After having worked for over 30 years in hierarchical businesses, it seems odd that Ive never earned a promotion. Ive been demoted at least 2x by having my responsibilities severely trimmed. For years I turned myself inside out to get a promotion, but it never happened, so I thought Id try a different tack and not try to advance my career, that did not work either. I had asked managers about it and was rebuffed so severely, it was clearly counterproductive.

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    I suggest you remove the parts about "career porn", "freaks of nature" and stochastics. It's irrelevant (and probably insulting to some). – deviantfan Jun 1 '16 at 19:09
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    About "no promotion, but demotions": Slacker, no skills compared to your coworkers, ...? If your manager "rebuffs" your question instead of telling some things that could help, this could be an indication too that your manager isn't satisfied with your work. – deviantfan Jun 1 '16 at 19:11
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    Do you use that kind of language at work? You think that attitude is healthy? – paparazzo Jun 1 '16 at 19:41
  • Sorry you feel unfulfilled. Unfortunately, we don't have enough information to answer this for your situation. What do you consider a "promotion" (e.g. getting "Senior" put in front of your job title, but essentially having the same job vs. being put in a position of supervising others)? Are you in an organization in which you can be promoted, or are you in a "Mom & Pop" where everyone who has not left for other opportunities has been in the same job for years? What industry are you in? Are your peers being promoted and you're not? – GreenMatt Jun 1 '16 at 19:42
  • I think this depends heavily on industry, the company/companies you've worked for, etc. For example, at my present job there is absolutely no room for vertical growth. It's a good job, but I will never be "promoted" because there are no provisions for people rising in the ranks for anything short of 20+ years of service when one manager may retire. One guy has worked here for 8 years, and still has the same work description. He's happy with it, but if he wanted to make team leader, or get into management he'd have to leave. Sometimes you have to take some chances to grow. – AndreiROM Jun 1 '16 at 19:50

Is it normal to never have been promoted over a 30 year career?

No, it definitely isn't.

Figure every year or so you have a review. That's 30 chances at a promotion that you missed. Pure dumb luck should have netted you at least a few, because most companies will often promote you just for staying there for 5+ years "man, Bob's been here for 5 years and we've promoted everyone else - might as well give him a shot".

There are some odd situations that may contribute to this. If you own your own company, you're not going to get promoted (or you only have yourself to blame). If you work for a tiny place where there's no room for growth, you might not get promoted. If you work in a peculiar industry (say... as a minister) where promotion is frowned upon or limited, then you might not get promoted. If you change jobs frequently, then you might not have the reviews to get promoted in-job.

But outside of that, and not knowing more, I would guess that you did something to actively prevent it.

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    Dumb luck very rarely gets you a promotion, no matter how many years you try. – DJClayworth Jun 1 '16 at 19:59
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    @DJClayworth Perhaps replace "dumb luck" with "being competent enough to avoid being fired". Telastyn is correct that over 30 years even someone with zero ambition barely doing his 9-to-5 will have been promoted at some point. – Lilienthal Jun 1 '16 at 21:26
  • @DJClayworth - sure, it is very rare. But even 1/100 odds with 30 attempts is a non-trivial opportunity to hit once. – Telastyn Jun 1 '16 at 22:18
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    I think my point is - it's not a game of chance. – DJClayworth Jun 1 '16 at 23:08
  • @DJClayworth: Having witnessed overt incompetence getting a promotion several times, this makes me realize, often the 'space' in the hierarchy has to be available, whether its real or imaginary. – bikequus Jun 3 '16 at 15:12

Yes I believe it is possible to never get promoted while others who came on board after you do get promoted. And I don't think it's always about being the "worst" performer.

I do hope you get a pay raise of sort, though.

In my previous work I have seen several individuals who never been promoted and actually been demoted from a higher position. These people worked at this job for 10-14 years. Then again even the people who do get "promoted" never actually do change except by title, pay, and some additional responsibilities. I only seen one person rise above the current manager. Even for myself, I never been promoted outside of title and pay raise changes. Personally I think it's all about being at the right place at the right time. It's all about attitude, presentation and the general culture of the place and mostly just being at the right place at the right time.

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