Working hard is not enough to get you promoted

If you think having a good work ethic is enough to get promoted, you have made a fatal career mistake

Zeta Yarwood
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We are taught from a young age - from parents, grandparents and teachers - that if you work hard and do your job as best you can, you will almost be guaranteed a promotion. In their day, that may well have been true. The economy was heavily driven by the manufacturing industry, and technical ability alone would probably have got you promoted. However, things have evolved dramatically since then.

First, the economy has become significantly more services-orientated, shifting the focus to soft skills. Second, with the development of performance psychology, human-resources departments are prioritizing attitude, confidence and emotional intelligence over technical ability. Third, with more highly qualified, educated and capable professionals in the workforce, simply being good at your job and working hard are not enough to make you stand out.


If you think having a good work ethic is enough to get promoted, you have made a fatal career mistake. If you have made that one, you may be making the following other mistakes:

1) You are not making yourself visible

If you spend most of the day working with your head down and focusing on the job at hand, you could be harming your chances of a promotion. Being seen as a future manger or leader requires being seen. Some CEOs will not sign off on your promotion unless they have heard good things about you from multiple sources.

Make the effort to network and build relationships with your colleagues, at all levels and across all functions. Get involved in departmental projects, or take the initiative to start your own and ask others to join in. Help anyone and everyone when possible, to establish relationships and increase your reputation as a team player.

2) You have not aligned yourself with your company

If you have not taken the time to ensure that you and the company want and need the same things, you could be setting yourself up for failure. If you are ambitious and hungry for the spotlight, but your company focuses more on cohesive teamwork and supporting each other, there is going to be a clash somewhere along the line.

If you can align your objectives, career goals and values to those of the company, your chances of a successful long-term career in that company will increase without any drastic career moves. If you discover there is no chance of alignment, perhaps it is time for a career change.

3) You are not aware of or developing your weaknesses

Successful people are highly self-aware, not only of their strengths but also their areas for improvement. This is essential if you want to get ahead in your career. Often when we have a weakness, we try to hide it and avoid tasks that might highlight it.

However, all good leaders know there is always room to improve - learning and development never stops. By facing your weaknesses and working to develop them, you are showing your employer that you are self-aware and serious about your career and performance.

4) You are not willing to invest in yourself

Successful people know that investing in themselves is crucial to success. They do not wait for an employer to do it for them. They take control of their careers and invest in any personal and professional development required to help them reach the level of success they want. As Warren Buffet said: “Invest in as much of yourself as you can, you are your own biggest asset by far.”

5) You do not have a career plan

One of the biggest reasons people fail in their careers is because they do not know what they want or what road to take. They then fall into the trap of leaving their careers in the hands of their employers, often working in jobs they do not enjoy or are not naturally good at. Having a career plan will give you a sense of direction, and an appreciation of how your current role fits into the bigger picture. If you feel stuck in your role, this article will help you get unstuck.

6) You are not being assertive

If you are not standing up for yourself or you are being aggressive, either way you are not being assertive. Being assertive means effectively communicating your viewpoint or defending your position, while respecting the beliefs and needs of others. It is essential for any leadership role and a successful career.

You do not need to get into a conflict to demonstrate assertiveness. Voicing your ideas in meetings, proposing solutions to problems, setting boundaries, and being able to justify your decisions to senior management without getting nervous, are all healthy ways to be assertive. If you are struggling with assertiveness, hiring a career coach will help you gain the confidence you are looking for.

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