Promotion Stories – Episode 1 (Director to Executive)

Promotion Story – Episode 1 (promoted from director to vice president)

Welcome to our first episode in a series of posts sharing inside details on what it really takes to get promoted at work.

Served up in a Q&A format, we learn how others have successfully managed to move up at work. Including…

    • The process they went through to get promoted.
    • The factors that were most important to getting promoted.
    • How much their compensation increased as a result of getting promoted.
    • The challenges they had to overcome to be recognized as promotion-ready.
    • And much more…

General Questions

1) Tell us a little about yourself?


In my late 40s and have been married for 20 years (met at our best friends’ wedding). No kids, just dogs. We’ve lived in Arizona for 18 years, but Denver is my home town.

2) What do you do for work?


I recently took a break from my corporate career and now consider myself a solopreneur. I’m in the process of building my business as a founder and creator.

3) Tell us about your employer/company?


Prior to starting a new business, I worked for large and mid-size technology companies. Specific to the promotion I will be talking about in this interview, I was working for a global F500 company with about $27B in annual revenue and ~ 19,000 employees.

4) How long have you worked in your industry?


I worked in marketing roles for the technology industry for about 25 years.


Promotion Process Questions

1) Tell us about your promotion?


The specific promotion story I’m sharing today is one that happened several years ago. It was a long time in the making, but I was promoted from a director level to executive level.

2) Why did you want to get promoted? What motivated you?


About 10 years before I was promoted to VP, when I was at a managerial level, I set my goal to reach vice president before the age of 40. I missed my goal – I was 41 when I finally made it to VP.

I was motivated to advance my career for 3 reasons:

1) To make more money so we could become financially independent sooner rather than later.

2) To continually push myself and see what I could achieve, how far I could go.

3) And because at the time, getting promoted fit my definition of a successful career.

3) How long did it take to get promoted?


I expected to get promoted to VP at least 3-4 years earlier than it happened. Those 3-4 years were filled with significant disappointment and frustration. I watched my peers get promoted while I was passed over year after year.

Those years were some of the lowest points in my career as I was beginning to lose hope that it would ever happen. In hindsight, it was also a hugely valuable learning experience.

4) Did your compensation increase with your promotion?


Yes, I received a 15% bump in total compensation (base, bonus, equity). I was pretty happy with this pay increase given the average annual increases at this company were in the 3-5% range.

5) Describe the promotion process?


The process was anything but simple. First, I had to have my boss agree to nominate me.

As I said earlier, it took me a few years to finally get promoted to VP. During those years I worked for 3 different leaders. Each time I had a new boss, I had to start over in gaining support to promote me to VP.

I’m pretty sure my first boss did support me in getting promoted, but his boss didn’t agree, so I was denied. And I’m pretty sure my second boss never nominated me. However, my third boss was fully supportive and worked closely with me over a year to get me ready to be nominated.

The decision to finally approve my promotion was made by my boss’ boss, but there were many people who had a voice into the decision.

It was important that my boss’ peers also agreed that I was ready to be promoted to executive level. Not just any of his peers, but specific ones who were very influential with the big boss.

The process included a written nomination by my boss (which he had me write). So I did have to put together a justification. And I assure you I put everything under the sun into that write up!

Then, about 2 months after I wrote my nomination, I FINALLY learned that I was getting promoted to VP. Woot woot!!

6) Were you given advice about what you needed to do to get promoted? Was it helpful?


Yes, as I shared earlier my boss gave me advice, but it was far from helpful. Mostly I was told I needed to “be more visible” – and I had a really difficult time understanding what this meant (or at least how to do it in a way that felt authentic for me).


Reasons for Your Promotion

1) Did you have to build a justification for your promotion?


I didn’t have to build a case for my immediate boss, but I did write the nomination that went to the decision makers. I still have it saved on my laptop! It was 500 carefully crafted words sharing examples of how I…


  • Adapted to new challenges in an ever-changing environment.
  • Embraced expanded scope of responsibilities.
  • Developed my leadership skills, becoming more assetive and confident.
  • Established influential relationships with our business partners.
  • Delivered value to the business and led a high-performing organization.

2) How did you get promoted? What were the most important factors?


It was certainly a combination of factors, but one of the most important was learning how to find my OWN way to do things.

