From The Straits Times    |


Manpower reporter Tay Hong Yi offers practical answers to candid questions on navigating workplace challenges and getting ahead in your career.

Q: My job has long promotion cycles, and I’m applying for roles where promotions come faster but in smaller steps. How do I explain my lack of recent promotions to prospective employers?

A: The reason some industries or roles have a longer promotion cycle than others is down to a more intricate decision-making process with more factors and stakeholders involved, says Ms Aishah Jamall, consultant in commerce contract at recruitment firm Robert Walters Singapore.

“This is typically more common in industries that have to undergo regulatory requirements, and possess higher financial stakes and project complexity,” she adds, citing the medical, aerospace and construction sectors as examples.

Senior leadership roles also generally have a longer promotion cycle due to the competitive and rigorous process of selection.

In all those cases, employees may be looking at promotion cycles of four years, compared with the typical two to three years, Ms Aishah says.

“Candidates might stay to work in these industries due to the presence of job stability and security, particularly in roles where there is a high demand for technical skill sets, which can be developed only over time,” she notes.

However, it is still possible for employees leaving roles with longer promotion cycles to turn adversity into opportunity.

“While candidates will face some challenges when negotiating for their job responsibilities and salary, it is not always true that they will be in a disadvantageous position,” says Ms Aishah.

“Instead, organisations with longer promotion cycles tend to have more structured career paths and well-defined performance metrics, which are factors candidates should share to their own advantage during their negotiation.”

Candidates can reassure prospective employers that their seemingly lower job seniority for their experience is not due to poor performance by tackling the issue head-on.

They can do so by outlining the organisational structure of their current employer and explaining what a promotion signifies there.

“Candidates should then address their responsibilities and performance during their tenure in the company, and remember to highlight their achievements to prospective employers, heavily emphasising their contribution and impact they have had in the organisation, despite their job title,” Ms Aishah adds.

They should also note how they honed their skills over time, what their job expected of them, and work milestones achieved within a stipulated time, even without a promotion, she suggests.

This includes showcasing any additional training and certifications or skills acquired during their current role, says Mr Maurice Ng, senior career coach at Workforce Singapore.

These candidates should negotiate a competitive offer that reflects their skills, experience and the value they can bring to the new organisation, he advises.

Mr Ng adds: “Evaluate the overall compensation package, including bonuses, stock options and health benefits.

“If the salary is non-negotiable, explore other benefits such as flexible working arrangements, professional development opportunities or additional holidays that might be of a higher priority for you.”

Candidates should do their research on advancement opportunities with a prospective employer, he says.

For instance, they can connect with current employees of the company through professional networks such as LinkedIn to gain insight into the company culture, career progression and salary structures.

Mr Ng adds: “Clearly communicate your career goals and aspirations during the interviews and explain how the new role fits into your long-term plans.

“Inquire about the company’s approach to career development and promotion cycles during the interview process. Express your ambition for growth and ask about the potential for advancement within the organisation.”

Mr Ng advises individuals who require personalised support in career planning to sign up for Workforce Singapore’s new career guidance programme Polaris at

“This programme is designed to help employed individuals plan and elevate their career, including those exploring new opportunities in rapidly emerging sectors.”

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This article was originally published in The Straits Times.