, but that’s something we can talk about later.

For now, if you’re in a supportive environment, then you’re going to be surrounded by people who want to help. But even the best manager can’t help you if you can’t tell them where you’re trying to go. Once you’ve got that somewhat figured out, we can move into the final step which is creating your plan, sharing it with your manager, and actually executing.

Step 4: Create a plan, share it with your manager, and execute.

One of the best ways to spin your wheels is to not have a plan. Even if you make a plan though, if you don’t have your foundation built from the first three steps we went over, this plan is likely to fall apart when things start to change around you.


Now I’m not saying you shouldn't go out of your comfort zone and try new things as they come along, but in general, you should have a roadmap put together that shows where you are, where you’re trying to get to, and the things you’ll need to accomplish along the way to get there.

Once you’re in a position where you’re able to accomplish your daily tasks with relatively little challenge, it might be time to move on to something more challenging and rewarding. It’s at this point you need to do some research and figure out where it is you want to advance to and put together a clear roadmap with the steps you’ll need to accomplish to get you there.

Take some time with your supervisor or a mentor and really lay out these steps. If your manager is any good, they’re going to want to help you get there, because they know a motivated employee is the kind of employee they want on their team. It benefits you both to have clear expectations and milestones set so that you can be working together towards the same goal.


Promotions are rarely, if ever, guaranteed. You need to work to get them, but by following these four steps, you’ll be putting yourself in the best position to snag that promotion and move up in your career.

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