How (and When) to Ask for a Promotion
By Brian Geiger
Promotions have little to do with how long you’ve worked for an employer and everything to do with merit. If you’re eager to take on more responsibility and influence your company in more meaningful ways, then that’s a good sign that you’re ready to begin the promotion process. And that’s what it is: a process. If your boss hasn’t offered you one yet, you might want to consider these steps before you present your case.
Priming Yourself for a Promotion
Before you ask for a promotion, you’ll want to get a few things under your belt. Keep in mind that you’ll need to lay out an argument regarding not only why you deserve a promotion, but how promoting you is in the company’s best interest.
Really think about that. Can you demonstrate that you’re an effective worker? Have you recommended a business strategy that increased productivity or sales? Have you managed a team that performed better than usual under your leadership? Jot down any achievements or experiences that come to mind. If you can gather some statistics that show the change you made, that’s even better.
Once you’ve collected your major achievements from the past, make sure you’re proving yourself in the present. Take charge of projects, inspire coworkers, find inefficiencies and correct them. All the while, keep yourself out of office politics and gossip corners. This will help you show that you’re an indispensable employee, and it will establish you as a top performer to your coworkers (and hopefully to your boss). This will bolster your credibility when you’re ready to have the conversation with your boss.
How to Bring It up to Your Boss
This might be the intimidating part for you, but don’t worry. Promotions are an expected part of any career, and bosses are always keeping an eye out for high performers that might make the cut. It’s a good idea to have casual conversations with your boss about taking on more responsibility. Even if this doesn’t lead to a mentoring relationship, it will make it much easier to make your expectations known.
Meanwhile, keep up the hard work and try to have a brief conversation with your boss once a week about your achievements and ambition. This will get them used to picturing you in a higher role, and if you’re really lucky, your boss might beat you to it and express an interest in promoting you. Regardless, it’s up to you to follow up and eventually seal the deal.
Once you feel like you’re ready, schedule a convenient time to speak with your boss. Ideally, you’ll find a slot of time where there won’t be interruptions and neither of you will be rushed. This is when you present your case for your promotion, which we’ll discuss next.
How to Make a Case for Your Promotion
It’s one thing to convince your boss that you could handle the responsibilities of a new position, but it’s even better to show that you’re already doing it. Remember those achievements you wrote down earlier? This is where you string them together to prove that you’re ready.
Organize a brief “resume” of your accomplishments. There’s no need to get stuck in formalities here — just create an appealing list that demonstrates mastery of your current responsibilities. Again, if you can quantify your success, that’s invaluable. This will let you create compelling visuals of how your hard work has benefited the company, and it will show that your achievements aren’t just opinions.
Of course, your boss is busy and won’t remember all of the finer points of your resume. Leave a copy with them that includes a few solid take-home points to mull over. For instance, if you’ve shown that every leadership role you’ve undertaken has resulted in exceptional teamwork and a remarkable finished product, then the take-home point might be that you’re ready to manage larger teams.
Better yet, contextualize your successes within the company’s larger goals. Briefly discuss how your work extends the company’s mission statement and values — and if you have the argument to back it up, explain that the company undergoes an opportunity cost every day that you aren’t managing larger teams or taking on new responsibilities.
Keep in mind that asking for a promotion isn’t always successful after one conversation. It’s a big move, so work with your boss if he or she wants to keep talking about it over the next few weeks. Even if your boss isn’t ready to immediately hand you a promotion, at least your accomplishments and ambition will be recognized. You can’t go wrong by politely asking for feedback about the qualities you’re missing. From there, just figure out what you can do to meet these expectations and keep the conversation going. You’re in this for the long-run, so keep at it!