How to get a promotion in the public sector: 10 tips for getting ahead

By Hannah Kingston

Tuesday September 29, 2020


Wondering how to get a promotion? Moving up the food chain in most organisations will take more than just doing a good or even a great job. To get a promotion, especially into a management or leadership role, will take hard work, dedication, and an ability to showcase that you are willing to go above and beyond to see your organisation succeed.

Here are 10 tips on how to get a promotion in the public sector:

  1. Be vocal about what you want
  2. Be a team-player
  3. Be prepared to put extra work in
  4. Keep learning and showcase your development within the team
  5. Show that you are capable of leading a team
  6. Network within your organisation and outside of it
  7. Upskill and build on your strengths
  8. Volunteer and illustrate your passion for what you do
  9. Be willing to take team members under your wing
  10. Equip the skills to be your own best advocate

Be vocal about what you want

It’s essential to be vocal about what you want and where you see your career going within any organisation. Within most team structures, there will be a review system in place.

Not everyone wants to be in a leadership position — it is your job to communicate your desire to work in a management capacity to your current manager.

Taking the reigns and making your professional goals known is essential for showcasing your initiative and drive. If you have a good manager, they will want to offer you opportunities to help you achieve your goals because at the end of the day, driven, enthusiastic employees are good for any organisation.

Be a team-player

As the old saying goes, “there is no I in team”. If you want to get that promotion, you need to show that you are a collaborative people-person.

If you are someone who prefers to work alone, or you don’t enjoy engaging with others during the working day, it will be increasingly difficult for you to work in a management role, it will also make it challenging for your current management to see you leading a team if this is the case.

Whether teamwork makes your dream work or not, your willingness to collaborate and work as part of a team is something that you strongly need to consider if you see yourself as the boss down the line.

Be prepared to put extra work in

You need to be prepared to put the extra work in, not just for the vacancies that are coming up right now or in the coming weeks, but for the vacancies that arise further down the line.

If you would like to be front of mind in those making the decisions, you need to show off what you are capable of NOW, not just during a team re-shuffling.

While maintaining a work-life balance is incredibly important, you need to prove that you will go the extra mile for the organisation’s success; on the whole, you need to show that you are thinking of the bigger picture, not just ticking off your role requirements.

Keep learning and showcase your development within the team

The only ceilings that exist are the ones that we create for ourselves. There is no limit to your learning, and showing that you consistently want to learn more about your industry, whether that’s formally via extra study or informally on the ground, shows higher management that you are ambitious about bettering yourself, which ultimately betters the entire team.

Consider taking on some part-time study or asking colleagues if you can sit in on their meetings to learn more about their department. Every little helps, you don’t need to take up huge amounts of time or energy to learn more but it will go a long way.

Show that you are capable of leading a team

It’s important to focus on your skills as a team player but it’s also essential to hone your skills as a team leader.

If you are working on a big project with a couple of team members, volunteer to lead the team and manage the project. If there are any opportunities for you to manage anything, big or small, put your hand up!

Network within your organisation and outside of it

Networking is the key to opening all doors. If you work in a large organisation, aim to introduce yourself to someone new in each department at least once a month. Set up lunches with people who aren’t in your immediate team to get new insights into your organisation and better business knowledge.

A common trait of most leaders is that they have strong interpersonal and communication skills. You want to be approachable and somewhat likeable to those around you if you want a role that calls the shots.

Network and network some more both internally and externally to build strategic contacts for the present and future.

READ MORE: Ten simple yet effective ways to make your CV stand out


Upskill and build on your strengths

We spoke about illustrating a passion to learn more: if you’re willing to talk the talk, it’s time to walk the walk. Speak to your team leader or direct management about furthering your education so you can apply your learnings to the role you want, not the role you have.

Maybe, there’s an opportunity for your organisation to partially or fully fund your further education. Tell your direct management about what you would like to achieve when you do upskill and ask for feedback on the potential outcomes of what may be on the table if you do further your education.

Volunteer and illustrate your passion for what you do

Time is money. If you are willing to offer up your time in a volunteering capacity, you are illustrating that your area of work is a true passion, not just a paycheck.

Perhaps you can head up a team effort to volunteer in an area that your organisation is willing to raise awareness around and work for. Put feelers out to your leadership team before trying to round up the troops to ensure that everyone is on board but there will likely be no issue with doing something for the greater good.

Being the team mascot for something positive a) shows that you have what it takes to lead a team; and b) shows that your heart is in the right place.

Be willing to take team members under your wing

Without stepping on the toes of people in your leadership team, try to take colleagues under your wing if they are looking for advice or guidance on a simple task or bigger project.

If you are seen to be helping others on top of your own workload, this shows that you are more than a team-player, that you also have the ingredients to be a team leader. Use your knowledge and skillset to help those around you in a helpful way to show members of the leadership team that you are well able to juggle your workload and manage others.

Equip the skills to be your own best advocate

Last but not least on the how-to-get-a-promotion checklist: there is no underestimating how important it is to take stock of your achievements.

When it comes to getting that promotion, you need to be your own best advocate. You need to be able to tell your manager why you would be the best candidate for a leadership role.

It is up to you to gather the evidence. Each month, conduct your own monthly review. What have you achieved? What worked? What didn’t work?

Compile the essential data that you need to show your manager that you will smash it! Doing a little bit of work each month saves you from having to trail through 6-12 months of your output so save yourself now.

If you have the right attitude, the passion, confidence, skill set, and robust data to back it up, there is no stopping you from getting the role you want.

Do you have any more tips on how to get a promotion? Share your advice in the comments!

READ MORE: Will work from home become the new norm for public sector workers?

READ MORE: 21 working-from-home tips to keep you focused 


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