Why don’t I get promotions?

Caroline Mboijana. PHOTO/FILE 

What you need to know:

They keep saying I am excellent and knowledgeable, but no good promotion, ever follows. Is my CV the challenge, or do I need to get another degree?

Dear Caroline,

I am a 35-year-old Development Studies graduate with experience of more than nine years working with NGOs. However, I have kept changing jobs and been in good positions but never gotten promoted to those excellent positions. They keep saying I am excellent and knowledgeable, but no good promotion, ever follows. Is my CV the challenge, or do I need to get another degree? I am at crossroads with my career I need guidance.


Hello Andrew, this must be frustrating for you to receive the same feedback more often than you would want. The main point is not to stop looking for that role you want to move into.  As you reflect on the solution, your primary focus should be on the pre-work regarding how you decide on what roles you apply for. After that you look at the CV and then, if required, the academics. I think you must consider the role more than the academic qualifications. Equally important is what skills and evidence you present, written or verbal, validate your skills and abilities. As with all applications, you should always take the time to review the advert, download the job description available if you are applying through an online application process and most important, research the organisation.  The review of the job description and the organisation’s research will inform the content of the cv and how you prepare for both submitting the application process and, if all goes well, the various interviews.

Review the technical requirements of the role and ask yourself whether you can do the work. If the answer is yes, ask yourself where I have done it, with whom, and how I did it. This content can then be transposed into your CV, and you can then describe what you did in preparation for an oral interview. Always be prepared to answer questions about what you have done in the past about the role. If you review the job description and find that you have not done this work in the past, the question becomes, how do I find opportunities to do this work? This is important if you find that many of the roles you are applying for ask for the same experience.

This opportunity can be found through volunteer work and activities. While academics are essential, my view is the application of academics is more important. In today’s world of work, employers recognise the importance of academics, but that is not the deciding factor. Make sure you tailor your CV to the role; please do not copy and paste. A recruiter will always pick that up and is an automatic disqualifier; it speaks to a lack of attention to detail and respect for the role and organisation.  Ensure you are aligned with the organisation regarding your values and ethos; this will make the conversation easier. Do not forget to spell check and watch your grammar.  If the company is American, ensure your CV and cover letter are written in American English; if it is UK English, likewise. Those small details make a difference. Good luck.

Caroline Mboijana,

Managing Director, The Leadership Team (U) [email protected]