How Introverts Get Promoted at Work

Ready for the next level? Take these 10 steps now.

Posted Feb 20, 2010

Looking for a promotion on the job during a time when you’re fortunate just to be employed? Take these steps, particularly designed for introverts, to get further up the ladder:

  1. Get clear about your accomplishments. This may take an extra push for you as an introvert. You dive deeply into your responsibilities and it’s a challenge for you to come up for air to identify and speak about your accomplishments. Of course, it’s up to you to do so. 
  2. Envision the impact you can make at a higher level. Answer this: What can you offer your organization if you get promoted? And why are you the best person for the job? 
  3. Take credit for your contributions. I often hear introverts just crediting their teams instead of taking their fair share of credit. Think strategically about what you can say, to whom, and how to ensure that your name gets connected with your contributions. You don’t need to brag or inflate the truth to do so. 
  4. Find a champion. Most introverts I’ve worked with who have gotten promotions have had a boss or senior manager who really pulled for them. Use your ability to build strong, lasting relationships and do so with people who can make a difference in your career advancement.  
  5. Plan on a discussion with your boss. As an introvert, you’ll do better by preparing your key points than speaking off the cuff about why it’s time for you to take the next step up the ladder. Make those points about how, at a higher level of responsibility, you can make an even greater impact on the organization—rather than mainly focusing on why you deserve a promotion. 
  6. Check on the timing. Do a little digging to ensure that the timing is right for your pitch to your boss. If, for example, you discover by talking to a buddy in HR that a major organizational shakeup is afoot or that your boss is about to transfer to a different department, those pieces of information are likely to affect your approach.
  7. Think of who could fill your current position. Be prepared to train another employee to do your current job so you can move up. When the time is right, you can share this idea with your boss to demonstrate how you would help ensure a seamless transition.
  8. Have that discussion with your boss. Now that you’ve prepared as well as practiced delivering your key points, be sure to rest up for this critical conversation so you can be as calm and grounded as possible. Once the discussion time comes, make good eye contact (or whatever is culturally appropriate), speak in a clear, strong voice, be concise, and listen carefully to your boss’s response before replying. Aim for a collaborative discussion rather than an all-or-nothing proposition. Ask for specifically what you need to do to get to the next level and come up with a game plan together.
  9. Determine what skills you need to build. Your organization might need someone at the next level up with more experience as a leader or more knowledge in a particular area. Devise and propose a plan for you to go for training or to volunteer for initiatives to get yourself up the learning curve.
  10. Recognize when you’re at a dead-end. Do you have a bully boss who’s threatened by your accomplishments? Or an organization whose in-fighting is so severe that it would be toxic for you to stick around? Or is the environment of nepotism or favoritism so strong that the chances of your getting promoted are next to nil? Know when it’s time to look elsewhere to get to the next level—either in another department or at a competing organization.