BB #011: How To (Finally) Get Promoted

Mar 25, 2023
Picture of a winning medal, by Nataliya Vaitkevich on

Read time: 4 minutes

As an AEC professional, it can be challenging to get promoted.

Most companies will not give you clear direction on how to get your next title, but with the right process, you can create your own opportunities.

In this newsletter, I’ll share 6 simple steps for AEC professionals to crush work and get their next promotion.

From start to finish, it’s a clear way to prove you’re ready, gain credibility, and learn skills even before the job becomes available.

It will transform your attitude from “I’ll never get promoted” to “what job do I want next?”.

So, if you’re ready to get promoted, read on for the 6 simple steps.


Step 1: Find an organizational problem

The best way to start your journey to a promotion is to find an organizational problem. If you’re not sure what I mean, organizational problems are problems that consistently cost the company:

  • Time
  • Money
  • Resources
  • Relationships

All problems cost the company something.

It’s your job to find one that is especially painful that no one else has the expertise (or time) to correct.


Submittals are consistently submitted past the due date. This costs the organization:

  • Time- to scramble to complete the submittals
  • Money- late submittals could delay the project and cost money
  • Resources- more people fixing late submittals = less people working in other areas of the business
  • Relationships- owners and contractors don’t have time for companies that can’t get submittals done right


Step 2: Identify the root cause

Now that you identified an organizational problem, you need to identify the root cause.

Root cause analysis is a process that asks the question “why is this happening?” until you can't answer it any more.

The purpose is to ensure you are getting to the heart of the issue, rather than a surface level cause.


  • Organizational Problem: Submittals consistently submitted past their deadlines.


  • Why is this happening? Assistant Project Managers (APMs) not meeting submittal deadlines.

  • Why is this happening? APMs don’t know about new projects early enough to meet submittal deadlines.

  • Why is this happening? Estimators not notifying the team of project awards fast enough.

  • Why is this happening? The organization has no set expectation of when Estimators should notify the team of project award.

We did it!

Without root cause analysis, we probably would have just yelled at the Assistant PM’s and been on our way (”Be faster!!!!!”).

With root cause analysis, we know the problem is deeper, and you need to set an expectation for Estimators to notify the team of new project awards FASTER.

That brings us to our next step..


Step 3: Fix it

This is the key.

Now that you know the problem, you need to fix it. This is where you prove your worth.


  • Organizational Problem: Submittals consistently submitted past their deadlines.
  • Root Cause: The organization has no set expectation for when Estimators should notify the team of project award.
  • The Fix: Estimators must notify the APMs immediately after a project award, and provide the submittal deadline date.

Pretty simple right?


Step 4: Write the new process

It’s important that your “fix” comes to reality and is repeatable. This is how you save the company time, money, resources, and relationships well after you’ve moved on to the next problem!

In order to make it a reality and repeatable, you need to write a formal process.


  1. Estimator notify APM of project award immediately
  2. APM set up meeting with Estimator to review project within 1 week of project award
  3. Estimator prepare all project specifications, quotes, and proposed manufacturers/contractors
  4. By end of meeting, APM and Estimator agree on specs, quotes, and proposed manufacturers/contractors
  5. APM compile and submit submittals by [DEADLINE]

Write this down and distribute it to all the impacted parties. Make sure you have their buy-in before proceeding to Step #5.


Step 5: Implement it

Once you have everyone’s buy-in (make sure they know how many headaches this will save), you can implement the new process.

Add to your to-do list every week for 3-6 months: “Check in with Estimators and APMs to make sure they are following the new submittal process”

Once it starts becoming a part of the routine, you won’t need to check in. You’ll know if it’s working based on whether you hear about submittals being late again or not.


Step 6: Repeat

Congratulations, you just saved your company a lot of time, money, resources, and relationships.

Depending on the size of the problem, this may be enough to get you promoted!

More likely than not though, this is just a drop in the bucket of many organizational problems worth solving.

If that’s the case, then go do it again for another problem. In 6-12 months, you could solve 5-10 problems that benefit the organization!

Make sure you are communicating each one with your boss, and quantify how it is saving the company time, money, resources, and relationships.

You will leave them with no choice but to promote you- whether that be in title or compensation (all organizations are different).

And if they don’t, then at least:

  • You learned how to solve organizational problems
  • You know this company wouldn’t have promoted you any way
  • You are more prepared to take on your next role at another company

It’s really a win-win.

Now go start on Monday.

And get that next promotion.

Hope that helps. Because that's it for this week.

Can't wait to see you all again soon.

Your friend,


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