5 Ways to Promote Yourself at Work

Bestselling author and career expert Dan Schawbel has 5 tips on how you can get promoted and get ahead in your current job.

QDT Editor
4-minute read

There's no doubt that it's an extremely competitive job market right now.

But that doesn't make it easy on the people who actually have jobs. Employees have a difficult time promoting themselves and standing out at work just like job seekers do in the recruitment process. With more employees jumping from one company to the next more than ever before, it's never been a better time to grow your career within a company. If everyone is looking outside, you can look within and seize open positions as people move.

In today's working world, you have to promote yourself if you want to survive and thrive. Promoting yourself is less about self-promotion and more about pushing yourself forward, gaining allies, and doing work that matters to your manager and corporation as a whole. It's very hard to succeed if you aren't challenging yourself, and doing additional work outside of your job description.

The fact is that doing the bare minimum doesn't translate into job promotions.

You have to already be doing the job of your manager in order to one day claim that position. Here are 5 tips from my bestselling book, Promote Yourself: The New Rules for Career Success:

Tip #1: Be an Entrepreneur at Work

If all you do is the work you were assigned to do, you can't get ahead. In order to fast track your career, you need to have an entrepreneurial mindset. In a study I did for my book, in partnership with American Express, we found that 58% of managers are either very willing or extremely willing to support entrepreneurial employees.

So start looking for opportunities that your company could take advantage of or processes that can be improved in your organization. Do your research and create a presentation to convince your manager that you are the best person to take advantage of that opportunity. If the project works, you will become much more visible in your organization and if it doesn't, you are still seen as a risk taker and you'll learn a lot from the experience.

Tip #2: Master a Skill

There's never been a better time to become a subject matter expert. As more companies hire on-demand talent, the need for specialists will climb. If you're the best at a certain skill or are the most knowledgeable on a topic that's important to your company, you will become invaluable. It's the best job security you could ask for because you are irreplaceable if they need your skills in order to accomplish their goals.

This is why certain programmers are making large salaries right now - they have skills that are in high demand and are hard to find. Mastering a skill in a company can be as basic as understanding a certain software program and then teaching it to everyone else.

Tip #3: Help Your Boss Succeed

Most people think that promoting yourself is narcissistic and selfish but those people have it all wrong. The key to self-promoting is to make it about supporting other people because then they will want to promote you.

When other people talk highly of you, it is a million times more effective than when you brag about yourself. The key person that you want to support is your boss or manager because they are the biggest stakeholder in your career. If they fail, it's very hard for you to succeed so make sure that you're always making their job easier and doing work that they don't have time for. After you finish your daily tasks, ask them what else you can help them with. If they get promoted, then it's much easier for them to bring you up with them.

Tip #4: Develop Your Soft Skills

In the study I did with American Express for my book, we found that managers value soft skills over hard skills. In fact, 61% of managers believe that soft skills are most important. Soft skills are intangible but are crucial to career success. They include interpersonal communication, the ability to prioritize work, handle conflict, and even having a positive attitude.

See also: Communicate Better with Different Types of People


In fact, a recent study I did with Beyond.com shows that even college recruiters think that having a positive attitude is the most important thing when hiring. In order to develop your soft skills, you need to get into as many social situations as possible, ask for feedback, and then push yourself to improve.

Tip #5: Outside Activities Matter

There's no such thing as a nine-to-five workday anymore and what you do outside of work can help build your brand in the workplace. A full 63% of managers are very willing or extremely willing to support an employee's professional related activities outside the office.

So join industry associations and meet-up groups to network, acquire new knowledge, and build your reputation. When you do a lot outside of work, you have more things to talk about at work. It looks good if you take the extra time to go to conferences and meetings that aren't required of you.


To learn more about how to get ahead in your career, read Dan Schawbel's New York Times bestselling book, Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success (St. Martin's Press), which is now available in paperback. It features a new chapter that will help you figure out how to create the career path of your dreams and conquer the job market with confidence.