“Moving Up” no Longer Means Being Promoted

With workforces still lean and fewer people getting promoted today, the definition of “moving up” has changed, according to ClearRock Inc. 

Years ago, many workers followed a personal career guideline of: “Every three years, up or out.” That is, a worker should expect to be promoted every three years or should look for another job. 

However, the desire to move up is coming into conflict with flatter organizations and many employers’ preferences to remain that way. Some employees who have stayed with their employers during the recession, are becoming disgruntled and switching jobs, or are looking for other jobs, because they have not moved up as they had expected. 

This has set off a tug of war between executives and managers re-evaluating their current positions and employers who want to retain those who have developed and sharpened their skills during the recession. 

Managers who have not only survived during the recession but thrived, too – and have a track record for helping their employers attain their goals in difficult times – are especially attractive as employees. 

Experienced and battle-tested managers and executives are in demand. Management levels were trimmed during the recession as employers cut their workforces. Some of those who were able to keep their jobs took on more responsibilities and managed more workers.

Employees are now more closely examining the career development and advance opportunities being offered by their current employers, and assessing whether they will get a better deal with another company. 

If good-performing employees are not being promoted today, they want to receive the career development that will position them for the next level and gain an understanding of when they can expect to advance.


ClearRock offers this advice for employees looking or expecting to advance: 

  1. Take an active role in managing your career. Discuss your career expectations with your supervisor. One of the biggest mistakes many employees make is not discussing their career development with their bosses. 
  1. Develop a career path. Mutually develop a career path with timelines for advancement and compensation rewards and track your progress. Your supervisor may be willing to provide you with coaching or other management development to enable you to get to the next level. 
  1. Ask for a raise or bonus in lieu of a promotion. Some companies that want to remain with fewer organizational levels are paying workers as if they had been promoted or are awarding them one-time bonuses in recognition of their good work. 
  1. Develop a possible job enlargement plan. Explore ways to broaden your current job while remaining in the same position. Ask to take on additional responsibilities, volunteer to serve as a mentor to new or newly promoted employees, or request to head up a special project, task force or cross-functional team. Your employer may highly value the contributions you are making and may be eager to work on ways to expand your job responsibilities. 
  1. Make a lateral move. Transfer your skills to another part of the company. It should be an area in which you have both the education and experience to succeed instead of asking your employer to pay for on-the-job training. 
  1. Become an in-house expert. Expand the breadth and depth of your professional knowledge and become the resident expert because of your expertise. 
  1. Find a mentor. A mentor can be a formal or informal relationship. A strong mentor can help you uncover and work through your blind spots and advocate for you with the right people. 

In summary, employees ultimately own their careers and advancement comes to those who show up with a positive attitude, stay the course, and make a difference for the company.