How to Ask for a Promotion

Asking for a promotion is no easy task. You might be struggling to find the right moment, and you might be worried that you’ll come across as arrogant or self-serving. But if you’re looking to get ahead in your career, then you’re going to need to be able to ask for what you want.  After all, not everybody wants to get to the top of their organization. You may well be eager to advance; but many people are happy remaining at the level they’re at, perhaps being unwilling to take on extra responsibility leading to more time in the office making difficult decisions. And that’s absolutely fine - everybody is different. The point is that it’s not necessarily going to be obvious to your company’s senior staff that you are looking for that promotion. So if you don’t communicate your ambitions, the powers that be won’t necessarily assume they exist.  Okay – so you know that you need to ask. But how to do it? Let’s consider some ideas.
Jun 15, 2020

Prepare the ground

Asking for a promotion is not a one-off, yes-or-no event. Presenting your manager with a request and expecting them to accept or refuse is not an approach in tune with professionalism or human psychology. We are more likely to accede to requests if we are primed for them and they do not come out of the blue.

That means you need to plant a seed well in advance. Discuss your career goals in a casual conversation with your manager, perhaps if you have a time when you’re having lunch or are driving to a client meeting together. As well as letting your manager know about your ambitions, you’ll also get an idea of their thinking by measuring their response. You can then approach them with a more concrete request further down the track.

Get the timing right

When you do make a formal approach on the subject, pick a time when the business is performing well – perhaps after something positive has happened, like a major client renewing a contract. If you choose a time when staff have just been laid off and the company is struggling, it’ll be easy for your manager to tell you that now isn’t the time to consider promotions.

Support yourself with facts

It’s a good idea to keep track of your achievements at the firm. Know exactly where you are: how many chargeable hours are you achieving each month? How many new clients have you brought to the firm over the previous year? How much value are you creating for the business?

Armed with such concrete data, you’ll be much better able to support your request for a promotion. Remember, nobody else is going to present a list of your achievements for you – so you might as well ensure they’re being considered.

Think about what you’d do differently

Perhaps part of the reason you’d like to move up is that you have good ideas for how your department or firm could change its practices for the better. Are you frustrated with the missed opportunities and inefficient processes in place at the moment?

Either way, think about what you would do if you actually were promoted. What would you do in your first 30, 60, and 90 days in the job? If you’ve got a set of ideas and a drive to implement them, that gives whoever makes the decisions on promotions in your firm a good reason to give you a chance. 

Many of us find asking for things, in general, to be difficult. But as the old saying goes, ‘If you don’t ask, you don’t get’. If you want to move up in your career, then don’t be afraid to take the steps you need to get yourself where you want – and that includes making that plain old request.

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