When it seemed like I needed to become someone I wasn’t to get ahead, but then being able to find a different way forward—one that aligned with my values, beliefs, etc. It helped me get unstuck.

3) Did you have to adapt or change any bahaviors to become more promotable? Any missteps?


Yes, I had to adapt several of my natural behaviors and preferred way of working. For example, I had to become much more comfortable thinking out loud with my peers. (vs working it out myself in my head first).

4) What was the most difficult part of getting promoted? Any roadblocks?


The two most difficult parts of getting promoted were:

1) Understanding what I needed to do to become more promotable. The advice I received from my boss was super vague and unhelpful. It left me even more confused on what it would take to be green lighted to VP.

2) Coming to terms that it would take more than just hard work and delivering results to get ahead. It felt in conflict with my values, and really pushed me to reflect on my own belief system.

More Promotion Story Q&A Interviews

Promotion Story 2

Promoted from Manager to Director Level

“The hardest part about getting promoted to where I am today was overcoming age and gender prejudice,”

Promotion Story 3

Promoted from Coordinator to Manager Level

“I’m proud to say I got promoted because I asked!”

Promotion Story 6

Promoted from Manager to Director Level

“I had to get better at working with other groups and influencing without authority.”


Rate Importance of 4 Factors

1) Performance

I would rate being seen as a top performer and delivering results as 3 (out of 5). This wasn’t nearly enough to get me promoted. 

2) High Potential

I would rate the importance of getting recognized as a high-potential at a 4. I really had to push  myself outside my comfort zone and into challenging  new situations and experiences.

3) High Presence

I would rate this as a 4. As someone who loves to quietly observe situations, I really had to adjust my approach to build up this ability.

4) Gaining Advocacy

This was by far the most important aspect of finally getting promoted, so I’ll give it a 5. However, the way I gained advocacy and support for my promotion was through a combination of being a top performer and showing I could take on more responsibility.


Future / Misc Questions

1) What’s next for you?


At the time of my promotion, I was still excited about advancing my career and continued to earn a few more promotions before retiring from my corporate career.

But as I said earlier, I couldn’t be more excited about building my new venture. It’s definitely a mission-driven initiative and so far I’m loving almost every minute of it.

2) What guidance would you give to someone struggling to get promoted?


First, get feedback. Get it from your boss. Get it from your boss’ boss. Get feedback from trusted colleagues. NOT advice, but performance feedback.

Find out why they don’t think you’re ready to be promoted. Ask them where you are falling short. Don’t get defensive. Even if you disagree with their response, just say “thanks, you’ve given me something to think about.” And then really think about it.

Second, take action. Only you can change your situation. Don’t keep doing the same things you’ve been doing and expect a different outcome (I think that’s the definition of insanity). Get a new game plan—what are you going to do differently over the next year to become promotable?

And last, stay positive. It’s understandable to be frustrated when you’re not advancing as you expected. But do not allow yourself to become bitter or disengaged.

How you respond to disappointment can speak volumes to your boss and others about your level of professional maturity, and promotability next time around.

But if you can’t get past feeling defeated (or are dealing with workplace bias or worse), then you may need to go somewhere else. Go get a fresh start somewhere else!

3) Do you have any books, podcasts, or other resources you would recommend?


Yes, here are a few recommendations:

  • Rise: 3 Practical Steps for Advancing Your Career, Standing out as a leader AND Liking Your life. Written by a super successful executive, Patty Azarello.
  • The First 90 Days by Michael D. Watkins. Remember, you start working on your next promotion on the first day you start a new job. The first 90 days is a great way to get a head start.
  • I’m biased, but be sure to subscribe to Finally Promoted® too embarassed

Good luck!


3 Key Takeaways

1) Don’t lose hope. Even if it take much longer than expected, your next promotion is still within reach.
2) Try different approaches to get ahead. If at first you don’t succeed, find another way forward.
3) Gain support from your boss and many others.

More Advice About How to Get Promoted at Work

signs your boss is sabotaging you

Passed Over for a Promotion: Should You Stay or Quit?

Here are 3 key considerations to help you confidently decide your next career move.

When is the Best Time to Get Promoted at Work

When is the Best Time to Get Promoted at Work

The best time to advance your career and get promoted could be much sooner than you think — here’s why.

promised a promotion

When Your Boss Promised to Promote You But Then Quits

Here’s 5 steps to take when your boss promised to promote you but then quits before following through.



Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *