Do you know how to ask for a promotion at work? Better yet, do you know how to successfully ask to be promoted?
Every employee worries about the day they decide to ask their manager or boss for a promotion. You might feel both nervous and excited about the outcome at the same time.
Whether you’re unsure how to ask for a promotion or are anxious about asking your manager for one, the first step is to understand that it’s natural to feel this way.
It’s a big deal! You’ll be asking for more responsibilities and more money while attempting to prove why you deserve it.
It can get difficult if your manager doesn’t see it the same way as you do.
Thankfully, there are steps you can follow when asking for a promotion that will help you successfully get one.
How to Ask for a Promotion
Asking for a promotion is always the most difficult part. People replay it repeatedly in their heads, making themselves more anxious or nervous.
It doesn’t have to be this way, though. You can ask for a promotion with confidence by understanding that you deserve the promotion and demonstrating to yourself and your supervisor that you are the right person to take on increased responsibilities.
1. Find an Opportunity for a Promotion
The first step is to identify promotion opportunities that you want to apply for.
Think about what it is you want by making a change to your career. Is it a pay raise? New title? More perks? New assignments? Being promoted to manager?
Then look for promotion opportunities within the organization that will help you achieve your career goals.
There’s not much point in asking for a promotion if there is nowhere for you to be promoted to.
If you work for a small company, there simply may not be any positions available. Or if business is slow, there may not be any new projects or clients coming in. You may have to wait for something to change before there’s a chance for a promotion.
On the other hand, if business is booming, use that to get ahead on your career path.
Has your job description grown and your workload changed, and you feel you should be promoted? Don’t wait for a position to open up – be proactive and make your own opportunity! Ask for a raise or job promotion by negotiating a new, higher-level role for yourself.
2. Why Do You Deserve to Be Promoted at Work?
You can’t expect your manager to understand why you should move up the corporate ladder over your colleagues if you can’t justify it in your own head first.
Think of some recent wins and accomplishments in your professional career.
What have you done in your current role that has been valuable to the company and made you look great? Have you learned new skills or done anything outside of the company that has boosted your qualifications, experience, or education?
These small things will help you create value for yourself, so when you pitch it to your boss, they understand why you should get promoted.
It’s smart to make a list of the reasons why you believe you deserve to get a promotion, so when you approach your manager, you’re already set to back yourself up.
Doing this will make you feel more confident and less nervous about it. It’ll make you feel like you deserve to be asking your manager for a promotion, and your manager will be able to sense that same level of confidence.
Pro Tip: Make It About Them, Not About You
A great way to improve your chances of getting a promotion is to make it about the company, and not about yourself.
How have you improved the company’s bottom line? Did you bring on new clients and make more money for them? What unique skills do you bring to the team? How do you make your boss’s job easier?
Focusing on how you can help reach the goals of the organization is one of the best ways to move up the ladder.
3. Set Up a Meeting
Once you have the confidence to ask for a promotion and have your reasons ready for why you deserve one, the next step is actually getting one. This involves more execution than preparation.
When you approach your manager, make sure it’s in a one-on-one setting. Asking for a promotion or a meeting to discuss a possible promotion in front of your coworkers will make you look unprofessional, and frankly, it’s none of their business.
Send an email requesting a meeting or talk to your manager privately and ask to set up a time to meet. This way, your manager will clear space in their schedule for you, and you’ll have ample time to discuss a promotion.
Be sure to give them some context of what this meeting is about by mentioning you’d like to discuss your performance and potential opportunities for advancement. If you don’t, the meeting might not go in the direction you had hoped, because your manager hasn’t had any time to prepare or think about your contribution to the team. You want them to be prepared, too!
4. Practice Your Pitch
Now that you have a time set to ask for your promotion, the next step is plotting out what you’re going to say before you actually do it.
If you phrase your wording the right way, your chances of getting what you want will improve.
The best way to do this is by practicing it a few times when you’re alone. Your pitch for a promotion should start conversational and then take a serious turn when you get to the “ask.”
