Learning how to ask for a promotion is something that all job seekers go through. And while it can be intimidating, it’s a valuable skill that everyone needs to learn if they want to advance their career.
This guide will teach you how to ask for a promotion in a way that’s respectful and effective.
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Why Asking for a Promotion is Intimidating
To say that asking for a promotion is nerve-wracking would be an understatement! But it’s a necessary step in the right direction, helping you move forward in your career.
For many people, thinking about how to ask for a promotion can come with an uncomfortable feeling of vulnerability. When you ask to move up in your company, you’re asking your higher-ups to judge you and think about your worth as an employee. That doesn’t always feel good, and the thought of getting judged on such a deep level is intimidating for many of us.
There’s also the factor of feeling like a burden. It’s common to worry about the implications of asking for a promotion, such as coming off as self-centered or greedy.
Despite all those worries, these conversations are important. They’re lessons in self-advocacy, taking charge of your career, and moving toward a better future for yourself.
How to Ask for a Promotion
When you’re ready to take a leap of faith and take charge of your career, asking for a promotion is how you do it! But these meetings don’t always go as you envision. Promotions aren’t always possible, but how you approach this situation could make a difference.
These tips will show you how to ask for a promotion while remaining professional, courteous, and direct.
1. Think About What You Want from a Promotion
Before you do anything, take some time to think about what you truly want out of this promotion. In any professional setting, climbing the corporate ladder is always at the back of your mind. Everyone wants to advance their career and avoid sticking in the same position for too long.
But why now? Why attempt to get a promotion at this time?
There are many potential reasons to seek advancement. Figure out what yours are before you ask!
You might want an opportunity to gain more responsibilities, lead teams as a manager, or even move laterally to try new things. Of course, there’s always the allure of more money, influence, and respect. Despite what others might say, there’s nothing wrong with those motivators. Everyone has reasons for wanting a promotion or a raise, and they’re all valid.
The most important thing is to narrow down your goals and what you want this move to do for your career. It’s about understanding your goals and how this promotion fits into the equation. Once you do that reflecting, you can approach the request more strategically.
Your manager or boss will eventually ask why you want the promotion. Figuring that answer out now will help you respond confidently. More importantly, it’ll help you develop a plan of attack and frame your promotion request in a way that forces decision-makers to take it seriously.
2. Research What Opportunities are Available in the Company
Before you start planning how to ask for a promotion, spend some time making sure opportunities are available. While some moves like this are at the discretion of your manager, it’s often up to the needs and goals of the organization. Not every business can create brand-new positions out of nothing while still keeping hiring budgets under control.
Do your research about what opportunities are available. It’s much easier to ask for a promotion when you know that other roles are up for grabs. If there’s nothing available, it might not be the right time to ask for advancement (more on that soon).
Your research should also help you determine if those roles are what you really want. Read up on job descriptions, understand what your potential day-to-day would be like, and learn about the responsibilities of every role. You can also use that time to see how available jobs align with your goals and the reasons from our previous tip.
Learn as much as you can. Every ounce of information about what’s going on in your company makes a difference.
See what’s available, and don’t be afraid to ask around. It’s not uncommon for promotions to come when another employee leaves, retires, or advances to a new position. It’s a rippling effect that can pave the way for many new opportunities around the organization.
But those situations usually don’t come with much notice. Asking around and speaking to others in the company can give you more insight into roles that aren’t technically available yet, but might be soon.
As you research what’s available and how to ask for a promotion given the current state of the company, don’t be afraid to get some third-party perspective from other people. Your colleagues will have opinions about the moves you want to make. They will help you determine if it’s a good or bad idea, and they might let you know of opportunities to come.
3. Show Your Stuff Before You Ask
You can’t expect to get a promotion if you do the bare minimum and hide in the background. Managers want to advance employees who are motivated and capable of doing more. Before you request a promotion, you’ll need to show that you’re worthy of one.
How do you do that? It all depends on your job, but your goal should be to showcase what you’re capable of and do great work! That doesn’t mean to start sucking up. Suddenly becoming attached to your manager’s hip and waiting on their every move may have the opposite effect you want, rubbing colleagues and higher-ups the wrong way.
