The unlikely way in which I got my promotion

20 december 2018

In my pre-entrepreneur life, my responsibilities evolved, or upgraded when I switched companies.

But only once did I get a 'real' promotion. Here's the story of how not to do that.


I'd been working for a number of years in the same role, with the same team. I felt like I was getting nowhere.

We'd developed nice tools & created well liked training programs. We'd worked hard on improving the company culture.

But something was missing. I wasn't having any real impact on anything, I was stuck in the ivory tower of HQ.


So the logical thing to do was, go talk to my boss, see what's possible.

I didn't. In my naivety, I was convinced they knew what was bothering me, surely they could see?

So I waited. And became more frustrated. I started thinking about leaving. But wasn't sure what I wanted to do.


Then one morning - I always came in early to avoid traffic - I ended up chatting with my boss's boss at the coffee machine.

Or should I say: I unloaded all my bottled up frustration onto him. On his empty stomach, even before he had the chance to take a sip from his first, much needed morning-coffee.

It wasn't a proud moment. It was an embarrassing one.

He listened. He was nice. We went our own separate ways.

And nothing happened.


Until, about 2 months later, I was called into his office, together with my direct manager.

I thought I was finished. That they would sack my frustrated ass.

Instead I got a new project. They needed someone in HR to support the IT department on some key change projects.

Would I like to do that?

Of course I did! I jumped at the occasion, I dove in, worked hard, had the time of my life.

Did the best work I ever did, got A appraisals, got the promotion.


All's well that ends well. But it wasn't the right way to get there. It could have blown up in my face.

It probably should have. 


So what to do instead? What is the best way to get to the next level? 

How do you create that opportunity for yourself?


Behave - in every aspect - as if you already got the promotion.


  • Take ownership for your own performance. It's your responsibility to show people that you're worth it. Do the best work you can. Then do even better. BTW: exploding by the coffee machine is NOT taking ownership. Neither is expecting people to read your mind.

  • Make sure you fully understand all the challenges that a new role will offer. You can't prepare for what you don't know. (spoiler alert: there's always more to it than you'd think)

  • Volunteer for projects, new responsibilities. The more you learn & the more (positive) exposure you get, the better your chances.

  • Lead. Whether you have a team or not. Regardless of the level you have in the company. Lead. 

  • Be brutally honest with yourself: are you really doing the best you can? Or is it just your entitlement speaking?

  • Adopt a growth mindset: no one is perfect - but everyone can grow and evolve. Focus on what you can do better. Focus on what you could do differently.


Worst case scenario: this will make you happier & more successful in your current role.

Best case scenario, your promotion might be under the Christmas tree next year.


Learn & grow. Take ownership. Be honest with yourself.

That's it.

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