5. Set the Tone
In your meeting, don’t immediately launch into your pitch.
Start by asking your manager about their day or the weather, something light and conversational to break the ice. I know small talk can seem pointless or boring, but it’s an important part of creating connections, showing respect, and setting the meeting’s tone.
Don’t skip the small talk, but don’t waste too much time on it, either. You want to get to the point of the meeting and not spend your time socializing.
6. Demonstrate Why You Deserve to be Promoted
Next, briefly list your most recent accomplishments with the company and how much of a help you’ve been. This will put you in a positive light and remind your manager how valuable you are to your company.
Give examples where you can and really sell yourself – but again, keep this short. You are highlighting your accomplishments and contributions, not explaining every little detail.
Tip: Prepare a Short Written Summary
To really impress your boss or senior manager, prepare a short 1-2 page summary that outlines your track record and shows why you should be getting promoted.
Include specific examples, concrete numbers, and metrics that are supported by documentation and data as much as possible, and avoid feelings or emotions.
Some examples include:
- praise from your performance evaluations
- testimonials from clients
- customer satisfaction ratings
- examples of when you went above and beyond
- how you have increased revenue and decreased costs
- problems you have solved
- systems you have developed
- project outcomes or targets you have met
- new ideas you have implemented
- training you have completed
Having something in writing helps you prepare your talking points when asking for additional responsibilities and gives the decision-makers something to reference as they consider your request.
7. Ask for a Promotion
Now is where you actually ask to be promoted.
Be direct and say, “I would like to be considered for [the new position or project],” followed by how well you think you’ll be able to handle the new role and new responsibilities.
This is where confidence is key.
If you sound shaky about handling a new role, your manager will see that and have doubts. But if you’re serious and confident about how well you think you’ll do, your manager will also have more confidence in you taking on the position.
8. Let Your Manager Respond
Once you’ve given your pitch and have asked about a promotion, stop talking, and give your manager a chance to reply.
Pay attention to how they respond, because this will tell you a lot!
Whether they are excited and open to the idea of promoting you or they have any apprehensions, their body language and facial expressions will give you clues. So will what they say and what words they use.
Just like in a job interview, if your manager is smiling and asking follow-up questions, that’s a good sign.
But if they seemed closed off and disinterested, that could mean your chances of getting a promotion are slim. Try not to let this discourage you, though. There are many reasons they might respond this way, or they could just be having a bad day.
Most likely, your manager won’t give you a solid ‘yes’ or ‘no’ immediately after you ask. They might say something about taking it into consideration and getting back to you. This is your cue to thank them for their time and leave so they can think about what you said.
How Long Does it Take to Get a Promotion at Work?
After your meeting, your manager might give you a timeframe for when they will have an answer or when they would like to further discuss giving you a promotion.
But if they didn’t, don’t worry about when they’ll get back to you. The last thing you want to do is annoy your manager and nag them about when you’ll be hearing from them.
Instead, play it cool and continue to do your work to the best of your ability.
More than likely, your manager will respond to you within a week. If it’s been more than a week and you haven’t heard anything, ask for a follow-up meeting to discuss how they feel about your promotion inquiry.
It’s important to approach this follow-up meeting with the same confidence you went into the first meeting with. You want to look like you’re serious about this promotion because you want your manager to know nobody could do this job better than you can.
At the same time, while you’re trying to look confident and serious, it’s important not to come across as being pushy or intimidating toward your manager. You don’t want them to feel that you’re trying to be forceful with them.
When is the Best Time to Ask for a Promotion?
The best time to ask for a promotion can vary depending on your company and your position with that company.
Some businesses will have a promotion policy that directs when promotions can be given, such as after a certain amount of time or reaching a certain level on a performance review.
Others will follow hiring schedules. For example, if you work at a school, you’re more likely to be promoted if you ask before the school year begins than if you ask in the middle of the semester.
