Advisor: Eight traits that get you promoted

When it comes to handing out promotions, considering someone’s work ethic, productivity and attitude are all crucial.

However, your personality is also a make-or-break factor that can hold you back from rising up the ranks.

Lyn Goodear, CEO of the Australian Human Resources Institute, says that it’s important to distinguish between those qualities that are a given and those that constitute an added bonus.

Good candidates usually have positive dissatisfaction – they are in a positive frame of mind but know that they could be doing more

“Ethics, values, organisation and respect are presumed – they must be there to start with,” Ms Goodear says. “If they’re not, that’s something to be addressed.”

So what are the traits your employer is looking for?


Climbing the career ladder requires more than ambition. Photo: ShutterStock.

1. Competence

A promotion is often a big leap in responsibility that can put you well outside your comfort zone. According to Ms Goodear, the employees who exhibit signs of readiness have consolidated their prior experiences into a solid, confident platform from which to springboard upwards.

“Good candidates usually have positive dissatisfaction – they are in a positive frame of mind but know that they could be doing more,” Ms Goodear says.

To take a risk and grow, you have to have a solid foundation of knowledge, confidence and experience with which to work.

2. Big picture thinking

While it’s great to excel in your area of specialisation, taking on other responsibilities and considering the company as a whole is a rare, but desirable, quality.

This means having an organisational curiosity and being aware of how your actions will affect the big picture.

“I’m always optimistic when I see people who are solutions-focused and think beyond their patch,” Ms Goodear says.

“A promotion means moving into a space where you are closer to owning the vision of the organisation.”

3. Conscientiousness

Sharon Bent, an organisational psychologist and coach, says that conscientiousness is top of the list in terms of desirable qualities.

“Conscientiousness predicts performance more than any other personality trait,” Ms Bent says.

If you are thorough, organised and efficient, you are usually predisposed to doing your job well.

4. Self direction

If you sit around waiting for instructions, you’re unlikely to be considered for a more senior role.

Taking the initiative and being self-sufficient are crucial behaviours that suggest you’re ready to take the next step.


Conscientiousness tops the list when it comes to eligibility for promotion. Photo: ShutterStock.

5. Learning agility

“Often the more senior the role, the less defined it is by nature,” Ms Goodear says. “You’re looking for someone who can thrive in that open space.”

A willingness to experiment will serve you well in a jobs market that is constantly changing.

“People who can adapt and cope with ambiguity and uncertainty” are desirable, according to Ms Bent, who also stresses the importance of curiosity and critical thinking.

Asking the right questions at the right time will demonstrate that your engagement and interest is genuine.

6. Leadership

This is discrete from management,” Ms Goodear says. “Not all promotions presume you’re going to be dealing directly with people.”

Rather, leadership combines a strong ethical understanding and a willingness to call out inappropriate behaviours in others.

7. Consideration for others

While organizations value people with confidence, ambition and enthusiasm, being competitive and leaving people in your wake is not desirable.

I’m always optimistic when I see people who are solutions-focused and think beyond their patch

“It’s about balancing that competitive enthusiasm and energy with an awareness of the environment and those around them,” Ms Goodear says.

8. Positive energy

“We call them positive energisers,” Ms Bent says. “People who exhibit and evoke positive emotions in their relationships.”

This doesn’t necessarily mean those who are happy and bouncy all the time (“That can be draining,” Ms Bent says), but rather people who motivate others through their curiosity, composure, wonderment, courage or purpose.

“It can make you incredibly influential,” Ms Bent says. “People will want to be around you.”

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