I may not have been my high school valedictorian, but I remember focusing on my GPA throughout high school and college. However, something amazing happened in my first job interview. No one seemed to care if I had a 4.0. My grade point average never factored into the decision to hire me. Whenever I was promoted, no one asked about my high school, college, or graduate scores.

It turns out thethings that get you rewarded in school – conformity, and being a “jack of all trades but master of none” – don’t always translate to a promotion in the workplace. School systems teach us what the baseline operating structure should be – how to follow rules. But it doesn’t necessarily teach you how to innovate.

A dependable employee will often get solid performance reviews, but on a one to five scale, just being dedicated and reliable should only score you around a three. The kind of behavior that may have earned A’s in school leaves you in the middle of the pack at your office.

If you want to be more than a dedicated and reliable employee, here are seven ways to step it up and earn a promotion at work:

1. Challenge the problem or the answers.

This doesn’t mean you should be that person that comes up with a problem or always points out everyone’s errors; however, a person who can think critically and challenge others around them can help push the boundaries and be instrumental in determining a better solution.

2. Solve problems.

Don’t be the person who constantly drops all problems on the boss’ desk. Present the problem and provide a solution – or tell them how you already fixed everything.


3. Be social.

The higher up in the organization you go, the more likely you will have to manage people. Turns out you actually have to work with them and motivate them. The individual who doesn’t interact well with others is easily overlooked for promotions.

4. Ask to help.

Don’t wait for tasking. Seek out projects and ask how you can be instrumental in growing the company or your program.

5. Prioritize.

Not all job responsibilities are essential to the program or company. Know what are key drivers and don’t let those tasks slip. Of course, you don’t want to be that one employee who is perpetually reminded about signing your timesheet. Ordering your days can help ensure you are attacking the critical items without blowing it on your regularly scheduled tasks.

6. Free up your boss’ time.

The more time your boss has to work on their own promotion, the more likely they will be to relinquish control to you and eventually promote you. Micromanaging sometimes happens because people need it. The more initiative you show, the less your boss will feel the need to manage you.

Don’t lose any of the traits your education taught you; however, don’t just rely on them either. Life doesn’t have a clear path to follow like the education system. The ability to make your own path is what translates to consistent job promotions.

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Jillian Hamilton has worked in a variety of Program Management roles for multiple Federal Government contractors. She has helped manage projects in training and IT. She received her Bachelors degree in Business with an emphasis in Marketing from Penn State University and her MBA from the University of Phoenix.