internal promotion

When an opportunity for promotion arises at work, employees may be pitted against each other as they vie for the same chance. Regardless of whether you are friendly with those colleagues you’re competing against or if another peer has been there longer than you have and therefore seems to be the obvious choice, it’s realistic that the process can get uncomfortable, knowing that one of you will miss out.

In contrast, the other gets a shiny new opportunity, a title change and probably a pay rise to go with it.

Whether you’re the one who gets the job or the one who misses out, how you conduct yourself before, during and after the internal promotion process can have a long-lasting impact on team cohesion, employee engagement and how your colleagues and manager perceive you.

Related: What to do if you don’t get the pay rise you want

The many benefits of internal promotions

Employers often prefer to promote internally rather than pursue external hires because promoting internal candidates fosters a sense of loyalty and motivation among existing employees. Recognising and rewarding their hard work and dedication through promotions instils a sense of pride and encourages others to strive for advancement within the business.

Internal promotions result in a shorter learning curve and faster integration into the new role than external hiring. Internal talent is already familiar with the company culture, processes, and values, reducing the time required for training and adaptation.

Internal hires ensure continuity and stability within the business. Employers can maintain consistency in decision-making, knowledge transfer, employee development and succession planning by promoting employees who have already demonstrated their capabilities and understanding of the company’s operations.

Promoting internally also boosts employee morale and engagement. Successful internal promotions convey that growth and advancement opportunities exist within the organisation, motivating employees to perform at their best and invest in their career growth. Human resources departments are crucial in facilitating and overseeing your promotion journey.

Related: After a performance review: what to do next

Put your best foot forward for the promotion

Internal promotions at work can mean some awkwardness between yourself and colleagues, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put your best foot forward when applying for the role. Firstly, do not compare yourself to your colleagues.

Also, avoid downplaying your capabilities or feeling like you can’t speak highly of yourself in front of your peers. If you want the role, ensure you focus on your key achievements and abilities and how you can demonstrate that you’re the right person for the promotion. 

Like any other job interview, planning is key: make sure you have talking points prepared that showcase your contribution to the company and aptitude to take on the role and its responsibilities. Also, prepare some interview questions to understand better the next steps in the hiring process and anything else that will help you determine whether this opportunity is right for you.

Related: The power of grit to help you succeed

If you get the promotion

Congratulations! The most important thing to remember now is to be gracious and sensitive to your co-workers’ potential sense of defeat. This doesn’t mean you should pity them or make a show of consoling them – that kind of attention will likely make them feel worse.

Depending on how close you are to the colleague passed over, you may want to reach out and offer your consolation. However, it would be best to be careful how you phrase this to avoid being condescending or insincere.  

A good approach is to send an email to the entire team (after the announcement of your promotion has officially been made), thanking management for this new opportunity and acknowledging that you were up against strong competition in your colleagues – and that you’re looking forward to working together to achieve success.

Related: 10 resume templates and tools to make your resume stand out

If you miss out on internal promotions

As disappointing as it might be that you missed out, don’t let this affect your performance in your current role. Instead, use the opportunity to get a clear idea of the areas you need to work on and a fresh perspective to take the next step.

As with any interview process, it is completely reasonable to seek feedback on why you weren’t selected, and this can act as your ‘cheat sheet’ on the skills you need to build up or areas where you need to increase your experience to be a viable candidate next time around.

Then set a time to speak with your manager and discuss where there are opportunities for you to gain this additional experience. You might even be able to structure a promotion timeline to check whether you’re on the right path regularly.

There may not necessarily be immediate future growth opportunities within the framework of your current role or company. But this means you need to be extra proactive about internal promotion opportunities at specific times of the year. Otherwise, you may need to consider taking up a new job at another company if your current business cannot provide you with professional growth and your next career step within a reasonable period.

Importantly, try to feel genuinely happy for your colleague. This can be hard, understandably, so try asking yourself, ‘Is this something I could achieve too?’ In addition, your future promotion could put you in the same reporting line as your colleague who was successful this time around, which means it’s going to benefit you to have a good working relationship with them now; plus, they could be your biggest advocate if a spot opens up. They think of you as being the right fit.

Furthermore, you should still recognise your efforts, especially if you made it to the final two or three candidate shortlist. This achievement can be a great motivator and can stop any negative feelings from taking over, encouraging you to move on and focus on what’s important for you to work on right now to be successful the next time there’s an internal promotion.

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