It’s one of life’s most anxiety-inducing moments – asking your boss for a promotion, especially in economically unstable times like these. But putting yourself out there is one of the most important things you can do for your career, and – luckily – the decision doesn’t just come down to what you say in that all-important meeting. Here’s what to do before the big talk to get that ‘yes’ from your boss…
Ask These Questions
Ask yourself if your company offers professional growth in the first place, and whether you can see yourself there in the long run. If the answer to the latter is half-hearted or a straight-out no, you’ll waste your time asking for a promotion and need to find a job elsewhere.
“Think long-term,” advises Lynn Taylor, workplace expert and author of Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant. “Ask yourself, ‘Does this support what I ultimately want to do in five to ten years?’ If you’re not happy in your current role, don’t think a promotion will ‘fix’ everything.”
Preparing ahead of time means you’ll be able to prove you’re ready for the next step. Make a list of contributions you've made to the company, as well as what you believe you can add in the future. Write up notes about your various accomplishments and use them as talking points, save emails which praise your brilliant work, keep copies of projects you’ve done exceptionally well in and maintain a comprehensive portfolio to serve as supporting evidence for your case.
People who keep a record of their successes along the way, and the ways in which they’ve benefited their company, are usually the ones who reap the rewards – so remember that your daily routine of assigned tasks is not enough, you must go above and beyond what’s expected of you.
Make It A Win-Win
A promotion should be an all-round win for both you and your employer. While a promotion will certainly benefit your career, it must also benefit the company – your boss is most likely going to base their decision on what they believe is best for the business and its future success.
Explaining how your promotion could help grow the company is an excellent angle to take, as it gives you a chance to demonstrate you really care about the business and are interested in contributing even more than you are in your current role.
Know Your Worth
Research shows that women ask for promotions 85% less often than their male counterparts and, on average, ask for 30% less money than men. Although money shouldn’t be discussed until you’ve actually been offered the promotion, it’s essential to be prepared for the conversation should it come up. Besides, knowing your own worth, with or without the intention of a promotion, can help you figure out if you’re truly valued in your job, or whether it might be time to move on.
There are plenty of tools to help you discover your financial worth, including PayScale and Salary.com, which will show you the norms and average salaries for your industry and company.
Be A Team Player
Skills and abilities will only get us so far – and they’re no guarantee of a promotion. Unfortunately, office politics can count more than you think. “If you want to climb the ladder, it’s important that you analyse your corporate culture to determine what you need to focus on besides a job well done,” explains Amy Hoover, president of recruitment website Talent Zoo.
Ensuring you’re aligned with office culture and that you get on well with the rest of the team is just as important as doing your job well. Developing and using your people skills, helping co-workers wherever possible and making an effort to get to know the people you work with are all tips to try. Research also shows that positive people are more likely to get promoted, and quicker too.
Act The Part
Acting and looking professional at all times plays a big role in how your boss will judge you. Being punctual, reliable and cooperative is an absolute must, but dressing the part is equally as important – and yes, even on casual work days. Always remember to dress for success.
Arrive First, Leave Last
Or at least aim to be half an hour early and never leave the office before your boss. Remember that getting a promotion effectively means you will be taking on more work and responsibilities, so make sure your boss can see you’re able to handle the extra work. This means going the extra mile, approaching problem solving in innovative ways, asking insightful questions and thinking independently when issues arise.
Make no mistake – bosses are fully aware of the employees who work harder than anyone else and genuinely care about the future of the business. Working above and beyond your job description means you’ll probably work longer hours, but you’ll also climb the career ladder faster.
Nail Your Timing
The best times to ask for a promotion are at your annual or semi-annual review – as you’ll already be discussing your progress and future career. Otherwise, if you’d like to bring up a promotion at any other time, it’s worth giving your boss a heads-up by sending an email to request a meeting, as well as letting them know what you’d like to discuss.
“Try to have a conversation about your compensation a couple of months in advance so that your boss has time to make a case and advocate for budget ahead of that process,” suggests Lydia Frank, Vice President of content strategy for PayScale.
Bite The Bullet
At this point, you’ve done your homework, know your worth and you’ve scheduled a meeting with your boss – all that’s left to do is simply ask the question. Best case scenario: you’ll make a compelling case and will get the promotion, worst case: your boss will give you feedback on what you need to improve on. It’s literally that harmless.
No matter what happens, the important thing is that you took the big step and actually did it, because being turned down is much better than never asking and never knowing at all. Promotions usually happen when we ask for them, they rarely come to us out of the blue.
Ask More Questions
If your boss’ answer was ‘yes’, congratulations. If it was a ‘no’, it doesn’t have to be over just yet. It pays to ask for specifics about why you’re not being given a promotion – just make sure you don’t come off as defensive or aggressive. Asking what skills and qualities are required to get the role you want is well worth it because it’s a chance to find out what you can do next time around.
In the words of Estée Lauder, “If you have a goal, if you want to be successful, if you really want to do it... you’ve got to work hard, you’ve got stick to it, and you’ve got to believe in what you’re doing.” And if that happens to be at another company, so be it. If, by the end of the meeting, you have a feeling your employer doesn’t particularly value you, it may be time to look elsewhere in the interest of your career.