Asking for a promotion can be extremely stressful because it puts you in a vulnerable position. But if you believe you are ready for the next step in your career, it’s inevitable. There are two ways to approach the situation: first with reflection, and second with solid tactical maneuvers.  

Reflect on What you Want 

When I speak with clients who are considering asking for a promotion, we first start with a reflection process. We identify what it is they really want in their career and why they want it. Here are some questions to consider:   

  • How do you know you are ready? What are the indicators pointing to your readiness to move up? 
  • Why now?
    What is behind the drive that you have for something new?  
  • Are you simply bored in your current job? 
  • What are your ideas and vision for the new role and what you would be able to achieve with more authority and responsibility? 
  • More broadly, what do you want your life to look like? And how does a promotion, with added responsibility, fit into that vision? 
  • Could you get some of what you are seeking in ways other than a promotion? For example, could a lateral move within the organization give you what you want? Or maybe it’s time to consider a new job, a new career, a new company or industry? 
  • Do you want more money? Is the only way to get it through a promotion?  

It’s important to be very clear about your goals and why they are important to you. A career coach can certainly help with this process of understanding the drive you are experiencing. They can also help you hone the skills and confidence to be able to ask for a promotion directly with strength. I often speak with clients about what they are hoping to achieve, how they can be clear in what they want and how they can advocate for themselves.  

I recently worked with a client, Justin (not his real name) who came to career coaching because he knew he needed a change in his life. He was bored with his business development job at a small startup tech company that had a loose corporate structure. He was not feeling engaged or empowered, especially because the organization continuously made promises that were not delivered upon.  

We worked together on a pitch so that Justin was able to make a direct ask of his boss to hire a couple of people to build an actual business development unit. He was never given the resources to do that before, but once he pitched his idea to the organization, he not only was given the green light, but he was elevated to a senior leadership position to manage his new hires.  

I tell my clients that the onus is on you, the asker, to illustrate what’s in a promotion for yourself, what’s in it for your team and the organization and what the ROI of promoting you would be to everyone. Once you identify these points, you need to be able to communicate them clearly to the boss or the decision maker for the promotion. You are essentially asking the company to invest in you, and if you don’t ask, you don’t get.  

Related: How to Effectively Ask for What you Want 

How to Make the Request 

Once you are clear on what you are looking for, build your case for why you deserve to move up the corporate ladder. Prepare a one-page memo that highlights your proven track record and provides concrete evidence on the impact you’ve had, including revenue-boosting projects. Show that you are already working at the level you are asking to be promoted to.  

It’s also important to do your research. Does your company have a formal process for promotions? Must you be at the company for a specific amount of time before switching positions? Is there standard communication or application processes around promotions? Your manager should be able to offer guidance on any formal procedures.  

Timing is everything when it comes to asking for a promotion. Don’t ask if the company or your industry is not currently doing well. People will be more generous when they have something to give. Instead, time your ask for when something positive happens in the company such as landing a big new deal or after a solid earnings quarter.   

Understand that asking for a promotion is not just one conversation. You’ll want to set the stage by having multiple conversations with your supervisor to convince them you are ready for the next step in your career. Demonstrate your willingness to grow and learn and ask for regular feedback as well as advice on how to get to the next level. If you aren’t open with your boss about your career ambition, you aren’t giving them the opportunity to help you.  

If you notice an open position at your company and you think you could be a good fit, talk to your manager about the opportunity. It’s common for companies to hire internally to save time and resources so you may have an advantage over other outside candidates.  

Asking and receiving a promotion is not something that is likely to happen on the spot so it’s important to display patience throughout the process. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t get what you want on the first try. But at the same time, don’t ignore signs that you may be the victim of quiet promoting. That’s when employees are given more work and responsibilities but do not receive a promotion or pay raise. If you find that you are not on your manager’s short list for promotion, you’ll need to decide whether you want to stay in the organization or look for another job.  

Your work can speak for itself, but that won’t always happen. You need to be able to articulate what position you want and how getting it would align with the objectives of the organization and your manager. Focus on the improvements you plan to drive in the future.  

A Roadblock to Promotion 

One of the biggest roadblocks I see with clients is the fear of being rejected. That can be rather complex, but we would break down the root of that fear. Maybe due to the dynamic with their boss, they feel as if their ideas are never encouraged, or they are not taken seriously. So, there could be some evidence of that fear.  

However, most of the time, fear-based self-talk is not actually based on reality. It’s what the client perceives to be true, but oftentimes is not. So, we talk about shifting their perspective and staying grounded in their vision – how they envision their future rather than sliding back into that fear of someone judging them and deeming them unworthy.  

Self-confidence is key when asking for a promotion. If you want to sell your company on promoting you, you must have confidence in yourself first.  

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