How’d you get that promotion? 4 real stories you can learn from

September 4, 2023
promotion advice

“Men I work with do not see my career as a genuine career. My male colleagues are there for their careers, while I am there to help the career of my manager.”
Ali Hall

This story is, unfortunately, not unique.

According to research by Mckinsey, despite modest progress, women are still dramatically underrepresented in leadership. While the data shows a nearly even gender split when it comes to entry-level roles (52% men vs 48% women), by the time you scale up to c-suite roles the data tells a far different story. 

Only 26% of c-suite roles were held by women in the beginning of 2022.   

For women, ambition is too often seen as an unsavory, unseemly, dare we say, unfeminine. Society tells us that to have success lucked upon you is one thing; it is another, entirely less lovely, thing to actively hunger for it.

Well boo to that we say! 

The truth is that there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be ambitious, driven, determined, outspoken, and direct. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be recognized and rewarded for your skills and hard work.  

If you have your eyes set on a better title, bigger responsibilities, or a bigger salary in the near future, here are several steps you can take to learn how to get promoted at work. And we know they work, because they’re the same steps the women sharing them have taken to get their own recent promotions with these amazing Endorsed Employers:

Domain GroupWoolworthsCummins | WORK180 

If at first you don’t succeed, learn, grow, and try again.

Belinda Sinclair from Domain Holdings Australia shares…

What was your previous role, and what is your new role?

Belinda has been with Domain Group, one of the leading real estate companies in Australia, for 11 years. During that time, she has progressed from a State Sales Manager to a Head of Sales & Agent Partnerships at Domain Group, happily leading a team of 80 across all of Australia, and a revenue line of over $230m.

What steps lead to your promotion?

I started in sales initially. Looking after some of the country’s most successful real estate agencies gave me a deep understanding of the industry and day to day challenges of the customer. 

But, I immediately identified my greatest passion was actually to lead people and have a wider impact across the business.

From the outside, my path might look predictable and linear, and many may say I’ve been lucky. However, it was deliberate, planned, and backed by continuous development, coaching, and hard work.

I was unsuccessful the first time I applied for the National Sales Director role. But I interviewed again for the role six months later and was offered the place in an interim capacity before being permanently appointed. 

That period forced me to face up to the reasons I was knocked back initially and to ensure I committed to developing the skills I maybe lacked or didn’t present compellingly enough.

What advice do you have for other women looking to get a promotion?
  • Find an employer that aligns with your values and supports career growth. 
  • Don’t be afraid of setbacks, learn from them.
  • Luck isn’t a strategy, hard work and determination are.

See the opportunities in side-steps as well as step ups

Julie Fenton from Woolworths Group shares…

What was your previous role, and what is your new role?

I have had at least 14 different roles and titles over 30 years in the Woolworths Group

Most recently, I was Head of Supply Chain Supplier Solutions from 2018 – 2021. Then in 2021, received a secondment to Head of Business Development PC+ for 12 months.

Then another move in 2022 to Head of Transformation and Partnering PC+ which is the role I’ve been in for approximately nine months. 

What steps lead to your promotion?

In my situation, I was not necessarily promoted. I was, however, given the opportunity to stay at my level in a different part of the organization and learn a ‘new language’. 

What led to this opportunity was partly succession planning and my willingness to expand into a new area. I firmly believe that sidestepping and becoming more diverse is just as important as promotion.

What advice do you have for other women looking to get a promotion?
  • Be willing to learn new things. Volunteer for a project that excites you, or that you are passionate about 
  • Speak up – talk to your line Manager and/or seek out a mentor in the division you would like to be promoted in. Woolworths Group is a large organization with multiple divisions, where you can get a vast amount of experience sideways. These sidesteps can then lead to many other promotion opportunities and experiences.
  • Love what you do, it shows!

Find an organization with values that align with your own.

Kirsty Van Oudtshoorn from Cummins shares…

What was your previous role, and what is your new role?

At Cummins, I started as a Project Management Intern with what is now known as the Operations Excellence Team. I finished my internship at 10 months to join the Brisbane Administrative Team. I spent 10 months in this role, and then had the opportunity to run the Supply Chain Services project in the Supply Chain Planning team. I started the project as a Project Coordinator and was promoted to Project Manager after roughly 10 months.

What steps lead to your promotion?

I think the key was hard work and integrity. I worked incredibly hard to produce high quality work and proactively looked at ways to build and push harder.

I rarely have the answers and haven’t yet built up the functional experience and understanding to know everything, but I go out of my way to build on my understanding and FIND the answers. This was recognized regionally and globally, and I was rewarded for my hard work.

What advice do you have for other women looking to get a promotion?
  • Find intrinsic motivation in what you do, educational opportunities, travel experiences, networking opportunities – there are so many other things that can add value in our lives.
  • Work hard, work with integrity and continuously look for opportunities to challenge the status quo. If you do things differently and solve problems to a high standard, the right organization will reward you. 
  • Find an organization with values that align with your own. The first organization you join won’t always be the right organization for you. It will take time to find your place in the world but keep pushing yourself. It will pay off.

Let your manager know that you want to grow further in your career

Rosily Wang (she/her) from WORK180 shares…

What was your previous role, and what is your new role?

I was hired as a data analyst in December 2021, and promoted to be the Senior Data Analyst in July 2023.

What steps lead to your promotion?

Firstly, I did my best at everything in the job description; understanding everyone’s reporting requirements, connecting different data sources, enriching our data warehouse and building reports and dashboards etc.

Then, I showed I was capable of a little bit extra than the job description. I explored ways to improve other teams’ productivity by automating processes and encouraging self-service reporting. I have also audited the existing data points to ensure the way we collect data is accurate and sustainable.

I noticed one of the blockers of my work was data engineering work, which was originally done by the engineering team. Therefore, I started to learn how to do data engineering work myself and extended my knowledge and skills even further. I believe this was heavily considered for the promotion.

What advice do you have for other women looking to get a promotion?
  • Skill up. There are a lot of good websites where you can learn new skills and get certificates to show these skills, a lot of them are even free.
  • Get a mentor. Learn from other people in your team, this will make you cross-skilled and you can also help when other people are on leave.
  • Let them know. Let your manager know early that you want to grow further in your career. Let them know that career support and recognition are important to you. 

Become a respected go-to person for diverse projects

Hannah Hammad, Corporate Career Coach, Outplacement Specialist and WORK180 Community Forum Member also shares her expertise…

What advice do you have for other women looking to get a promotion before the end of the year?

As you aim for that promotion, consider expanding your influence within and beyond your immediate role. Engage in cross-functional projects, volunteer for leadership opportunities, and collaborate across departments. 

Becoming a respected go-to person for diverse initiatives not only showcases your versatility but also puts you on the radar of decision-makers. Your willingness to contribute beyond your job description can be a key factor in landing that coveted promotion.

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About the Author

Jacynta Clayton’s career started in recruitment advertising and employer branding, working with global clients to create and deploy strategic and creative content. Now she combines her industry experience with the knowledge from her psychology and professional writing degrees to write unique and resounding stories. As a WORK180 storyteller she relishes the opportunity to elevate the voices and experiences of so many amazing people, while also empowering and educating audiences on how to choose a workplace where they can thrive.

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