What You Really Need to Get Promoted


In the 60s, management gurus started talking about the Peter Principle, which states that companies promote people to their level of incompetence.

Here’s how it works: You’re good at your job, so you get promoted. You’re good at that job, so you’re promoted again. But then, you’re no longer good at what you do, so you stay put—right there at your level of incompetence.

Interestingly, most people have the technical skills they need to succeed at higher-level jobs. While it might seem counter-intuitive, upper level positions in the workplace aren’t necessarily more difficult than lower level ones. Sure, many require some new technical skills. But those skills generally are easy enough for a capable learner to pick up on the job.

But as you rise through the hierarchy, your job generally will require a more developed set of soft skills. Skills like communication, emotional intelligence, ethics, and stress management.

Many technically skilled employees don’t have them. And sadly, soft skills are much harder to learn. They can’t be learned by going to a class or reading a book. Many, in fact, come naturally to some people and not others. Or are aspects of character. But with effort and awareness, soft skills can be improved over time.

Business leaders have started to figure this out. These days, companies are becoming focused on promoting people who’ve demonstrated certain character traits rather than  any specific technical skill-set. The question is no longer, “Can this person do the job?” Now the question is: “Is this person capable of being who he or she needs to be in this role?”

How to Show You’re Ready to Be Promoted

Of course, this poses a problem for employees who want to be promoted. Character and soft skills are not only harder to develop; they’re harder to demonstrate. Technically skilled employees abound, and it’s easy to identify them.

It’s a much more difficult task for an employee to prove his or her character—to demonstrate the soft skills business leaders are starting to require in managers. And yes, demonstration is the key. It’s not enough to just tell your managers you’re good with people, they need to see it. They need to hear it from others. They need to experience it.

To prove you have the character of a leader, focus on finding ways to demonstrate finely honed soft skills.

4 Soft Skills You Need to Succeed

Grace Under Pressure

When the work environment is chaotic and deadlines are driving the entire team mad, be a port in the storm. Show you’re capable of moving and thinking quickly without losing your composure.

Ability to Learn from Feedback

When constructive criticism is offered, don’t get defensive. Accept it eagerly as an opportunity and find ways to integrate the feedback into your work.

Be Diplomatic

When difficult topics need to be discussed, step up and speak with tact and social awareness, helping to keep the overall tone of the conversation productive.

Act with Integrity

When ethical dilemmas surface, remember that integrity means doing the right thing even when others aren’t watching. But in the workplace, others will always know, and the actions you take will be true demonstrations of your character.

About the Author

Chrissy Scivicque is a career coach, corporate trainer and public speaker who believes work can be a nourishing part of the life experience. Her website, Eat Your Career, is devoted to this mission. Chrissy is currently a contributing career expert for U.S. News & World Report and the author of the book, The Proactive Professional: How to Stop Playing Catch Up and Start Getting Ahead at Work (and in Life!), available on Amazon.