Dos and Don’ts of asking for a promotion

If you’re nervous about asking for a promotion but feel like you deserve one, here’s how to go about raising the subject with your employer, from making your case to reacting to the answer.

Asking for a promotion is putting yourself in a vulnerable position, but in order to advance in your career you need to advocate yourself and ask for what you want. If the phrase ‘if you don’t ask, you don’t get’ comes to mind – it should!

1. Ask yourself what you really want

Why do you want a promotion? Do you feel as if your current level of responsibility is too easy and you need a new challenge? Is it the next logical step in your existing career plan? Has your company advertised a job that you want to apply for? Are you feeling as if you actually want to change your career path and in which case would be more suited to a sideways move? Or are you looking for a pay rise? If yes, you should read our guide to asking for a pay rise instead. Understanding your motivations for asking for a promotion will help you prepare for the conversation.

2. Do your research

Once you’ve worked out exactly what you want to gain from your promotion, you need to do some thorough preparation first in order to build your case wisely. Find out what structures are already in place in your company. It may be that there is a specific application process you are expected to go through, or several key decision makers you need to impress. It may also be worth exploring where you currently stand within your company and how likely you are to get what you want. How are you perceived amongst management and your peers? Are you someone that people are willing to follow? You could also research how others higher up in your company achieved their promotion. If it is appropriate, invite them for coffee to pick their brain.

3. Build you case

Asking for a promotion is much like applying for any job – you have to consider your strengths and weaknesses and what you can bring to the role and the company, then present your case in a compelling way. Don’t think ‘what’s in it for me?’ but instead demonstrate what you can do for them. Emphasise what you have already accomplished and how you are already surpassing the current remit of your role. Next, outline the role you want, show that you understand what this will involve and that you are more than capable of doing it. Give examples of how you have already performed similar duties and give specific examples of how you’re the right person for the job.

4. Pick the right time and ask for a meeting

As a rule of thumb, people don’t like it when you catch them off guard. In an ideal world, you would ask for your promotion at your annual review or similar, as it’s an opportunity ready-made for discussing your future. Otherwise, you should pick your time wisely. If there is a lot of change going on at your company, this could also be a good opportunity to take advantage of. Perhaps a few people are getting promoted or leaving, maybe your department is repositioning itself within the company, or the company as a whole is experiencing a period of growth. Once you’ve picked your moment, send your boss an email asking them for a meeting to discuss your performance and future at the company.

5. Tips for during the meeting

During the meeting, calmly make your case and listen to their reply. Be patient and realistic. You manager is unlikely to offer you a promotion on the spot, as they will have a decision-making process they need to follow. If they say they don’t think you’re ready, don’t be reckless and threaten to leave. Keep your cool and ask them what you can do to make yourself ready. Set a timeframe to make your next meeting and leave the discussion open. If anything, you’ve come away having planted a seed with your employer that you want to grow and learn. Asking for a promotion is often an on-going conversation that takes time.