Plus, it becomes super obvious why you did those things when you eventually ask for a promotion!
Show what you can do in more realistic ways. Work hard and be vigilant about doing the best work possible. When you turn in assignments, review them to ensure they’re exemplary. If you’re doing presentations, make the best they can be!
Take your job seriously, and be an employee your managers want to promote.
It’s also a good idea to look for opportunities to do more. Take on some assignments that everyone else seems to avoid.
You don’t have to go to extremes like staying late or taking on projects that are too much for your workload. But you want to be the person your manager can rely on whenever they need something done. It implies that you’re willing and ready to do more.
Your goal should be to plant the seeds for a future promotion. Start doing this several months before asking for advancement, if possible. Give your manager every reason to consider granting your request and show them exactly why you deserve it!
4. Ask for a Promotion at the Right Time
When figuring out how to ask for a promotion, timing can be one of the trickiest parts of the process. But by the same token, you shouldn’t let timing be your excuse to keep putting this conversation off.
Many people constantly use the “It’s not the right time” excuse to change plans. Don’t be that person! You never know when opportunities will pass you by.
There’s no real “perfect” time to ask for a promotion. But, you can think about the current state of your company to time things strategically.
Of course, there are many times when asking for a promotion isn’t a great idea. For example, it’s probably a good idea to pump the breaks on your plans if your organization just did massive layoffs. The same goes for bad financial times for the company when they’re looking to save money. If you were to ask during those times of struggle, you might come off as oblivious or even selfish.
Always think about what the company is going through. Most organizations are keener on creating new positions and moving people up through promotions when they’re doing well financially.
Great times to ask for a promotion are after a solid earnings quarter. You can also take advantage of periods of growth and expansion. If your company is opening up new locations, that’s also a great time to explore opportunities outside your current role!
Also, don’t be afraid to capitalize on your successes. For example, you can try asking for a promotion after landing a huge client or striking up a lucrative deal that will significantly boost the company’s bottom line. Managers are more likely to accept those requests when you’ve clearly done a lot to improve the organization, and losing you would be a risk they don’t want to take.
5. Prepare Your Pitch
Once you figure out the logistics and get your timing right, you can move on to the hard part: Developing your pitch. Asking for a promotion is a lot like a job interview. However, you have a better relationship with the manager you’ll speak to, and they know your capabilities.
Delivering your pitch is about making your case and explaining why you deserve this promotion.
Reflect on your time at this company and make a detailed list of accomplishments. Lay everything out on the table and create an overview of what you’ve done working for the organization. Talk about your achievements, and don’t be afraid to humble brag a bit.
Emphasize how you’ve made an impact and what your work has done to benefit the organization. If you have concrete figures, use them! For example, you might have sales numbers illustrating how much you contribute to the bottom line.
Make your case and make it difficult for your manager to say no. Then, take it even further.
It’s one thing to say that you’ll be exceptional in the new role, but it’s another to show it. Provide reassurance that you’re committed to excelling in your new position. How do you do that? The best way is to create a plan of what you’ll do.
What are your first steps after the promotion? What do you plan to do, and how will your actions benefit the company? Don’t just look at the past. Look towards the future and paint a picture of success.
Have all these details written out and organized. You can create an outline that you’ll use to stay on track when pleading your case in person.
Practice what you’re going to say. There’s usually no formal way to request a promotion. In most cases, it’s nothing more than a professional conversation in a scheduled meeting.
Have your outline memorized and get comfortable saying why you deserve this promotion.
6. Set Up a Meeting and Ask
Once you’ve planned how to ask for a promotion, set up your meeting when you’re ready and feel confident. As we mentioned earlier, requesting a promotion is usually nothing more than a conversation with your immediate higher-ups. You may get asked about what the meeting is about when scheduling it.
Don’t outright say that it’s for a promotion. Sometimes, managers will hear that and immediately tell you it’s impossible. You deserve a chance to plead your case, so you can say it’s about your future at the company or newer opportunities.