Ask When There is an Opportunity
As mentioned above, your timing may depend on when there is a new opportunity for you to be promoted.
You may have to wait for a coworker to resign or retire so you can move up or for a new project to be finalized that requires more staff.
Ask When You Have Proven Your Worth
For the most part, you shouldn’t even consider asking for a promotion until you’ve been with a company for at least a year. At that point, your manager will know how great of a worker you are.
No one wants to promote an employee who isn’t valuable and brings nothing to the table. If you have only recently started your new job and are still too “new,” you might not have had the chance to fully show what you’re capable of just yet. Or you may have joined the team during a slow period and have yet to experience their busy time.
The longer you work with a company, the more time you’ll have to earn accomplishments and prove your worth.
In the first few years working for a company, do your best to stand out from other employees and work hard. These things will help your case when you ask for a promotion later on.
Ask When You’ve Received Great Feedback
If your manager mentions how great you are doing during a performance review, use that to your advantage! But you don’t necessarily have to wait for your annual review time to make your promotion request.
Any time your boss acknowledges your hard work is a good time to consider what you can do to move forward, whether that’s moving to a new job with the company or asking for a raise and a new job title.
Look for other opportunities to talk to your boss about when you could be promoted, too. Soon after finishing a major project or landing a lucrative client is a perfect time!
Ask When You’re No Longer Feeling Challenged
Another time to ask for a promotion is when you’ve been at a company for longer than a year, and you’re starting to feel like it’s not challenging enough.
Staying challenged at your job is a major key to feeling happy at work, and companies know this.
Asking for a promotion because you don’t feel challenged in your current position shows your manager that you’re looking for more.
It also vaguely implies that you might go somewhere else to feel challenged at your job, and if you’re a valuable employee, then the company won’t want that to happen.
4 Mistakes to Avoid Making When Asking for a Promotion at Work
Don’t Ask Too Early
One easy mistake to make is asking for a promotion too early. If you ask for a promotion within the first year of working, you probably won’t be taken seriously by your managers.
It’s crucial to establish some time with a company first before asking for more from them. Without this time, you will not be able to earn value to the company and show them why you deserve more.
Don’t Ask Over the Phone or Through Email
It might seem easier to ask a difficult question, like asking for a promotion, over the phone or through email. But face to face (either in person or over video chat) is the best way to do it.
If you ask over the phone or through email, not only will you not be taken seriously, but you’ll also look unprofessional to your manager. Make sure you schedule a time in the day that’s convenient for both of you to meet one-on-one and then ask.
Don’t Be Discouraged if They Say No
There are many reasons you might get passed over for a promotion, and not all of them are about you personally.
One of your co-workers might have been promoted because they have seniority. The business could be struggling, and they are trying to avoid layoffs. Or your boss might have another huge promotion in mind for you. (Which would be awesome!) It really could be anything.
This is why you should ask for feedback.
Your boss might not be able to disclose everything, but they can guide your job performance so you have a better chance of earning a promotion in the near future.
Don’t Avoid Asking!
One of the biggest career mistakes people make, and perhaps the most important, is not even attempting to ask for a promotion in the first place.
Many employees view asking for a promotion as something they can’t do because it’s not their place. If you’ve been with an employer for years and do great work for them, then the chances are high that you’re overdue for a promotion, and your employers know that.
Asking for one will get you what you deserve.
Understanding how to ask for a promotion is the key between staying where you are in your career and advancing to the next level.
Be brave, confident and understand that the worst a manager can say is no.
Amanda Kay, the founder of My Life, I Guess, provides valuable career advice and support for anyone striving to make a living and, more importantly, make a life. Whether it's navigating job searches, learning new skills, overcoming unemployment, or dealing with debt, My Life, I Guess has been a go-to resource for career guidance and financial stability since 2013. Amanda's expertise and relatable approach have been featured in trusted publications such as MSN, Credit.com, Yahoo! Finance, the Ladders and Fairygodboss.