Is your current role not challenging you or exciting you the way it used to? Do you feel like you’re ready to take your career to the next level and take on new responsibilities? Or have you taken on more work and more responsibility, but not been recognized for it?
If so, then it’s time to consider asking for a promotion. Currently, job promotions in the U.S. are on the rise, as they increased by 9% in 2021, a vast improvement over the 7.4% drop that occurred between 2019 and 2020.
But what if you don’t know how to ask for a promotion?
If that’s the case, you’re certainly not alone, as asking for a raise or promotion is undoubtedly nerve-wracking.
First, you have to wait for the perfect time to ask, ideally when the company is performing well and has an open position that suits your fancy. Next, you need to put together a pitch strong enough to convince hiring managers that you’re the perfect fit for the role. Even then, a promotion is never a guarantee, as your employer may have their eyes set on an external candidate.
However, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try, as even if you get overlooked for one promotion, that’s not to say you won’t snag the next one.
To make the process less anxiety-inducing, we’ve put together this guide on how to ask for a promotion at your organization — so read on to learn how.
When is it time to ask for a promotion?
The first step is deciding that a promotion is what you actually want. If your current position still feels like enough, and you aren’t eager to advance your career, it might be worth asking for a raise instead.
Even if you’re 100% certain you’re ready for a promotion, you also need to consider your organization’s needs. For example, if the company is performing poorly and doesn’t have any openings, it’s not the right time to ask for a promotion.
The following factors will help you determine if the time is right to bring up the possibility of a promotion to your manager.
You’re ready to perform at a higher level
If the idea of taking on increased responsibilities doesn’t turn you off and actually excites you, it’s a good sign that you’re ready for a new position.
If you’ve been at the same company in the same role for several years now, you’re likely very familiar with the way things operate (i.e., business processes, the way departments communicate, etc.). That’ll make it easier for you to transition into a new role, and it’ll give you a leg up over external candidates. If you can handle your current job’s tasks and responsibilities without breaking a sweat, it’s time to start considering your professional development.
Do you want to stay in the same role forever?
What are your career goals?
Will getting promoted to a new job help you get closer to your dream job?
These are all crucial questions to ask yourself when thinking about bringing up the promotion discussion at work.
When your responsibilities exceed your current role
It’s normal for employees to take on more responsibilities over time, such as when coworkers leave or when adopting new software/services/capabilities. Sometimes certain employees achieve a level of trust with managers that enable them to perform leadership tasks.
While this is all well and good, you should always keep a close eye on your current responsibilities and what’s listed in your job description.
Why is that?
It’s because you could wind up taking on twice the work that your current job title (and pay grade) entails. In that scenario, a promotion request is more than warranted, as you’re already performing more complex tasks and have more important responsibilities than your current position requires.
As such, you should definitely schedule a check-in with your manager to discuss your career growth. Even if you don’t wind up landing a new job out of it, you’ve at least made a compelling case to get a pay raise for your extra hard work.
You’ve been expanding your skill set
Have you learned how to perform tasks outside your current role by working with other departments? Did you recently acquire an online certification for learning a new skill related to your work?
If so, then it’s not a bad idea to consider asking for a promotion. That’s especially true if the new skills you’re learning directly align with an open position at your company.
Let’s say that you’ve worked with your sales manager for years, and you’re very familiar with their process. On the side, you took a sales leadership course and received a certification. Not only that, but you’ve received word that your manager is retiring soon and will need a replacement.
This is a picture-perfect scenario for a promotion request, as you’ve got an open position to pursue with skills that are perfect for it.
Your work has provided value
Were you able to land huge sales last quarter? Did the suggestions you made in a meeting lead to a business-saving decision? If you’re able to provide specific examples where your work directly provided value to your organization, your request for a promotion will hold a lot more weight.
Also, your annual performance reviews will play an important role here. If your last few performance reviews were absolutely stellar, it’s perfectly reasonable to ask for a promotion. Any candidate can promise the world to your employer, but the fact that you’ll have the metrics that prove your worth will make a huge difference.
If you don’t have any impressive results to show at the moment, don’t worry. There’s no reason why you can’t start finding ways to provide real value to your organization. You can always get with your manager to brainstorm ways that your work will positively impact the business.
