Working harder isn’t necessarily the way to advance your career. Here’s what you should do instead.

Did you know that getting promoted is your company’s way of saying, “We’re betting on your future potential and your increased value as an employee and contributor to the company”?

But before you can secure your promotion and big fat raise, a few things need to happen.

You need to understand your worth to your company

You need to be confident in your abilities to deliver and get the job done, at your level and at the levels above you.

You need to build up your circle of influence, your relationships and your allies.

And as you do the above, you need to send a subtle message that you won’t stick around if they don’t compensate you accordingly.

Are you doing this? Or are you too busy working too hard to have time for much else?

“Work harder” is the worst career advice you can get

It’s ineffective in getting you promoted and it worsens your odds. If you’re not confident in your own power to deliver for your company, it won’t matter how long you’ve been there and how hard you work. You won’t get noticed or promoted.

The ones who move up the ladder and grab tough promotions and sweet packages don’t sweat day and night over laborious work. Instead, they work the system. They learn how the company operates and expand their circle of influence. They watch and observe the key players, learn from them and mind their relationships. They create the perception that the company needs them.

If you’re a hardworking and loyal employee and yet you feel stuck in a position you’ve outgrown, I feel your pain. I spent a few years in a frustrating position as a cubicle employee of a large Fortune 100 tech company. I had no idea how to get ahead, and working hard was the wrong answer. But it was the only answer I had.

I worked so hard, I got myself sick and burned out. That gave a poor impression to my management.

Working yourself so hard you get sick impresses no one

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Your management won’t be impressed with you if you burn yourself out. They’ll worry. You become a liability rather than an asset, and you show you can’t handle your level of work — never mind being trusted with more responsibility.

Working too hard can send the wrong message and sabotage your efforts

Avoid the feeling and perception of overwhelm at all costs. The people who get promoted don’t feel overwhelmed at their current job, or else they can never convince their management to trust them at the next job level.

When you get the urge to work hard and pull an all-nighter for your job, pause and evaluate the work and the perception this extra effort will have on management.

Ask yourself: What will be the impact of me doing this extra work versus not doing it?

Find out: Will this work be recognized and have visibility to my management, or is it just busy work?

Choose wisely so working hard doesn’t become your de facto mode and your management is clear on when and where you choose to put extra effort and why.

Sometimes, we need to work hard to meet a deadline. Sometimes, we do have to stay late in the office and send email on a weekend. But select those times carefully.

Make certain your management is not only aware of the extra mile you put in, but they also recognize that you get what really matters to the company’s bottom line. The idea is to make sure your hard work is targeted, measured and focused.

Now that’s the forward thinking of the smart brazen careerist that you are. Put this in practice in your job, and you’ll go far in your career.

Farnoosh Brock writes, teaches and coaches smart employees how to get recognized and promoted at work and get paid what they deserve. Find out more at about her free course here:


  1. The 411: Our News Round-Up | The Corporate Sister

    […] Brazen Life gets us all empowered by urging us to toot our own horns (without sounding like Kanye), while warning us about how working too hard can actually be detrimental to our careers (hmmm!); […]

  2. LT Copy

    Like the old adage says.

    “Choose your battles.”

  3. Adam Daniel

    “They create the perception that the company needs them”, so you sell a perception as opposed to a reality that you are an employee that meets expectations on time, every time. Politics, spheres of influence and ‘minding relationships’ are signs that you are working for absolutely the wrong company. Make sure you know how your work is measured and meet and exceed those targets…and don’t be an asshole in the process. Thats how you get promoted in companies where real value is created.

    Anything else is a sham.

    • Steve Serra

      Agree wholeheartedly with your evaluation. The author’s statement typifies an entire segment of of the workforce that lauds itself on the successes of contributing nothing to society.

      Any company that values and promotes such deception likely has other very questionable cultural practices that would leave most workers hating their jobs. Plus, what do you suppose it says about the product or service they offer, if their internal politics resembles such aristocratic elitism?

      There’s a reason Silicon Valley is siphoning off so much talent from the rest of Corporate America: They value the people who do the work! At least while the industry is still fledgling….

      • Farnoosh

        @adamdaniel:disqus and @steveserra:disqus Thank you for your arguments. I worked for a Silicon valley Darling, Steve so before you say how it works there, I am telling you how it ACTUALLY worked there ;)! And these tactics I share with you is so that you learn how to leverage all of your talent and hard work the right way but if what you are doing is working well for you and you are seeing all the promotions and raises that you have earned, then you obviously don’t need my advice ;)!

  4. Working Too Hard Could Sabotage Your Career | B...

    […] Working harder isn’t necessarily the way to advance your career. Here’s what you should do instead.  […]

  5. self improvement tips

    i think this has happened to me. although i always try to stay positive, things like this can just create bad days. Somethimes you are not able to change situations by working hard

  6. jrandom421

    “The ones who move up the ladder and grab tough promotions and sweet packages don’t sweat day and night over laborious work. Instead, they work the system.”
    Anyone who “works the system”, just doesn’t have the knowledge, skill, drive and ability to do the job. This is where business gets the “pointy-haired boss” who has been promoted beyond the level of their incompetence, and has no clue on what people do to get the job done.

  7. lovemusic101

    Don’t work during the day! You should spend time for your family!

    by classic guitar

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