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How to ask for a promotion
You’re brilliant at what you do, consistently hitting or beating your targets, going the extra mile, and ready to move on to bigger and better challenges. It’s time to ask your boss about that promotion – goodness knows, you’ve earned it! Here we explore how to ask for and get what’s rightfully yours.
Is now a good time?
Your performance review is probably the most natural forum in which to broach the subject of promotion, but when you can expect to receive a sympathetic hearing may depend more on the company’s financial health, your team’s current workload and making allowances for your manager’s temperament.
It’s probably not a good time to ask for a promotion if your company is in the middle of a recruitment freeze or redundancy process, or if you, your manager and team are in the middle of a big, high-pressure project or up against a deadline.You may have more luck when you've just completed a piece of work that has made you stand out, and you’re comfortably exceeding your performance targets.
We need to talk about me
No one ever gets promoted by waiting to be asked, so once the moment is right, be bold and go for it! Make a polite, formal written request to your boss for a meeting in private to discuss it.
Keep the conversation open, and resist the urge to go in all guns blazing, demanding an immediate 'yes or no' answer. Until they hear otherwise, managers tend to believe that their staff are happy where they are, and catching them off guard / putting them on the spot may not be the most constructive strategy. Make sure the first they learn of your ambitions is a pleasant surprise. The best managers are genuinely interested in the career development of their staff, but all good managers should be interested in hearing from people who want to go places.
Why I’m worth it
If you’ve simply been doing your job properly and long enough, you're perfectly entitled to want to progress. But you may still need to pull out all the stops to convince your boss you’re ready to take a step up. The message you want to send is: “I’ve served the organisation exceptionally well where I am, but I could do so much more if I were promoted.” You might show them:
- how you have met and exceeded the targets or objectives in your current job description;
- where you have gone above and beyond the requirements of your role, particularly where you have performed extra supervisory responsibilities (because managing people is often challenging work and that’s one of the main reasons managers get paid more! In fact, a promotion may be essential for colleagues to accept your authority to supervise them);
- written references (leave them with your boss so you won't slip straight out of his or her mind); and
- what you think your new role would involve (with a proposed job title that reflects this).
Don't leave your manager in any doubt that people like you are hard to find and, given half a chance, the competition would snap you up like that.
What if the answer's no?
Sadly, some bosses just don't get it, and the only way to get them to take you seriously is to resign or show them a letter from another employer offering you a job. This may be the only language they understand. However, this should be your very last resort when all other avenues or negotiations have failed, so don’t bluff unless you’re prepared to carry through on your promise.
It’s also possible, however, that your boss may have fairly judged that you're not ready for the move upward. In this case, you have every right to ask them why. It could be that you need to address a specific area of work before they’ll consider you for promotion. You may even be able to agree specific steps with your manager to work towards it and revisit the issue again in a few months.
If you don’t agree with their assessment and are angry or frustrated, avoid making a knee-jerk reaction. In this situation, trying to be gracious about it, knuckling down and biding your time may be the best thing for it. At the very least, you'll have given them food for thought, and there’s nothing to stop you looking around for other jobs in the meantime.
Good news: your manager values your contribution, sees your potential and agrees to your request. You can also expect to be paid more. Part of your case for promotion should include a proposal on salary. Find out how to pitch for a payrise.
Applying for an advertised senior role? Visit our Getting a Job section for advice and information on CVs, applications, interviews and tests.