Your boss isn’t always going to be the first person to realize you’re overdue for a promotion. In fact, chances are, the first one to think of it will be — wait for it — you.
Upon the initial realization, you’ll probably keep it to yourself. However, as time goes on and you haven’t received the promotion you rightfully deserve, you might find yourself aching to speak up. Unfortunately, this task often deters hard workers from getting what they want, as it’s not easy to ask for a new title, new position or pay raise.
So, how do you get a promotion, or how do you ask for a raise? We’re here to tell you that, yes, figuring out how to ask for a promotion or pay increase is a difficult task, but it’s not impossible. You can choose your words and actions wisely so your opinions are presented professionally and respectfully — in other words, so they’re presented in a way your manager is more likely to hear and accept.
How to Ask for a Promotion
1. Prepare Your Talking Points.
It’s not enough to simply say you deserve a promotion or salary increase. You’ll have to show your boss you deserve it. How do you show your boss you're ready for a promotion? Start by preparing some talking points.
If you want a promotion or pay raise, you cannot simply be good at your job. You have to be great, and you have to regularly do more than what’s asked of you in your current role. When you’re not on the spot, it’s easy to think of examples of your accomplishments, but in that big, nerve-wracking, one-on-one meeting, it’s a different story. It’s best to go into the conversation with some bullet points written down so your nerves won’t get the best of you.
Along with this background information, do some research on the job you want to obtain through your promotion. Reference your own track record and explain how you’ll easily tackle the responsibilities of your new position.
You should make an actual list of these talking points beforehand. Think about projects you've completed exceptionally well, news responsibilities you've taken on since starting the position, and any praise you've received. If you walking into the meeting with these bullet points, your boss will know you're prepared and take you more seriously.
2. Know How to Sell Yourself Properly.
There are certain things your manager will and will not want to hear during your meeting. For example, it’s a bad idea to point out coworkers’ flaws to make yourself shine. Your boss leads those people, too — and may have had a hand in hiring them as well — so you don’t want to bring down or talk badly about the team your boss has built. Plus, you'll look like anything but a team player.
Instead, point out qualities that contribute to the team, such as supporting your colleagues or assisting in a project. Mention specific examples. These should be on your list of talking points. Don't forget to consider and describe the ways in which your promotion will benefit the company. For example, you might discuss how you'll be able to devote more time to X responsibility, an area that is your strength.
At the end of the day, everyone — you, your boss, your coworkers — is working toward this same goal. Frame your potential promotion as something that would make the company better through detailed examples, and then prove it with your talking points.
3. Ask for a Recommendation.
Perhaps you want a promotion because someone else is leaving a higher-up position and you see an opportunity to advance beyond your current role. Depending on your workplace relationship with this employee, you could use a conversation about the job and its responsibilities to great advantage.
For example, you could learn the ins and outs of the job and what it would require of you, which you could, in turn, use to sell yourself properly for the position. If the employee leaving is someone with whom you’ve worked well and closely, there’s no harm in asking them to put in a good word for you so you can take over when the position becomes vacant. It's a good idea to do this formally and get the recommendation in writing to make the process official.
4. Set the Date (and Time).
Timing is everything. If you have your annual review coming up, sit tight. This one-on-one meeting is the perfect moment to mention your desire for a promotion. And, if your review is very positive, your boss will probably be receptive to your request.
Of course, the desire for change doesn’t always fall in line with the workplace calendar year. So, if you’re not due for a review soon, consider what timing makes the best sense and schedule a meeting with your boss. Be clear about what you want to discuss, although you don’t have to flat-out say that you’d like to meet to talk about a promotion. Perhaps you could say you want to touch base regarding your career growth or future possibilities or potential within the company. Choose a time that works for both of you and make sure it's on both of your calendars.
5. Make the Best of Whatever Happens.
If your conversation is successful, your journey ends — or starts — here. Of course, you might not always get the promotion you ask for. In that case, you’ll have to weigh your options.
You could start by asking questions about why your boss isn’t open to promoting you or giving you a salary or pay raise. You can also consider compromising with your boss, asking for some new, tougher responsibilities to prove you’re ready for the next level. By taking those on successfully and demonstrating your accomplishments, you will undoubtedly prove you were right all along. Just make sure you're both on the same page about these responsibilities. You don't want to take on more work only to find out your boss never had any intention of considering promoting you. Instead, explicitly discuss what taking on these responsibilities will mean for the future.
A boss unwilling to budge might, in the end, be a sign it’s time to move onto a new job. It’s certainly tough to search for jobs, apply, and interview, but if you’re working this hard without recognition, then it could be worth your while.
The bottom line is you’ll never know if you don’t try. So, get yourself ready, do your research and set a date — it’s time to ask for a promotion.
More on Negotiations
Negotiating promotions and pay can be tricky. Here are three resources to help you out:
This is your all-in-one guide to negotiating, from raises to job offers. You'll learn exactly what to say in different negotiation scenarios through detailed scripts and advice.
There are many dos when it comes to negotiating a promotion, as well as many don'ts. Here's what not to say when you're taking this crucial step in your career.
Your salary matters. How do you do it effectively? Find out in this guide.
Sarah Landrum is an expert career blogger and the founder of Punched Clocks, a career and lifestyle blog helping professionals create a career they love and live a happy, healthy life. For more from Sarah, follow her on social media and subscribe to her newsletter.
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