If you want to move up at work, but you're going nowhere while watching co-workers climb the corporate ladder, it's time to take a hard look at what you might be doing wrong. See if any of the following might be holding you back:
Promotion Killer No. 1: You're a slacker
So what if you sometimes arrive late to work, are the first one out the door at the end of the day, and tend to call in sick on Mondays and Fridays? And it's not your fault you've missed a few deadlines -- you had computer trouble... the instructions weren't clear... you didn't get the help you needed... (insert most recent excuse here)...
Promotion Killer No. 2: You're doing "fine"
You're no slacker. You show up on time and do a fair day's work for a fair day's pay. And that's the problem. Doing work that is "fair," "OK," "adequate," "acceptable" or "fine" may be enough to keep a job, but it's usually not enough to be promoted to a job with more responsibility. If you don't go the extra mile for your employer, don't be surprised if your employer doesn't go the extra mile for you.
Promotion Killer No. 3: You're not visible enough
It's not enough to do a good job; people need to know you have leadership potential. So do what you can to get noticed by the people who have the power to promote you. When something you've worked on goes exceptionally well, write a memo to management praising the team you worked with. You'll get your name out there and be seen as a leader. Make sure you're visible in other ways too, such as volunteering to lead committees, contributing articles to the employee newsletter, coaching the softball team or chairing a volunteer project in your company. You can help your company, your community and your career at the same time.
Promotion Killer No. 4: You're a difficult person
It's good to stand out in the crowd, but not in a negative way. If you are high maintenance, complain a lot, sweat the small stuff and generally make life more difficult for your boss or others in your company, chances are you'll be looking for a job with a new employer before you ever get a chance to move up with your current employer.
Promotion Killer No. 5: You haven't mastered the job you're in
It's surprising how many junior employees perform poorly because they feel the job they're doing is "beneath" them. They figure it doesn't matter if the coffee pot runs dry, the report has a page inserted upside down, there are typos in an e-mail, or they forget to mention that a client called. They feel such tasks are a waste of their time and they could care about work if only they were given bigger and better things to do. All careers require newcomers to pay their dues and if it looks like you can't handle menial tasks, there's no way an employer is going to give you even more responsibility.
Promotion Killer No. 6: Your boss needs you in the job you're in
Yes, you can be too good for your own good. If you are the best assistant your boss has ever had, is it any wonder he doesn't want to lose you? The solution is to find a way for your boss to get what he needs (a great employee) while you get what you want (a promotion). You have already told your boss you want to move up in the company, haven't you? If not, make your intentions clear. Then start looking for ways to find another fabulous employee to replace you and make the transition as easy as possible.
Promotion Killer No. 7: You don't have the right image
In most workplaces, if you believe casual Fridays means you can show up in a tank top, tight shorts and flip flops, it's no wonder you're not being seen as management material. Dress like the people who are working in the position you want to be promoted to. Also learn to "talk the talk" by dropping slang and words such as "like, um, you know" from your workplace vocabulary. In addition, make sure your online image is professional by taking down anything embarrassing such as MySpace photos showing what you do when you've had too much to drink.
Promotion Killer No. 8: You have enemies
Anyone who doesn't like you can make it more difficult for you to get ahead. Co-workers can sabotage your work, but other important people to avoid alienating are those who have the ear of the person who can promote you. If you make an enemy of your boss's assistant or if key customers complain to your boss about you, chances are it will be a long time before you're given more responsibility.
Promotion Killer No. 9: You're competing with superstars
In some industries the reality is that there are far more star employees than positions at the top. If you're in a highly competitive career, you'll need to do an extraordinary job instead of merely an excellent one. Also, be prepared to do more of the other things mentioned in this article to stand out in the crowd and show that you're management material.
Promotion Killer No. 10: Your company isn't in a position to promote you
If you work for a company with a tight budget or low turnover, opportunities to move up may be limited. If a bigger paycheck isn't a possibility, consider asking your boss to acknowledge your work in other ways. For example, a new job title might cost the company nothing more than new business cards, or you may be able to get other benefits such as access to a company parking spot, a larger workspace, a day off, a mentor, educational opportunities or other perks. Be creative and ask for what you want. You might be pleasantly surprised with the result.