Barack Obama's Advice For Getting Promoted Fast At Work Is Actually Spot On

His advice is empowering employees to take ownership of their success in the workplace.

Former President Obama in front of flag Evan El-Amin / Shutterstock

Former President Barack Obama’s commitment to employees in the United States stems from far more than LinkedIn interviews and campaign promises. His work as President radically changed the landscape of working-class conditions for hundreds of thousands of people. 

From raising the minimum wage to transforming labor standards and conditions, Former President Obama’s commitment to working culture almost outshines his charisma and humble nature. 


All of his regulatory work has proved important, but he also takes the time to speak directly to employees through avenues like podcasts, YouTube videos, and even a TikTok or two

In a LinkedIn series with Editor In Chief Daniel Roth, Obama discussed the rapidly changing working environment for many Americans and offered advice on how to find meaning in work, create alignment between work and your personal life, and maximize your value as an employee in a healthy way. 


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Obama revealed his advice for making yourself an attractive employee and increasing your odds for promotions and job stability. 

Studies on job stability have revealed that 2023 is the year of unprecedented layoffs. The number of employees laid off tripled compared to 2022. 

Career coach Chris Donnelly shared Obama’s advice about the working landscape for Americans today and agreed that making yourself an attractive employee could increase your chances of promotion and decrease threats of an unexpected layoff



“No matter how small the problem is,” Obama said about his ideal employee, “I’m looking for someone who says ‘let me take care of that.’ If you project an attitude of ‘no matter what the problem is … I can handle it and I can do it.'” 


Making yourself reliable and ‘easy to work with’ can help your chances of getting promoted at work. 

“You have to learn how to get stuff done,” Obama shared about maximizing your efficiency as a working American. No matter what kind of work you do, your boss and co-workers shouldn’t be worried about passing work over to you. 

The more efficient and reliable you are at doing your job, the more valuable you’ll be to an employer who is looking to maximize their productivity. 

“I’ve seen people who are very good at describing problems, very sophisticated in explaining why something went wrong,” but, Obama explained, it was these people who often deflected responsibility in “getting things done.” 


“Whatever is assigned to you, you are just nailing it,” he said about young people’s eagerness to gain attention in the workplace. “People will notice that you are someone who wants to get things done.” 

In addition to simply sharing advice for promotion, Obama gave several other pieces of career advice for employees in all different stages of their lives, from where to invest your energy, how to shift your mindset to find meaningful work, and the best way to navigate workplace culture. 

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Obama’s Netflix series ‘Working: What We Do All Day’ illuminated the reality of working people in the United States, both in their struggles and successes. 

In his limited series from May, Obama’s Netflix series "Working: What We Do All Day" was a real-life depiction of the advice he shared in this interview. Following people from different walks of life, he shared personal perspectives on the nature of employment in the United States today. 


“We may not think about it, but we’re all a part of something larger than any single one of us,” Obama shared in the Netflix series. “Work is one of the forces that connects us.” 

Focusing on the personal stories of several American employees, Obama craftily highlighted the reality of employment today, illuminating the intersectional struggles, successes, and perspectives that define our day-to-day lives.

The disturbing narration of the gap between high-wage jobs and the working class unfolded through the storytelling of pursuing happiness, and although many tried to climb the “corporate ladder” to find some comfort and security, they lost their opportunity for reasons outside of their skill. 


So, while Obama gave several tips to make yourself a valuable employee in his LinkedIn interview with Roth, his attitude toward the working environment was not so black-and-white. The reality according to the former POTUS was, that you can be the best worker and the most valuable asset to a company, and still find yourself missing opportunities, being taken advantage of, and having to look for work elsewhere. 

Other career coaches provided advice in tandem with Obama’s for minimizing stagnation in the workplace. 

Tord Glad Nordahl, a LinkedIn creator, shared a post that illustrated the unpredictability of our working environment. “When you build up your name and your reputation within your niche … you're easily billable. It’s easy to use you and make money out of you,” he wrote, “As long as you are irreplaceable for the company, you’re stuck where you are.” 

While you might have better job security than a co-worker doing slightly less than you, you likely won’t have a shot at moving up in the company unless there’s another person who can do your job and take your place. 

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Being a mentor to another employee can help to exemplify your work ethic, but also make room for a promotion in your future, “one of the biggest career killers is thriving for success by keeping information to yourself.”

As Obama mentioned, many people are too eager to take on new projects and overload themselves with work. If you can teach someone else to do the work you do while keeping the “knowing and understanding of that work” to yourself, you’re more likely to get a promotion. 



Natasha, better known as @natisworking on TikTok, shared advice on being “irreplaceable and non-promotable” in the workplace. She explained, “The whole aura about being irreplaceable is a trap … why should they promote you when they have nobody else who can take your place?”


Being unique and being irreplaceable are two different things, Natasha explained. “You can be unique, have your own style, and be someone that inspires others without being irreplaceable.”

Being a mentor or a coach can provide more value to a company, while also protecting your room for growth. She suggested sharing the wealth with knowledge but keeping your unique style close to your chest. 

Don’t let companies or your manager keep you in one position without a salary raise, just because you’re the only person capable of handling the work. You deserve way more than being irreplaceable.

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Zayda Slabbekoorn is a news and entertainment writer at YourTango focusing on pop culture analysis and human interest stories.