Have you ever been up for a promotion you deserved but didn’t get? Maybe it’s because you mistakenly believed your corporation is a meritocracy where great work is always rewarded.

Unfortunately, that’s not the way it works. Keeping in mind how it actually does work can lead to better future outcomes.

Who Gets Hired?

A 2016 survey shows that 85 percent of all corporate workers got their job by networking. Also, it turns out that networking is three times more likely to result in a job than a direct job application.

Consider the implication of these slightly weird stats. Most corporate employees aren’t hired because of their incredible track record of accomplishment.

They’re hired because they were recommended to someone with the authority to hire. All that careful resume tweaking means less than someone talking you up in conversation.

Who Gets Promoted?

What’s true about how persons get hired is, if anything, even truer about how people are promoted. It’s not what you know, but who you know and, more importantly, who really knows you.

It’s a truism in the business coaching profession that getting noticed is a critical key to promotion. As executive coach Kathy Lockwood puts it in a 2018 Forbes article, being "quietly competent" is not going to get you promoted; you need to promote yourself first.

Hard Work Alone Doesn’t Cut It

Here’s an example of how hard work alone won’t get you promoted: You’re the person who works later than anyone else. Consequently (and, ahem, unlike some colleagues you could mention) you meet or beat every deadline. Surely that will give you a leg up for a promotion when there’s an opening higher up the corporate ladder.

Well, did you happen to notice that because you’re working later than everyone else, your contribution to the enterprise is completely unwitnessed? You’re alone! Nobody knows!

What’s obviously true in this instance is equally true, if less obviously so, about a lot of the good work you’re doing. Everyone’s too busy with their own challenges and goals to concentrate on what you’re doing.

Your co-workers, if they’re smart, aren’t going to be bragging about you to your supervisor; they’re going to be bragging about themselves.

Become Your Own Advocate

And that’s what you need to be doing as well — talking up your own good results. The most important person to know, of course, is your supervisor.

The best way to call your accomplishments to their attention isn’t telling them about your hard work — as cold as it seems to say so, no one really cares how hard you work. Tell them about your great results. Results are what count.

Which is why you should regularly call attention to them. And not only in terms of the result itself, but the good effect it had on the enterprise.

"I’m really happy with my results this quarter: sales are up over 20 percent from the previous quarter — in fact, not to brag (of course you’re bragging!), but that’s the second time this year my sales stats have been the best in our division."

If there’s something more to be said about how this helps the corporation (and your supervisor’s track record), be sure to say it: "Selling a lot of widget ones will boost widget two sales for the next couple of quarters also, because, as we know, a third of the buyers for our first widget come back and buy the second."

Does this seem a little crass? Isn’t this the horn tooting your mother warned against? Maybe so. But it gets results and it helps both you and the corporation, which benefits when it recognizes its best workers.

Once you’ve started tooting your own horn, keep going and spread the word as wide as you can. If you have a mentor in the corporation, make sure you regularly report your good results to them.

What about your old boss who’s now in another division? Catch up at lunch and brag some more. Network as if your life depended on it — it doesn’t, but your promotion probably does.