Wait until you have your meeting to dive into the details.
On the day of, treat this meeting like a job interview. Dress appropriately, come prepared, and arrive on time. Then, be confident, put everything on the line, and ask for your promotion. Use what you’ve prepared to make your case.
7. Evaluate the Outcome
When asking for a promotion, your request can go one of two ways. But contrary to popular belief, it’s not always an outright acceptance or denial. That may happen, but don’t expect to get a response right away.
Give your managers the courtesy of time. Internally, promotions are a big deal. You can’t expect your superiors to know if promoting you is feasible or the right choice on the spot. Be patient, and allow them to think about the request.
That time benefits everyone. It ensures that managers truly mull over their options and consider the promotion.
If they accept, congratulations! You’ll probably need additional training as you transition to the new position. But you can pat yourself on the back and take a breather.
So what if they say no?
Don’t get discouraged. It can be disappointing, but that doesn’t mean that promotion will never come. Sometimes, poor timing, a lack of resources, and other hurdles prevent managers from promoting employees when they ask.
Have a conversation with your manager about the chances of getting a promotion in the future. Most are more than willing to be honest with you. With that information, you can make some critical decisions.
If there’s a possibility of a promotion in the future, be patient and continue doing a fantastic job. Use the time you wait for that opportunity to better yourself. Make it even more difficult for managers to say no when the time is right!
You can also ask for some advice. If there’s a specific reason why they didn’t accept your request, ask about it and learn how to make improvements. Address their concerns and actively work to become a better candidate for promotion.
In some cases, managers will outright tell you that a promotion isn’t in the cards now or anytime soon. If that’s the response you get, you might want to do an honest assessment of your future at this organization. Don’t be afraid to look for new opportunities elsewhere if you feel that you’ve hit the ceiling at your current company.
What to Avoid When Asking for a Promotion
With our tips, you can approach promotion requests strategically. These meetings don’t have to be scary if you’re prepared.
Now that you know how to ask for a promotion, here are a few things to avoid. These missteps could harm your chances of getting a promotion both now and in the future.
Don’t Be Rude or Condescending
If things don’t go your way, it’s easy to fall into the trap of negativity. Let’s face it: No one likes to hear that they’re not going to get promoted. Some people take their manager’s feedback personally and get unnecessarily offended.
You’re within your right to experience negative emotions if you get turned down, but don’t let that impact your actions now.
Being rude or talking down to managers will not work in your favor. It can lead to disciplinary action and jeopardize your job. Even if you plan on leaving for “greener pastures,” your actions could get around to hiring managers at other companies.
Don’t Bad-Mouth Your Colleagues
Here’s another negative action that people often inadvertently take. When you plead your case, resist the urge to talk negatively about your peers.
For example, you might want to use others as an example of how amazing you are at your job. But directly comparing yourself to others can easily lead to badmouthing. Don’t let that happen!
It’s not a good look. No one wants to promote pompous individuals or anyone that comes off as unlikable.
Be Careful of the “Other Offer” Card
When asking for a promotion, don’t play the “I have another offer from our competitors” card unless you feel that it could benefit you. If you apply to other jobs and have a legitimate offer on the table, it can turn into a powerful bargaining chip. But if you’re lying, some managers will call your bluff!
Taking this approach and then getting caught in a lie won’t be great for your professional relationships. Whether you continue working at your company or not, don’t burn bridges!
Planning how to ask for a promotion can be a bit anxiety-inducing, but remember that it’s done all the time!
As long as you approach things with the right mindset and consider where you fit in with the needs of the company, you should never feel bad about looking to take the next step and advancing your career.
Hannah Morgan speaks and writes about job search and career strategies. She founded CareerSherpa.net to educate professionals on how to maneuver through today’s job search process. Hannah was nominated as a LinkedIn Top Voice in Job Search and Careers and is a regular contributor to US News & World Report. She has been quoted by media outlets, including Forbes, USA Today, Money Magazine, Huffington Post, as well as many other publications. She is also author of The Infographic Resume and co-author of Social Networking for Business Success.