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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Getting Ahead

Ask an Honest HR Professional: How Can I Stand Out for Promotions Against My Awesome Co-workers?

Dear HR Professional,

How can I stand out for promotions when all of my colleagues are talented, successful, and at the same point in their careers as me?

Afraid of Being Overshadowed

Dear Afraid of Being Overshadowed,

Kudos to you for taking charge of your career!

One way to ensure you stand out is to seek out opportunities and projects outside of your job description. Usually a promotion’s warranted when someone is exceeding what is expected in his or her position. So, if you’re knocking it out of the park with your normal responsibilities and you’re able to own a new project or tackle a different challenge, you’re going to prove that you’re a more valuable investment for the company than your peers who might have similar backgrounds and experiences as you.

Additionally, companies today crave innovative and creative employees who add value to the organization beyond just the bare minimum. If you don’t have any ideas about what could be done better right now, take a look at pain points within your department and think of ways that you could personally work to improve or alleviate them.

Trust me, it’s better for everyone if you’re able to say, “This sucks… but I can make it better,” than to point a finger and dump more work on someone else within the company.

When you’re thinking about a promotion, it’s important to make sure you keep open lines of communication with your boss about your ambitions—early and often. You should be up-front with your manager that you’d like to be considered for a promotion sooner rather than later. If the first time you are bringing up your desire to be promoted is during your annual performance review, it might be too late!

Remember that your manager will have to coordinate with HR and consider your department’s budget, at minimum, before making any decisions. So, the earlier you plant that seed and get on the same page about your career development, the better off you’ll be.

You may not think of it this way, but having such stellar teammates can actually be a benefit to you in your quest for a promotion. You’ve probably heard that you’re a reflection of who you spend the most time with, and that definitely rings true in the workplace as well. When you’re able to stand out against other talented and successful individuals, you’re going to put yourself in a far better place in your career than if you were outperforming a group of slackers (which is, of course, a much easier feat). When the bar is set much higher, you’ll aim to achieve more.

Getting noticed for a promotion can always be tough—especially when your colleagues are equally as awesome and qualified as you. Fortunately, if you’re willing to take initiative and openly communicate with your manager, you’ll have a much better chance of standing out at work.

This article is part of our Ask an Expert series—a column dedicated to helping you tackle your biggest career concerns. Our experts are excited to answer all of your burning questions, and you can submit one by emailing us at editor(at)themuse(dot)com and using Ask an Honest HR Professional in the subject line.

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