Promotions take time, so you shouldn’t get discouraged if you have to spend a few months (or more) working hard to stand out. That way, you’ll have plenty of valuable performance data to share with your organization’s key decision-makers when asking for a promotion.
Learning how to ask for a promotion
Once you know for sure that you’re ready to pursue a promotion at work, you need to know how to approach it the right way. Otherwise, you could risk offending your hiring managers or underselling your true value, which you don’t want.
For instance, it’s best to avoid ultimatums when discussing promotions, such as threatening to quit if you don’t get the job. This is almost always a bad idea, especially if you aren’t willing to follow through on your promise. Not only that but giving your boss such an ultimatum will likely reflect poorly on your character, negatively affecting your chances of moving up in the future.
To make sure you don’t run into any pitfalls, follow these tips on how to ask for a promotion.
Decide which position you want
First, you need to know which position you want before asking for a promotion. That is unless you’re asking your employer to promote you to a brand-new position meant to encompass your increased responsibilities. If that’s not the case, setting your sights on a specific job in your organization is your best bet. Otherwise, your managers may not even have an opening to give you a promotion in the first place.
So instead of demanding a promotion in general, do some research to uncover a higher-level position that appeals to you. It could be your direct manager’s position, or you may want to move to another department. Whatever the case, ensure the position is A) higher than your current role and B) is something that will advance you down your career path.
It’s also a good idea to target several positions as if there isn’t a current opening for your number one pick; it could take months or years for a slot to open up.
Research the job as much as possible
Once you have a position in mind (or a few), it’s time to conduct some thorough research. After all, the more you know about what the job entails, the easier it’ll be for your manager to imagine you filling the role.
Not only that, but this phase serves as a vetting period for the job to ensure that it’s truly a good fit for you. For instance, upon further research, you may discover that one of the roles you were considering for a promotion actually pays less than your current position. In that case, you’d want to scrap that job in favor of something else.
How can you research different jobs?
There are a few ways, including reading job descriptions on LinkedIn and Indeed. These will give you a basic overview of the tasks and responsibilities involved in the role, which is a big help. Besides that, there are bound to be plenty of articles online discussing the jobs you want, including first-hand testimonies from real employees.
Perhaps the most effective way to research a job is to interview someone that’s actually held the position before. Picking their brain over a cup of coffee will provide more insight into what it’s like to do the job than any article or job description. However, if you can’t find anyone to talk to in person, articles and job boards are your next best bet.
Show your true potential before asking
Before you ask for a promotion from your boss, you should really knock it out of the park for a few months. Show up early, display a positive attitude, lend a helping hand, and be as attentive as possible during meetings. The idea is to showcase what you’re capable of and to stand out to key decision-makers at your organization.
After all, nobody wants to promote someone that puts in the bare minimum and hides during the day.
Putting in great work will increase your visibility to hiring managers, which will hopefully place you on their radar before you even ask for a promotion.
How long should you keep this up?
If your last few performance reviews were outstanding, then you won’t have to wait very long before bringing up the promotion discussion with your boss. Yet, if your last performance review showed lots of room for improvement, you’ll want to put in hard work until your next review before asking for a promotion or raise.
Working hard is the most reliable way to show your value before attempting to climb the corporate ladder, as actions speak louder than words.
Put together a convincing pitch
By now, you’ve got a position you want, you’ve done your research, and you’ve been putting in the hard work to prove your dedication to the company.
Is it finally time to knock on your boss’s door?
Not quite, as there’s one final step that you definitely don’t want to skip. You need to put together a pitch that contains all the reasons why you’re a perfect fit for the role you want. The pitch should contain a series of talking points centered around how you will add value to the company.
Remember to make the pitch about how you will help the company, not a personal showcase of your skills. That’s because the hiring managers at your company are ultimately concerned about the bottom line, which is finding the right fit for the role. As such, the easier you make it for them to realize that you check all the boxes for the position’s requirements, the better.
Here’s a rundown of the key components you’ll want to include in your pitch:
Demonstrate that you understand the purpose of the position by defining how it affects your organization as a whole.
