8 Things you should do before asking for a promotion

Asking for a Promotion

You’re not alone if you believe you’re deserving of advancement within your organization, but the opportunity hasn’t come your way. A recent survey shows approximately 80 percent of young professionals consider themselves to be leaders in their industries. And yet only 12 percent hold management titles, according to a 2013 report.

Instead of waiting for an opportunity to come, it may be time to take it upon yourself to seek it out. There are a number of ways to go about getting promoted. But this process requires a healthy amount of planning.

“Seeking a promotion should never be thought of as a one-time event,” explains Katy Curameng, director of career planning and development at University of Massachusetts Global. “It’s something you should work toward every day as a regular part of your work routine.”

We spoke to Curameng and a handful of other seasoned professionals to gain insight on the steps you should take before asking for a promotion. Their tips could help you land the advanced role you’ve set your sights on.

8 ways to set yourself up for success when asking for a promotion

While there’s no way you can guarantee achieving the advancement you feel you deserve, there are a lot of ways you can help build your case.

1. Build positive rapport with your manager

As the CEO of TalentGrow and the host of The TalentGrow Show podcast, Halelly Azulay specializes in helping people develop their leadership skills. One surefire way to help you stand out from the pack at work, she says, is to foster a positive work relationship with your boss.

“You can make yourself really differentiated by thinking about how to make your manager’s job easier, or how you can make your manager look good,” Azulay explains.

The reason to do this is clear: Your managerial team will be much more likely to view you as an indispensable part of the organization if they know they can consistently count on you.

“Build a good relationship with your manager by being the ‘safe pair of hands,’” offers Barry Moore, CEO of Great Work Life. “That means you are the one who does not drop the ball on an important task or deliverable.”

2. Make a list of your past achievements

As you prepare to approach a conversation about the possibility of a promotion, have a list of your contributions at the top of your mind. Beverly Friedmann, content manager at MyFoodSubscriptions, recommends that you be as specific as possible.

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“Writing down major projects — with specific metrics and goals you’ve met or exceeded — to present to your supervisor or other higher-ups can make a strong case for why you deserve to get that raise or promotion,” she says.

3. Take on extra responsibilities

Having a good handle on the ways you’ve already contributed to your company is clearly important. But it’s also a good idea to take some intentional steps outside the scope of your current role by volunteering for additional projects.

“This not only shows your willingness to be a team player, but also expands your knowledge and skill base,” Curameng says.

Successfully taking on additional responsibilities can demonstrate your ability to handle the demanding workload that often comes with a promotion. It can also help you expand your network outside your regular work groups, which may work to your advantage.

“Promotions rarely happen in silos,” Curameng adds. “The more your leader’s peers agree that you deserve the promotion, the better.”

4. Gather feedback on your performance

Before you approach your manager to ask for a promotion, try learning how others in the organization view you and your contributions. “Being self-aware of these perceptions is critical for career advancement,” Curameng urges. 

You may, for example, view yourself as an excellent negotiator. Others might see your skills in that area as being inflexible. Or maybe you have a tendency to shy away from public speaking, yet your colleagues see that as an area in which you excel.

“You’ll want an understanding of how others see you so you can either overcome challenges or promote strengths,” Curameng says. She adds that this will help demonstrate your openness to constructive feedback.

5. Criticize by creating

Most people, regardless of their company or industry, are able to see things that may be wrong within the organization. Azulay notes there are three common ways people react to these instances: complain to leadership, complain to colleagues or do nothing. She suggests a different approach to overcoming challenges or mistakes.

“Instead of just complaining or keeping quiet about it, you can criticize by creating,” Azulay says. “That means offering ideas and recommendations for solutions, and even beginning to take steps to make changes and implement them if possible.” 

6. Be cognizant of the timing

Friedmann notes that a successful promotion pitch has to be more nuanced than simply demonstrating your worth. She explains that timing matters. If your boss is about to take an important business trip or something pressing is going on, it may be best to hold off before asking for a promotion or a raise.

It can also be helpful to try and keep your finger on the pulse of the current financial climate of your company. For example, if you know that promotions typically happen at the top of the fiscal year, you should begin laying the ground work by making your pitch a few months ahead of time. Similarly, if the company just underwent a round of layoffs, that may be your sign to hold off for a while.

“If you sense there are too many fires being put out or other factors going on, wait for a time when there seems to be a positive upswing in general company culture,” Friedmann says. “It may be difficult, but in the long-term it can potentially help you score that promotion you’ve probably already been waiting on.”

7. Act like you already have the job

Taking on additional responsibilities is certainly one way to show you’re ready for the job you want. But acting the part can also encompass more than tackling additional duties.

“Dress and behave for the job you want, not the job you have,” Curameng says.

Do note, however, that you’ll want to stay true to what’s appropriate within the culture of your company. If the typical dress code is fairly casual, for example, showing up to work in a three-piece suit may not have the impact you’re hoping it will. Observe the professionals in your organization who have titles you hope to one day attain, and use their example as your inspiration.

8. Identify gaps that exist within the organization

While your motivations for obtaining a promotion may be more focused on your career aspirations, it’s important to consider your organization’s needs and then contemplate how you can help to fulfill them.

“Look around the office,” Curameng instructs. “Where are there skill gaps? If you are going to ask for or seek a promotion, you should bring something to the table that will benefit the organization.”

It’s also important to realize you may not currently possess the skills needed to fill those persistent gaps. In her book, Employee Development on a Shoestring, Azulay discusses the importance of taking ownership of your own development.

“Don’t wait for your organization to send you to a training or to give you development opportunities,” she explains. Instead, take the initiative.

It could be time to climb the ladder

As you contemplate asking for a promotion, be sure you’re heeding the advice of our experts by laying the groundwork that can help increase your chances of success. By cultivating additional workplace relationships and taking on more, you could show you’re an indispensable asset to your organization.

In evaluating your potential for career advancement, evaluate your current skill set. You may find that increasing your education could be helpful. In fact, 78 percent of employers have said that continuing education efforts have factored into facilitated promotions or advancements for their employees. It’s also true that the average MBA graduate will see a 77 percent salary increase after graduating with their master’s degree. Approximately 50 percent of UMass Global’s own Ed.D students receive a promotion or land a new position while they’re still in the program.

It’s clear that when it comes to climbing the professional ladder, pursuing advanced education can help you do it. If you haven’t earned a master’s degree, this may be a next step that will propel you forward. Learn more about UMass Global's robust collection of graduate programs, from business to psychology.

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