Moving up in your job is a natural progression of experience and time. As you expand your capabilities both personally and professionally it makes sense to channel your strengths into higher-level positions that supply you with more responsibilities, organizational positioning, money and self-satisfaction. Climbing the corporate ladder, of course, requires preparation and planning to ensure that your boss and others support your growth and advancement.
- create an executive summary
- know your career path
- be sensitive to timing
- have the meeting
- follow up
- think you are entitled to a promotion
- assume your manager thinks you’re ready
- compare yourself to others
- become negative and cynical
- be surprised if more time is needed
Before you ask for a promotion, you need to prepare a simple (one page) high-level summary to create a structured pitch to your manager. This summary consists of all your key accomplishments that have provided significant value to the business and team. The summary should also include any recognition you received from peers or customers. Include notes about new tasks or side projects you have worked on while completing your regular job duties. This summary helps position you as results oriented but also comfortable stretching and taking on more responsibilities. The more concrete your examples the better. Make sure your summary is to the point and demonstrates how your personal drive leads to meaningful results.
Spend some time researching your career path. Sometimes the next level position isn’t always as linear as it seems on an organization chart. Great results may not be enough special skills, non-specific experience in a certain industry, or other unknown requirements may prevent you from being able to take the next step. Look at others in the role you are seeking. Why are they there? How long were they with the company before they were promoted? Is their background special or unique? Are you working on things that align with the next level up? The next level you are seeking has to be a natural next step that scales up for both you and the role itself.
In most cases, the right time to ask for a promotion is during defined performance review periods. This could be end of the year, quarterly, etc. Regardless of when you decide to ask, make sure the conditions are in your favor. Recent layoffs, bad financial results, a major work deadline, or when your manager is sick, are not times to have the promotion discussion. Conditions may not always be ideal so make sure your timing is reasonable. Even during lunch time may be enough to get the discussion started.
When you have secured time with your manager, treat the meeting as if you are interviewing for a new job. Come fresh and prepared and imagine your boss is a venture capital executive you are seeking sponsorship from for a new product idea. Schedule no more than 30 minutes. The more you stay objective on what you are asking and less emotional on the outcome, the more confidence and polish you show. Answer questions and objections professionally and completely but don’t let your manager control the conversation and go on a tangent. To help keep you relaxed, think of the meeting as a formality to getting your promotion rather than a major event or interrogation. End the meeting on time – no exceptions.
After your discussion, create a suitable time to check in on progress. Promotions are not precise changes in the organization, budget, or your manager’s opinion can impact the ability to make change happen, especially if the promotion is in more senior levels. If you did your homework, and your manager is supportive, you should be well positioned to justify the promotion.
When you work hard and remain engaged in your job through challenges with projects and people, it’s only natural for you to expect recognition in the form of career advancement. But working hard and not complaining is not enough to warrant a promotion opportunity. Time-in-seat is not necessarily a variable in making final promotion decisions. Relationships, visibility to important work, and the perception that you can handle an increased role make a big difference in weighing all the factors to getting on the radar for job movement. Don’t let yourself get angry, petty or withdrawn because what you think you deserve is not happening.
You and your manager have to be aligned when it comes to promotion timing. Your manager should agree with your personal evaluation of accomplishments and examples of why you think you are ready. Sometimes your boss can have a very different opinion of your suitability for the next level. You might be too junior in your current role or you have demonstrated all the expectations in your current role but not enough to show readiness for change upwards. If you find there is a difference of opinion on where you stand versus your boss, have a conversation and ask why. Don’t get argumentative or defensive, but understand where the gaps are and why those gaps exist. Certain factors may be getting in the way such as: regular communication of role and expectations is unclear, feedback on performance may be missing, or you have not adequately positioned yourself with your manager all along regarding your desire to move up. Find out where the roadblocks are and develop a plan to clear the obstacles to get to the next level.
The worst thing you can do is compare your worthiness for a promotion to someone else. Maybe John or Sally (your peers) were promoted recently but they had less experience or education than you. Using others as a platform to justify why you should be promoted never works. When you do this you give a reason why you are not ready – lack of maturity. Promotions happen for a variety of reasons and you can’t always assume that your viewpoint of the reasons, justification, and decisions that surround someone else’s promotion should mirror the reasons for you.
Probably the worst reaction you can have to not getting a promotion is to sulk, pout, or spread negative remarks about your boss or the promotion process to others. It’s natural to be frustrated when you don’t get something you feel you have worked hard for, but always take setbacks as opportunities to reevaluate your purpose, goals and career plan. Don’t fall into the trap that you will never get promoted or your boss hates you, etc. You may have a legitimate point for dispute but don’t focus on your disdain as that will only reduce your personal power and legitimize why you were not selected.
Sometimes you get an outcome you may not have anticipated – your boss is supportive of your promotion, but there are conditions that need to be met before it happens. This is the challenge of aligning your timing to your boss’s or company's timing. Often this is the case with promotions. You have to perform in the next level up role before you get rewarded with the promotion. Budget or business needs are other factors as well. It’s ok to clarify the timing but do it in a non-threatening way. Be professional and understand that certain decisions take time.
Feeling good about your work achievements and knowing what you can deliver are key factors in clarifying your readiness for a promotion. Asking your boss to help you move up works best when you can clearly show how a promotion can positively impact the needs of your boss and the business. The promotion process doesn’t have to be scary or feel like an exercise in futility. The natural progression of your career should be straightforward provided you can address any concerns or questions that surface regarding your readiness and willingness to get to the next level.