How to Impress Your Boss: The Key to Moving Up From Within


From the outside looking in, it often seems like certain people are on the fast-track to success. Aside from friends and family of members of management, this is rarely the case. Instead, these people have figured out the secret to moving up the corporate ladder.

In order to quickly climb the ranks at work, you've got to be able to impress your boss.

Everybody has to start somewhere and most people start at the bottom of the food chain in the office. From there, it's all about getting yourself noticed for doing all the right things. Being in the right place at the right time helps, too, but being there isn't going to matter if others in the office have positioned themselves ahead of you in the queue for promotions.

First of all, let's get the basics out of the way. You have to work hard and be competent at what you do. If you can't do these two things, you probably aren't going to get promoted, unless your boss is lazier and more incompetent than you are. Personal feelings about the boss aside, chances are your boss knows exactly what it takes to keep his bosses happy and consistently does those things. If not, there may be a position (and a chance for promotion, if you play your cards right) opening up soon.

Let's assume you're competent and a hard worker, but still keep getting passed up for promotions. What then? Here are a handful of proven ways to impress your boss and get moved up from within.

Pay Attention to the Little Details

People tend to get caught up in the big picture and forget about the little details. Bosses, on the other hand, tend to notice the little things and how they relate to the big picture.

In order to understand why the little details matter so much, it helps to look at things from the perspective of a boss. Let's say you're in charge of 25 people who are all tasked with similar jobs. All 25 of your employees are relatively competent at their job. They all work at an appropriate pace and they all turn their assignments in on time.


When it comes time to promote someone, what then, is the boss going to look at? That's right, the little details. If one person consistently makes minor errors in formatting that the boss has to fix and another person turns in flawless reports with graphs, charts and all the bells and whistles, the choice is going to be clear in the boss's eyes. The person who pays close attention to the little details is going to be the one who gets promoted.

Don't Be That Guy (Or Gal)

There's always that one person in the office who leaves a trail of mayhem in his or wake.

You know the type. They drink all the coffee and don't refill the pot. They forget a lunch bag in the fridge for months on end. They constantly jam the copier and either leave it jammed or have to beg for help. Their workspace looks like a category 5 tornado just touched down on the middle of the desk.

While people may laugh and joke around about it to your face, rest assured your incompetence is being duly noted. If other coworkers are constantly having to clean up in your wake, they'll eventually complain to the boss, if they haven't already. If your boss is having to clean up your messes, that's even worse.

Take care not to be that person. It doesn't matter how hard of a worker you are if you're a walking disaster.

Sure, some people are more prone to accidents than others. If you're that type of person, pay close attention to what you're doing and clean up your own messes. Fixing a copy machine isn't hard. The next time you jam it up, pay attention to what the person who's stuck unjamming it does. That way, you can fix it yourself next time.

Not getting noticed at all is better than getting noticed for all the wrong things.

Learn Your Industry Inside and Out

You may have a specific job with specific requirements and there may be little room for learning new things on the job. That doesn't mean you can't take the time outside of work to learn more about the industry you work in.

In this day and age, there's a wealth of information at your fingertips. Take a class, read trade magazines, hop on the internet and research your industry. When something relevant to your company comes up, read it carefully and make sure you're well-versed in the subject. 

Wait for the appropriate time and broach the subject with your boss. Let him or her know you saw an interesting article about that topic and ask if they'd like you to bring them a copy. This does a couple of things. One, it lets your boss know you aren't just interested in getting a paycheck. You're actually investing time in learning the industry. Two, even if your boss doesn't want to see the article, you just put them on notice that you're taking initiative and are going above and beyond what's required of you.

That's a great way to get noticed in a good way.

Here's another way knowing the industry inside and out can help you move up from within. Say you're sitting in the lunchroom and a group of managers sit down near you and start talking about the industry. If you're able to tactfully butt in and hold your own in the conversation, you'll perk their ears up. If your boss's bosses are impressed with you, there's a pretty good chance your boss will be, too.

Burn the Candle at Both Ends

There are three basic types of employees when it comes to the time they arrive at work:

  • The on-time employee. This employee slides in right at starting time and slips out right at quitting time, unless specifically asked to work overtime by the boss. If they arrive early, they sit in their car or the lunchroom until right before it's time to start, so they don't end up accidentally doing extra work before starting time. This type of employee isn't a bad employee, but they aren't going to get noticed for going above and beyond the call of duty.
  • The chronically-late employee. This employee consistently shows up for work late, be it five minutes here or there or a half hour once or twice a week. Some companies allow this sort of behavior, while showing up late a couple of times at other companies will get you shown the door. It's tough to get ahead at work if you're the person who's always late. It's like shooting yourself in the foot at the beginning of a race. You might finish the race, but there's a good chance you won't be first.
  • The early- and late-bird. This is the type of employee most bosses love. They show up fifteen to twenty minutes early every day and get right to work. After work, they finish the job, even if it means staying later than they were scheduled to stay. When overtime presents itself, these employees ask to work it, even if they really don't want to.

Look at the three types of employees mentioned above. Recognize that all three exist in almost every workplace. All other things equal, if you were a boss and were tasked with choosing an employee to promote, which would you choose?