Who Gets Promoted: An Interview with Career Expert Donald Asher

Have you ever wondered why your friends get promoted and you’re left working away in obscurity? Promotions are a key way to grow your career and yet they often seem like a black box.

Today’s guest is Donald Asher, author of “Who Gets Promoted, Who Doesn’t, and Why.” Donald has consulted with executives and other professionals on career matters for over 20 years. Donald Asher’s books on careers include The Overnight Resume, Cracking the Hidden Job Market and How To Get Any Job. He has some thoughtful answers to help project managers climb the corporate ladder. His articles have appeared in various publications including the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) and the National Association of Graduate Admissions Professionals (NAGAP).

PHoto of Donald Asher

PHoto of Donald Asher


1. Why did you write a book called “Who Gets Promoted, Who Doesn’t, and Why” and who is it for?

The book is based on my experience of advising clients on their careers for the past twenty years. If you are an ambitious careerist on the fast track – getting promoted every year – this is the perfect book for you. If you’re smart and ambitious to grow your career, you can benefit from reading Who Gets Promoted, Who Doesn’t, and Why.

What is the most significant misconception you encounter regarding promotions?

The major misconception is that promotion is a reward for past performance. Instead, promotion is about your potential to deliver in the future. Simply waiting to be recognized and given a promotion is not a good strategy.

2. What is your perspective on designing a career plan vs maintaining openness to new opportunities?

Above all, here is my advice: go to the meeting, take the call and check out any offer or interview you are offered.

In the investment world, we can’t predict the future though we can make reasonable plans based on our risk tolerance. Understanding your risk tolerance and willingness to stretch for new roles are key components to designing your career plan.

Getting Promoted To Management

4. A number of my readers are interested in seeking a promotion to their first project management role. What is the first step on the road to promotion?

The first question to ask is whether your formal credentials are in order. If you are seeking a project manager role, the question will be whether or not you have the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification.

To break out of an individual contributor role, there are a few approaches. First, talk to your boss about your career goals – they can’t read your mind. Next, look for stretch assignments that give you the opportunity to build new skills and deliver results. In addition, look for task forces and special committees where you can achieve results and work with people from a variety of departments.

5. What are your recommendations for accessing the “hidden job market” (i.e jobs that are not advertised publicly), especially for management and project management roles?

Research shows that 50-80% of all jobs go to someone who did not respond to a posted opening. In fact, there are hidden job markets inside large companies. To access the hidden job market, constantly seek out new people and opportunities (rather than waiting until you are desperate for a new opportunity). Recommendations from current staff are a key factor in hearing about new jobs.

Editor’s Note: For additional insight on the hidden job market, look into Donald Asher’s book Cracking the Hidden Job Market.

6. What resources – courses, books and so on – would you recommend to new managers?

For technical skills, there are many great courses offered through Lynda and Udemy. The great advantage of those platforms is that you can obtain targeted information for a specific skill you need. Professionals that can direct their own learning have an advantage over those who wait to be put into a training course.

Getting Promoted To The Executive Ranks

7. What skills are particularly important for project managers and middle managers seeking to move to executive roles?

To be a successful executive, you have be comfortable making decisions with data. In most cases, executives achieve results by working through structure and making data-based decisions. If you do not have an affinity for making significant decisions, stay away from executive roles.

8. Many project managers work with executives on their projects. How can they make the most of these relationships to grow their careers?

When you have contact with an executive, you have the opportunity to demonstrate your skillset to the executive. You may initially come into contact with the executive during a project – that’s only the beginning. If you’re also skilled in foreign languages, graphic design, sales or another skill set, share that information. In addition, be clear about your career interests. Executives are busy people and can’t be expected to read your mind.

Career Repair and Crisis

9. In your book, you discuss the concept of career repair. Can you define the term?

Recovering from any kind of career setback or delay is the focus of career repair. Situations you face include being out of the workforce for an extended period of time (e.g. taking care of children) or coming back from a layoff.

To repair your career, you have to be willing to make changes quickly. Your first job may be far below your capabilities but you take it to get back in the game. Continue the job hunting process and take advantage of new job offers that come around. During this process, you may have to resign from a position after a few months when a better opportunity comes along.

Resource: To help people going through a career crisis, I provide the Career Repair chapter from “Who Gets Promoted, Who Doesn’t, and Why” for free on my website.

Getting in touch

10. What is the best way for readers to get in touch with you and find out more about your work?

The best way for readers to contact me is through my website: DonaldAsher.com. I am also open to receiving email directly from readers. My email address is don AT  donaldasher DOT com.


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5 thoughts on “Who Gets Promoted: An Interview with Career Expert Donald Asher

  1. Great article! Even though I am not a project manager, almost all the advice is still relevant. I could easily replace ‘project manager’ with ‘network engineer’ and the article is almost still fully relevant. Thanks Bruce!

  2. Great Article! I am a Business Analyst pursuing my PMP certification. As I try to transition my role, I’ve discovered hardships on how to get promoted. This was definitely great advice!