The economic climate has a habit of serving as the one-size-fits-all reason behind everyone's work problems. If you’ve been told by your boss that the promotion you're holding out for is not going happen this year, you might shrug and blame the economy...

“The figures for the year ahead paint a mixed picture. As the UK economy remains flat and growth stalls, companies are becoming increasingly unsure if they will have to let staff go,” says Mark Hodgson, practice leader of Talent Management in Right Management. “In recent weeks, media headlines have confirmed a number of companies and household brands that have disappeared from our high streets. It would appear that businesses are losing confidence."

But all is not lost. The truth is that there are plenty of other reasons that could explain why you've been passed up. The good news? These are problems that you can solve yourself. "If you feel you deserve a pay rise and the time's come to do something about it, make sure you approach the matter in the right way, and in a way that will leave everyone positive about the outcome", advises Reed recruitment specialist Tom Bunkham.

If you’ve been in your organisation for a few years and your salary and responsibilities have moved at a glacial pace while others have blossomed and grown, there’s a good chance that your behaviour is holding you back. Failure to clamber up the corporate structure isn't about workload or where you got your degree or even down to George Osborne. Competition is fierce, which means there are lots of reasons why you haven’t get that promotion... yet.

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  • Deep down, you don’t think you deserve it

    Standing out will get you noticed as a brilliant employee, an excellent asset to the company – but it won’t get you that promotion. The cold, hard fact of the matter is that employers will pay their staff, even the very best, as little as they can get away with. This is where the issue of knowing your worth is absolutely critical. If you know that you are a genuine asset to your company and you know that you are currently being undervalued, your confidence and let’s be honest, well-placed arrogance, will project this belief to your employers. Don’t underestimate the power of swagger!

  • You're hiding your leadship skills

    No man or woman can be an island in the workplace. Technically you might brilliant, more than brilliant even, but if you don’t show that you’re willing to develop others in your organisation then it will hold you back. The ability to lead others and be the example is crucial to taking your career to the next level, so you need to show that you've got the goods. If your current position doesn’t give you much scope for this, consider taking on a project that is outside of your normal remit; volunteer to lead committees or a company sports team – anything that shows you can take charge will get you noticed.

  • You don't dress the part

    Like it or not, we live in a world where appearances as judged. When you’re in line for a job upgrade, bosses pay attention to everything—your work ethic, your punctuality, your leadership, and yep, your look. We’re not suggesting you should switch the jeggings for some <em>Working Girl</em> power shoulders, but there are a few simple pointers to keep in mind. Invest in decent basics, and think polished and pulled together. Take a look at those working in the position that you want to be promoted to and follow their lead, sartorially speaking. If you look the part, it will be a lot easier for management to imagine you working in that role.

  • You do your job duties... no more, no less

    In the current jobs market keeping your nose clean, arriving on time and achieving your targets just doesn’t cut it if you want to move to the next level. Irritating isn’t it? Just sticking to the job description – however brilliantly you do it – makes it easier for managers to keep you just where you are. Offer innovative ideas, beat deadlines, go above and beyond where you can and your boss will be persuaded to go the extra distance for you.

  • You are invisible

    Here’s the thing: martyrdom is not a technique that translates to the workplace. We Brits have a tendency to feel embarrassed about “bragging” when it comes to our own achievements, but this cultural nicety holds us back. Getting in an hour before everyone and being the last to leave the office at night are admirable and commendable – but you need to make sure that the people at the top are aware of just how much you’re contributing as an individual. Never pass up an opportunity to market yourself. If you’re in a meeting with peers and superiors, find a way to (subtly) mention something you and your team has just accomplished. Send email updates to let your boss (and your boss’ boss) so they know what you’ve achieved. And remember, don't rely on your boss to tell their boss all the brilliant things you are achieving. Tell them yourself.

  • You’re not systematic

    You might think you know how to prioritise – the question is does everyone else? It’s tempting to let those pesky admin and filing tasks slide while you get on with the business of doing the <em>real</em> work, after all it’s hard to be passionate and committed when you're not using your natural talents. But remember that the best way to speak to business decision-makers is by speaking in a way that resonates with them. So while you might be safe in the knowledge that you can improvise and think on your feet if and when there’s a bump in the road, your bosses might feel that you’re undermining the structure and safety mechanisms that they’ve put in place. And that will make them think twice about putting you in a position with a significant amount of responsibility.