How (and How Not) to Ask for a Promotion
If you want to get ahead, you need to look for chances to impress your employer and then build a convincing case for every promotion and raise.
The good news is that those who ask, get—at least, much more often than those who don’t. While you won’t get every promotion, every time, investing in your own career trajectory is always a sound policy. Keep revising your goals, and moving forward, and you’ll be happier at every job, and make more money in the long run.
Here’s how to get the promotion you deserve:
Definitely Do These Things:
1. Keep track of your accomplishments.
Have you ever sat down at your annual review, only to realize that you can’t remember your biggest wins from the previous year? It’s hard to believe when you’re in the moment, but if you don’t write down your successes as they happen, you’re unlikely to be able to recall them when you really need them at review time. Tracking your goals also allows you to see where you’re falling short before it become a problem.
2. Look for jobs that haven’t been invented yet—at least at your company.
Remember when you were a kid, and your teachers told you that the job you’d have one day didn’t even exist yet? Often, that’s still true.
Companies and teams evolve, and as they do, new projects emerge. Take advantage of this by volunteering to work on new things and with new people at your organization. You’ll pick up new skills and be in the perfect place to snag a fancy new job title when your employer decides that the company needs the role.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask.
If you’ve ever lost an opportunity to a more aggressive person, whether it’s a job or a part in a school play, you know how important it is to show up for your own career. For people who tend to be more easygoing or even just shy, it can be difficult to image putting yourself out there—but it’s worth it.
You absolutely do not have to pester the boss (and, in fact, you shouldn’t) but you do have to let your manager know that you’re interested in taking on new responsibilities. If they don’t know you’re eager for new challenges, they can’t help you position yourself to take them on.
Definitely Don’t Do These Things:
1. Assume you’ll be rewarded eventually, if you pay your dues.
Being really good at your job might get you an incremental raise at the end of the year, but it won’t necessarily take you to the next level, especially if your company isn’t in a major growth mode. In fact, just being good at your job can make you easier to ignore. Managers are as tight on time as other employees; if you’re able to excel with minimal supervision, they might just leave you alone—great if you’re trying to work in peace, but not so great if you’re hoping to get promoted.
2. Wait for your annual review.
Depending on your company’s policies, promotions are raises might be a once-a-year thing, but that doesn’t mean that you should wait until the review period to let your manager know that you’re ready to move up. In fact, if you do so, you might find yourself frozen out. Budgets and hierarchies are often pretty set in stone, the closer you get to review time. Plus, letting your manager know what you’re thinking ahead of time allows them to help guide your progress.
3. Be too pushy.
There’s a difference between speaking up and becoming your manager’s own personal stalker. While you absolutely should tell him or her your career goals, and ask for their input on achieving them, you want to stay far away from behaviors that are more annoying than assertive. That means not hounding your boss at every weekly one-on-one about a promotion that’s not coming fast enough and not throwing your hat in the ring for every new position, regardless of your actual interest, because it’s a step up the ladder.
Be deliberate and polite, and above all, obey the Golden Rule: treat your boss as you would like to be treated, if you were the manager.
If, after your careful case-building and open communication, your boss still can’t make a promotion happen, either the company doesn’t have room for advancement or you and your manager are a bad fit. Either way, it might be time to look at opportunities elsewhere. By not being pushy, you’ll ensure that your current supervisor will be willing to offer you a recommendation, somewhere down the line.