Hard work is not enough

Leaders expect you to be good at your job.  After all, that is why they hired you.  Who gets hired to deliver crap?  While you may have seen some that do, they certainly were not hired to.

But I am awesome at my job, you may think.  So what?  The only thing that tells a leader is you are good at this job.  What certainty does he or she have you will be any good at another?

Performance in your current role a good indication of future capability, but not a certainty.  What makes you an expert in this role is likely not the same set of skills and abilities that will make you an expert in the next one.

So what do we have to do to get promoted, if being awesome at a job is not enough?

We have to show we can be more than awesome.

Anyone can work hard.  Anyone can be really great at the job they are assigned to.  So what can an individual do to demonstrate their readiness for another role or level?  Do more.

It is not about working harder.  Remember that the assumption is you work hard already.  It is about doing different things than your job to demonstrate flexibility and adaptability, a willingness to go the extra mile, and the ability to stretch.

These are all characteristics that go beyond the current role.  They show potential for greater responsibility across a wider array of opportunities than just your current position.

Be Visible

In addition to developing additional skills, another benefit of these activities is they get you noticed.  At least if you pick the right ones.

Does your company have a big charity/donation drive each year?  Volunteer to help coordinate at your department or office level.  You will likely have the ability to work with other volunteers at the manager and senior leadership level.

Is there a big meeting your manager has to present at?  Offer to create the first draft of the presentation.  You may even be asked to come along and help present.

Without visibility, hard work can easily go unnoticed.  You can be awesome.  You can stretch, strive, bend and twist your heart out.  But if no one sees it, did it really happen???

If you aspire to your first management position, read 7 practical ways to prepare for more suggestions on activities that will make you more visible and develop necessary management skills.

Make Things Easy

You may want to believe that if you work hard, you will be noticed and recognized for your work.  And you could be, if your manager is aware and advocates for you.  But if you want to stand out, make their job easier and offer to do more.

Raise your hand when the rest of the room is silent.  Offer to try new things when everyone else hems and haws.

A former manager of mine used to get frustrated that his team did not run with his ideas.  They would have all sorts of reasons why they could not be done.  When I started working for him, he realized that I would volunteer to try things out and bring feedback to him and the group.

After a while, he brought me into his confidence and would run new ideas by me first, giving me a chance to help him flesh them out and anticipate roadblocks or challenges.  By the time they were presented to the larger group, I continued to volunteer, but now I had an idea that was more fully vetted, addressing any concerns I might have had.

I became the trusted sounding board and a supporter as I moved forward in my career.

It was not that I was necessarily working harder than anyone else in the room, or that I was any smarter.  Instead, I made my manager’s life easier.  Anyone that can do that can obtain an advocate for life.

Work is called work for a reason, and it often feels like it.  When someone on your team brings a little relief, frees you up to have a little bit of a life or to address other pressing issues, it’s highly valued.

Create Advocates

So, work hard.  Just do not expect that it will be enough to get recognized.  Be present and aware of opportunities, step up, speak out and raise your hand.  Be more than the best at what you do today.

Demonstrate you can be just as awesome when the next thing comes your way and allow yourself to be visible to the very people who have the power to make that happen.

Is it possible to do all these things and still not move forward?  Absolutely.

There are obstacles and challenges getting from one level to another.  Advocates can make all the difference in getting through them. When hiring managers may have questions about your ability at the next level, advocates can be your voice.

Advocates are created through making commitments and delivering on those commitments.  You should work hard all the time, and always deliver on your commitments.  It is delivering on those extra activities, with visibility, that creates advocates out of managers and senior members of the organization.


Working hard, focused on the job description alone, is not enough to be considered for promotion.  Those are table stakes.

Working hard, partnered with visibility, making things easier, and developing advocacy, means doing the extra necessary to be differentiate yourself for promotion.  For being able to deliver on expectations once you get there.


What other advice do you have for those seeking promotion or other opportunities?  Do you think working hard should be enough?  Please share your thoughts in the comments to keep the conversation going.