Mention the skills and achievements you have that relate to the role and make you a perfect fit for it. If you can, back these points up with data, such as your outstanding sales numbers.
Do some forecasting and provide some information on how the organization will improve by promoting you to the position you want.
Predict any concerns hiring managers may have by addressing any skills you lack in advance (such as assuring them that you’re willing to take the necessary measures to acquire any skills you’re missing).
Lastly, don’t make your pitch too lengthy or verbose. Try to get it within 5 minutes or less to make it really concise. There’s a reason why the term elevator pitch became so popular — it’s because professionals are extremely busy, so the quicker you can get to the point, the happier they’ll be.
Wait for the right time to schedule a meeting
Once you have a stellar pitch ready, you shouldn’t hit your boss with it until the time is right. For instance, if your boss is bogged down with meetings and conferences, it’s best to wait until they have a lighter schedule to ask for a promotion.
Ideally, the best time to ask for a promotion is during a performance review, particularly a positive one. However, that doesn’t mean that you have to wait six months for your next review, especially if you’ve already been putting in great work and your boss has some free time.
It’s wise to inform your boss beforehand to avoid blindsiding them. It’s as easy as peeking your head in their office and letting them know that you’re interested in talking about a promotion soon. That’ll give them a chance to set aside some time to talk when they aren’t extremely busy, and you’re introducing the idea of promoting you into their head.
Deliver your pitch
When the meeting finally comes, it’s time for you to deliver the pitch you worked so hard on.
Speak clearly and confidently, all while remembering to give your manager time to interject with any questions or concerns. It’s best not to veer off the script too much, as you’ll want to keep things as concise as possible.
Don’t forget to place the most emphasis on the value you’ll provide the organization, as that’s the bottom line your manager will care about the most. If you have any data to share, present it in a professional manner, such as printing out a graph or using a PowerPoint slide.
Evaluate the outcome
Once you’ve delivered your pitch, you can finally breathe a sigh of relief. Your employer will let you know if you get the position either during the meeting or shortly after.
If you receive a job offer, congratulations! Your hard work paid off, and now you can begin preparing to take on the new role.
Should you not get the job, it’s important not to get too discouraged. After all, you made an excellent effort, which is likely to make a good impression on your manager. That means you could be first in line for a promotion in the future, especially if you continue to expand your skill set.
If you don’t get the job and your employer shows no interest in promoting you, it could be a sign that it’s best to take your talents elsewhere.
How to ask for a promotion: Things to avoid
Now that you know what to do when asking for a promotion, it’s time to learn what not to do.
There are a few pitfalls that you’ll definitely want to avoid when going for promotions, as they will negatively affect your efforts.
Don’t demand a promotion
As stated before, ultimatums don’t work, so you shouldn’t threaten to leave if you don’t get promoted. Conversely, demanding a promotion isn’t likely to yield any better results.
You should only give your employer an ultimatum if you have another position lined up. That way, if your company decides not to give you the promotion, you’ll have another opportunity to fall back on.
In other words, don’t play poker and bluff by saying that other companies are interested in you if they aren’t.
Don’t get offended
Getting rejected for a job is never an easy blow to take, but it’s crucial not to take it personally. There are a myriad of reasons why you may not receive a promotion, many of which that have nothing to do with your capabilities.
The best way to handle rejection is with grace, primarily by showing gratitude and respect to your hiring managers. As a bonus, having a positive attitude like this will reflect well on your character, which can help you obtain future promotions.
Don’t get impatient
Promotions take time, and patience is certainly a virtue in this case. It can take months or even years to acquire the position you want, so it’s important not to get discouraged if you don’t find immediate success.
For instance, just because you don’t get a promotion on your first try doesn’t mean that it won’t happen in the future. The worst thing you can do is get impatient and give up, as that’s the #1 way to ensure you never land your dream job.
Final thoughts: How to ask for a promotion
Getting promoted is something that takes a lot of time and hard work, but it can be well worth it if you find the right position. If you want to grow your career and reach new heights, learning how to ask for a promotion is an absolute necessity. As long as you follow the advice in this guide, you’ll stand the best chance of landing a desirable promotion.