How To Move Up in a Company: 12 Steps for Success

Updated February 3, 2023

The potential for a promotion or career advancement is a significant motivator for most employees. It typically results in a higher salary and greater responsibility at work. Your actions, decisions and performance are what help you get that promotion. If you're hoping to move up in a company, follow this list of important steps.

Why is it important to move up in a company?

The prospect of moving up in a company can keep you excited about and engaged in your work. Promotions may come with bigger paychecks, new projects and more authority in the office. Moving up in a job also looks good on your resume if you decide to apply with a different company or industry. It shows you are responsible, driven and produce high-quality work.

When you continually explore how to move up in your career, you gain new skills, responsibilities and challenges. The motivation to move up in a company benefits your employer, too, through your hard work and superior performance.

Related: 11 Ways To Achieve Career Advancement

How to move up in a company

To move up in a company, you should continually take steps to improve your performance and impress your manager. Because companies only have so many openings and opportunities for advancement, you must earn it. Follows these tips for moving up in a company:

1. Continue your education

Taking classes or going back to school can impact your career significantly. Depending on your level of education, you might:

  • Complete an unfinished degree

  • Earn your bachelor's, master's or doctorate

  • Take online or in-person classes to develop a certain skill

  • Earn a certificate from an industry organization

Continued learning also allows you to stay current with or ahead of industry trends, which can be an important factor when managers are considering promotions. Companies tend to promote employees who can grow with the business. Making the effort to learn a new skill or broaden your knowledge shows your dedication to the industry and motivation to succeed.

2. Network

Interact with people both inside your company and within the industry as a whole to expand your list of professional contacts. The more people in your field who know who you are, what you do and what values and skills you bring to a company, the more likely someone will mention your name when a promotion or job opportunity comes up. Network with people in other departments of your company to learn more about the organization.

Related: The Benefits of Networking: 14 Reasons To Start Your Network

3. Find a mentor

Develop a relationship with a more experienced professional. Ideally, you want your mentor to be someone who works in a higher position at your company and communicates with the company's leaders. However, your mentor can be from another organization in the industry or work in a different industry. This individual can give you guidance and advice about your work and career decisions.

Related: 5 Steps to Find a Mentor

4. Connect with your manager

Be a supportive employee, and form a positive relationship with your boss. This individual has significant power regarding your standing in the company. Communicate to your manager your interest in working for the company long-term. Have personal conversations about things outside work such as families and hobbies. During performance reviews, ask what you need to do to advance in your career.

5. Accept more responsibilities

Ask your manager for additional responsibilities at work. Explain that you want to support other departments that might need help, as well. You are showing your interest in your job and desire to see the company succeed and proving your value to the company.

6. Be professional

Look and act professional all the time. Dress neatly, even on casual days. Maintain a positive attitude, even in challenging situations, and solve problems rather than complaining about them. Spend the extra time to complete a task that needs to get done, instead of going home right at 5. Show your manager that you are dependable and cooperative.

7. Support the team

Be a team player by supporting your co-workers when they need help. Congratulate them for individual or department successes, and never blame anyone for a problem or failure. Teamwork is important if you want to work in a management position. Being a good teammate improves your reputation in the department and your value to the company.

8. Take responsibility for your mistakes

If something goes wrong — whether it's your fault or the team's — accept or admit it and start trying to fix the problem right away. Avoid blaming anyone else, and communicate to your manager how you plan to solve the issue. Taking responsibility for mistakes shows you can be trusted and is a sign of a potential leader.

9. Create opportunities

Identify problems within the department or company, and propose ways to solve them. Study your company's needs, write a job description for a position that meets those needs and tell your manager you want to fill that role. While this exercise might not result in a promotion, it shows your ambition, problem-solving and creative thinking skills.

10. Measure your results.

Track quantifiable results from the work you've done, and keep a record of your successes. Use these figures to demonstrate your value and commitment to the company during related meetings and conversations. Managers want to see that you get results. You can also add this information to your resume to keep it updated for potential advancement opportunities.

11. Improve your soft skills

Develop social skills and personality traits such as communication, problem-solving, teamwork, flexibility, integrity, dependability and self-direction. These soft skills make you easier to work with, trusted and reliable. Soft skills are best learned through observation and real scenarios. Watch how your manager and colleagues react to problems and successes in the workplace. Observe how company leaders communicate in person and writing.

12. Be a leader

Demonstrate your ability to lead if you want to be considered for a management position. The higher you move in a company, the more people you will be responsible for. Take leadership courses to develop those skills. Join or lead a company committee. Volunteer to organize a company event or outing.

Related: 9 Tips on How To Get Promoted at Work

Moving up in a company: 5 things to avoid

While taking steps to prove your value and commitment to your company and your ability to lead, make sure you avoid actions that might undo your progress. Things that can prevent you from moving up in a company include:

Doing the minimum required work

Your duties go beyond just what's listed on your job description. Volunteer to help your colleagues and manager with their tasks or to work on a project that challenges you in new ways.

Being comfortable with your current skill set

Always look for ways to strengthen or learn new skills. Join a company training program, or find ways to broaden your skills and knowledge.

Sending emails when you're emotional

Rather than responding to an email that upsets you or sending a communication when you're frustrated, save it as a draft and revisit it in a few hours or the next day. See if you can rewrite it more professionally.

Going behind your manager's back

Avoid complaining about your boss to one of their superiors. If you have a problem with your manager's decision or behavior, tell them directly. Also, tell your manager if you do plan to communicate an issue to upper management.

Threatening to quit if you don't get promoted

If you assume you are invaluable to a company, you might find yourself jobless. Accept a manager's hiring or promotion decision respectfully.

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