How to Get Promoted


From time to time I’m asked to consult on promotion board issues. Below is an excerpt from a piece I wrote several years ago … which summarizes some techniques and ideas I’ve seen bear fruit over the past thirty years or so. If you or someone you know is coming up for promotion in the next eight to twelve months, or if you’ve been passed over and are looking to plus up your chances at a second look, I’d be happy to consult and be a “second set of eyes” on your career and file generally.

v/r Bill Meili,   Office: 214 363-1828,  Email:

1. Photo: Do everything you can think to do to have your Official Photo reflect the officer/person/professional you are when you’re at your best, most comfortable, competent self. Posture, angle, facial expression, uniform’s fit, lighting … everything. Get help from a photographer who knows his/her business. Get help from a military photographer if at all possible. Show that person previous promotion/official photos. We all get older, but that doesn’t mean anything really. The years and experience should show in some way on a photo of someone going for higher field grade rank. Photo is of prime importance to anyone looking over your file. Spend the extra time and trouble to get it right.

2. Meet with your Bosses: Arrange a time and sit down with your commander/rater/senior rater. Ask that they consider submitting a complete the record or senior rater option (if applicable) OER on you in sufficient time to make it before your next board. During this conversation, speak candidly about the fact that a top block rating might well be the difference maker. And then have a fair and frank conversation about what it will take to make that top cut. It’s tough to hit a standard if you don’t know exactly what you’re shooting at. Ask. Where’s the bar set in the senior rater’s eyes. It’s a good discussion to have, and there’s no downside. It’s also a discussion that rarely happens — especially for some reason in the Reserve component. AR 623-3, Paragraphs 3-56 and 3-57 are helpful.

3. Military Education: Whatever you can do to “fast burn” a completion on ILE, or whatever course of studies you’re working, do it. And then get the completion certificate ready to go.

4. Make Extra Time for Additional Duties/Helping the Commander and Unit do Good Things: The more time you can devote to the unit’s business –vice yours — the better your chances are going to be to get promoted. Selfless service is essential. And, to the extent you can, help your bosses do their jobs better. Their jobs?  Leading troops by taking care of their needs first, and having them ready, inspired, capable and competent to perform whatever missions are thrown their way. When you do this, your boss will not only write that optional, complete-the-record OER, he or she will have some specific and powerful things to say regarding your potential for serving at the next higher level.