How to get a huge promotion in under 12 months

Ramit Sethi

This is Abe Wagner.

pasted image 05
Abe, IWT’s engineering manager

We hired Abe in 2016 as a project manager.

In less than a year, he went from handling single projects to managing 4 employees, 3 external vendors, and an IT budget of $800,000 per year.

How did he do it? And how can you do the same thing in your field?

Today, I’m going to show you.

(I wanted to give you a real example, with real numbers, instead of platitudes like “Do good work.”)

If you want a raise, a promotion, or cooler projects to work on, pay attention. While everybody else “shows up early and stays late” (great advice, Mildred) you can use these specific strategies that work.

Here’s what Abe did — straight from my director of operations, who promoted him in March:

  • “From day one, he proactively came to me with ideas. One of them saved over $50,000/yr in IT spend with almost zero effort. That quick win set a tone that never faded.”
  • “For every problem I gave him, he came back to me within 24 hours and said ‘here are our options, here’s the risk with each, here’s what I recommend.’”
  • “He commands respect from the team by asking questions rather than making demands.”  
  • “He manages up (this one is key). He immediately found out what was important to me (his boss) and focused on delivering on those priorities. He’s also not scared to push back and tell me when I’m wrong. He’s never disrespectful, but he always stands his ground when he feels he’s right (and he wins a lot, too).”
  • “Like Vanilla Ice, if there’s a problem, I know ‘yo, he’ll solve it.’ I never have to wonder if he’s going to complete an assignment. I know if he has questions he’ll come to me, not just stop working or make bad assumptions.”
  • “He’s astoundingly well-rounded and constantly improving himself. Aside from the ‘professional MMA fighter thing,’ he’s constantly reading too (which is a super weird combination). And he doesn’t just read business books. He’s incredibly well-read in the classics, literature, and has a strong meme game.”

Yes, he’s also a professional fighter on the side

  • “He sees the big picture. He knows more about what’s going on in other departments than I do. He sees the strategic patterns across the company, instead of being limited to just what’s happening in his own department.”  

That’s an impressive list, but look at what you DON’T see.

Abe didn’t get promoted because of a certification, or for being 28% faster at Excel or programming. He also didn’t get promoted because of some graduate degree (btw, for 98% of people, another degree is not the answer).

Instead, he is (1) technically excellent, and (2) he’s increasingly mastering the soft skills of being a top performer:

  • Driving projects forward, communicating with key people, and keeping them in the loop
  • Making his boss’s life easier by understanding what her problems are, then delivering solutions
  • Even little things like being funny (“strong meme game”) and interesting to talk to (“incredibly well-read”)

And it paid off.

Today, Abe is managing the biggest software project in the history of IWT. He’s also coordinating a product roadmap through 2019. I’m not sharing his salary here, but he has been promoted and compensated for his work.

None of this was an accident.

The best people know that if you want to achieve Big Wins like an amazing career or side hustle, you need the soft skills: productivity, confidence, communication, skill-building, and ownership.

Curiously, NOBODY teaches us this stuff. It’s not covered in school. Our parents don’t talk about it. When somebody finally shows us, it’s like the world finally makes sense.

You suddenly understand why she got promoted instead of you. It wasn’t just about “schmoozing” or playing favorites. The more advanced you get, the more your “soft skills” matter.

In fact, I’ve noticed that my team spends as much time talking about 3 of the smaller “soft skill” courses we have (and rarely mention) as we do our flagships, like Zero to Launch and Find Your Dream Job.

If you want to beef up these soft skills — if you want to get promoted and improve your personal relationships — check this out.

I packaged the very best courses into a special bundle for you.

These 3 courses are the best way to improve your soft skills, boost your productivity, and become more confident in your personal and professional life.

Abe used these same skills to get promoted. You can do exactly the same thing. Check out the link above.

Do you know your actual earning potential?

Get started with the Earning Potential quiz. Get a custom report based on your unique strengths, and discover how to start making extra money — in as little as an hour.

Start The Quiz

Takes 3 min


  1. Alison N.

    I want to say congratulations to Abe! He sounds like a really smart guy and awesome person all around. It's nice to know that there are opportunities out there for good people to get ahead based on their contributions and merit.

  2. Nahyan Chowdhury

    That's an awesome breakdown and Abe sets an excellent example. Props to the team for facilitating that.

  3. Liz SInclair

    That's all well and good, and I'm glad that your people are treated well, encouraged to grow and do their best. However, it's a shame that your philosophy doesn't carry over to your hiring practices. I applied months ago to an open position at IWT — I never received a response, or even an acknowledgment, to my application. Many companies send a polite letter of decline, so at least you know someone reviewed your application. I'm used to receiving form letters, but I didn't even get one of those from your company. It's a shame that with all your talk of respecting people and supporting them to flourish, your company can't even practice basic good manners and respect. I know the stock-standard response is something along the lines of 'We received so many applications that we were overwhelmed. ' Yes, well, that's why they created auto-responders.
    I'm also over 50 and face rampant age-discrimination when applying for jobs — even remote jobs, if you can believe that! When I look at your staff photos, I see a lot of people in their 20's and 30's. If you really walk the walk, then you need to shake up the mix. One advantage of middle age is that I am very suspicious when twenty-somethings are trying to sell me products to improve my life.