When you’ve been working at one company long enough, your interests will change and your list of responsibilities grow. Coworkers leave and their duties get absorbed and redistributed, either temporarily or permanently. New projects get added to the collective docket as the company expands. Curiosities might guide you to explore new facets of the job. Whatever led you here, it’s not uncommon to feel that your new evolved level of experience and responsibility doesn’t match up with your original title. If that’s the case, then it may be time to learn how to ask for a promotion.
If you hope to continue your career path with the company for more years, it’s important for you to advocate for yourself and fight for a well-deserve title bump.
Of course, these requests don’t often happen out of the blue — not successfully, anyway. They require a fair amount of planning to go smoothly. Follow these five important steps to build your case for a larger role at your company.
Bullet out your achievements while on the team.
Take stock in your accomplishments (especially those that directly benefit the company) ahead of the conversation about a promotion. If you brought in new business, don’t leave out the dollar amount. If you’ve improved efficiency in some way, quantify the difference.
When vying for a promotion to the Vice President of Human Resources at an HR services company, Gretchen Van Vlymen prepared examples of how she was ready for the next move. “I [wanted to showcase] ways in which I had added to the organization by going above and beyond what was required of my current job,” she told Harvard Business Review. “I also wanted to show how those efforts affected the productivity of my team and department—and consequently the [company’s] bottom line.”
Now’s not the time to be humble. Brag a little! Not only are you justifying a new title for your current and future contributions to the team, but you’re also selling yourself as the best candidate for this more senior role.
Define your new title and salary.
Asking for a promotion will often require a series of conversations, rather than just one, allowing your employer to weigh whether this new role is the right fit and at the right time. Don’t add another step to the process by leaving your dream title open-ended. When you speak in hypotheticals, it’s easier for your plan to get tabled for further discussion at a later time, once you’ve had time to think through your goals. So, while you take a critical eye to all that you’ve brought to the table, also consider what type of role would be your ideal next step.
At the same time, do your homework on what salary best suits this new title. You shouldn’t attach dollar amounts to your initial ask, but you should be prepared for the possibility because this title change is your one shot at a significant raise. Typically, the average employee earns less than a three percent salary increase raise (primarily a cost of living adjustment) each year she stays on, while “the average raise an employee receives for leaving is between a 10 percent to 20 percent increase in salary,” Cameron King reported for Forbes.com. An in-house promotion is your chance to make up for potential pay increase you’ve missed out on by not moving elsewhere. Don’t pull this number out of thin air. Rather, realistically estimate the worth of a new position using a personalized salary calculator from Glassdoor, which takes into consideration not only the average pays for the title but also your location, experience, and any data points it might have on trends within your company.
Consider how this move will benefit the company.
While your new title will certainly directly impact your day-to-day, remember that your boss is just as interested (if not more so) in how this change can benefit the company at large. Looking ahead and strategizing for the bigger picture demonstrates your commitment to the goals of the team, and an experienced team player is a worthy investment for a hiring manager.
“I remember back in my corporate marketing career when I served vice president, my manager and I were at lunch and he discussed that my role would potentially be expanded to oversee an additional set of products and services worth millions in revenue,” Career Breakthrough coach Kathy Caprino shared on Forbes.com. “One question [my manager] asked was about how I thought I could take the successes I’d achieved in my initial role and apply them to the new business I’d be heading.” Giving this thought ahead of lunch allowed her the time to develop answers and land that promotion.
Practice, practice, practice.
Confidence comes with a little rehearsal. Find someone you trust who will provide honest and constructive criticism, such as a previous manager or a trusted mentor — bonus if they haves experience in the hiring process. Running through your approach with a partner allows you to formulate what might be an awkward ask aloud and fielding questions you didn’t anticipate.
“The value of a practice scenario shouldn’t be underestimated,” chief strategy and marketing officer at RedPeg Marketing Fredda Hurwitz told NBC News. “It instantly creates a safe space to prepare for some off-the-cuff questions that could otherwise catch them off guard... Practicing their delivery with a trusted mentor can help relieve some of the pressure, allowing the candidate to be themselves and shine.”
Time your request correctly.
Glassdoor, a website known for its comprehensive and transparent job search tools, recommends asking about a promotion at a time you’re scheduled to have a performance review. After all, your manager will have also refreshed his or her memory on your recent accomplishments and likely prepared to offer recognition (potentially bonuses) for the work you put in this year.
If that annual one-on-one has just passed and the next one is too far away or your company forgoes the formal sit-down altogether, take the temperature of its financial situation to determine the appropriate time to discuss a promotion. Shortly after announcements of new business and other big wins for the company would be the best times to suggest a larger, higher-paying role within the company, whereas asking after a recent round of layoffs might come across as tonedeaf.
In the meantime, watch the job boards. Human resource departments for larger corporations regularly update the career pages with listings for open positions, and spying one here would be an equally opportune moment to have a chat about your future with the company. The HR team may be conducting an ongoing headhunt for a position in another department, a good sign that there is room to grow—in this listed position or another one. It doesn’t hurt to inquire about a position you know to be open.
If your boss says, “no”...
Yes, you can follow the plan to a tee and still have your proposal turned down by the boss. Hear them out. Ask for an explanation and be open to the logic behind it. It may be an issue with the timing, which is out of your control; in that case, get an idea of when would be better to entertain this discussion. If your boss doesn’t feel that the position would be a good fit for you based on your current level of experience or other factors, take this opportunity to develop a list of goals and a timeline to reach them. A game plan will keep the door open to a promotion down the line.
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