Updated June 4, 2022 . AmFam Team
You’ve been a rockstar at work lately, haven’t you? Achieving your goals, going above and beyond your job expectations, and stepping up to take on more responsibilities can make you feel confident you’re ready for the next step. While it certainly may seem like a promotion is coming your way, getting to the next level in your career may take more than great work performance. If you want a promotion, you may have to ask for it — and be prepared to prove you’re ready for the responsibility.
Asking for a promotion may be one of the most nerve-wracking things you’ll ever do in your professional career. Coming prepared to the conversation can calm your nerves and help you land the promotion you want — and deserve! Keep reading to find out how you can reach the next rung on your career ladder.
It’s not always easy but advocating for yourself is a must when you decide it’s time to make your next career move. Clearly stating what you want and building a solid case for why you should get it can make the ask feel much less daunting. These steps can help increase your chances of landing that coveted new position!
Before you knock on your boss’ office door, the first thing you should do is clearly define what type of promotion you’re hoping to earn. Are you looking for a management role? Are you asking to be promoted into an existing position, or are you recommending the company create a new role? Maybe you’re wanting more compensation but aren’t too concerned about a title change. Having a clear idea of what’s the right next step for your career can help you determine if this particular promotion will move you toward fulfilling your dream.
When you’re seeking a promotion, keep in mind your boss may not be your only path. You owe it to yourself to explore all opportunities within the company. Network with others in your organization, and let it be known you’re interested in a position with more responsibility. Sometimes, moving around is the best way to move up. The perfect role could be waiting for you in another department!
Part of the prep work in asking for a promotion is finding out everything you can about the role you’ve set your sights on. Before you meet with your boss, make sure you know all the details of the position and why your skills and professional experiences make you the top choice.
For example, if the position will be available due to someone leaving, invite that person to grab a coffee to discuss the role in depth. Understanding the job through their lens can help you better visualize the responsibilities and skills you’ll need to be successful.
If you’re wanting to be promoted into a brand-new role, make sure you can clearly explain the need for it. Since it’s a new position, you may want to outline the responsibilities the person in the role may undertake — in other words, take the opportunity to write your own job description!
The road to a promotion is paved with plenty of conversations — it’s rarely a once-and-done request. Plant the seed in your manager’s mind by asking what it takes to get to the next level — and ask for constructive feedback to help you gain the experience you need or strengthen the skills you have to get there. Be sure to communicate your desire to grow and progress with the company, and revisit the conversation with your boss periodically to show you’re making headway toward the desired qualifications.
While it’s important to let your boss know, you can also confide in a mentor or trusted co-worker about your career aspirations as well. Having a supportive network that can help uplift your voice and work performance can give you the recognition you need to get to that next step.
When you’re looking to move to the next level, you’ll need to prove why you’re the best person to fill the role. One way to get started is to list all the successes you’ve had in your current role. This will help you organize your thoughts and develop talking points for when you’re ready to request a promotion.
What information should your list include?
You’ve probably heard the saying, “Timing is everything.” That holds true when asking for a promotion. If your company just held a round of layoffs or shared a less-than-stellar earnings report, it may be a good idea to hold off on your request. Similarly, if your company is planning a big restructure, it might be best to wait to ask when there’s a clearer picture of what roles may be available and if positions will be removed or added.
But if your company just landed a big new client or if you just turned in an impressive performance on an important project, it might be a great time to bring up the idea of a promotion with your manager.
Another good time to ask for a promotion? During your annual review — assuming it’s glowing! A performance review allows you to highlight all the contributions you’ve made and skills you’ve learned over the past year. It’s a good time to remind your boss of your accomplishments and transition the conversation to how they align with the promotion you’re seeking.
And while timing is important, keep in mind it’s rarely perfect. If you’re ready to ask for a promotion but the economy isn’t great or your company is facing some challenges, there’s no harm in making the request. Don’t be afraid to ask for something you know you deserve. Even in tough times, organizations want to retain and reward valuable employees.
Contrary to what the movies show, promotions rarely happen overnight. The time between when you ask for a promotion and get an answer may be lengthy — possibly months. Don’t get discouraged! While you wait for an answer, keep working hard and finding ways to demonstrate you possess the qualifications for the position you want.
Not sure what to say to get the conversation started? Keep reading!
After you’ve done the initial prep work — identifying which position you want and doing a little research — you may be ready to get the conversation started. Two common approaches are by email and meeting in person.
Email. An email to your manager can start an informal conversation and plant the seed for your promotion request. It’s also a great method if you don’t meet with your manager regularly. A carefully thought out and crafted message is key. Try to keep your message concise — you’ll have the opportunity to go into detail later.
The subject line of your email should make it clear you’re interested in a promotion — something along the lines of “Promotion Inquiry for [insert position].”
After a friendly greeting, identify the position you want, and include a sentence or two about why you want it. Next, build your case. Show you have a clear understanding of the responsibilities and expectations involved with the position you’re requesting and how you currently meet — or exceed — them by listing three to five related contributions and qualifications, including how you are already performing many of the role’s duties. Finally, request a meeting to talk about your request and available opportunities.
Get started with this sample email:
Subject Line: Promotion Inquiry for [insert position name]
Hi, [insert manager’s name]. I hope you’re having a good week. I’m sending this message to express my interest in the open [insert position name] position. I believe the experience I’ve gained in my current role and the successes and contributions I’ve made so far qualify me for this promotion.
In my [insert number] years with the organization, I have accomplished many things that have prepared me to take the next step in my career. Here are a few highlights:
[Insert a bulleted list of 3-5 successes/contributions]
Thank you for your time. I look forward to scheduling time to talk more about this opportunity.
In-person discussion. You may prefer to start the conversation with a face-to-face conversation. This can be an informal lunch meeting or something more formal, like a scheduled office or virtual meeting.
Remember, do a little prep work beforehand — identify the role you want and create talking points to sell yourself as the best candidate for the job.
One idea of how you should approach your boss could be something like this:
Thanks for meeting with me today. I’d like to talk to you about opportunities for a promotion. Specifically, I’m interested in the [insert position] position.
I’ve been with the organization [insert number of years] and have gained knowledge and experience that would make me a great fit for this role. I know it will be a big responsibility, but I’m ready to take on more.
[Highlight a few successes/contributions]
[At the end of the meeting] Thanks again for your time. I’d like to schedule a follow-up meeting to get your feedback and talk in more detail about the steps I need to take to be considered for this promotion.
Asking for a promotion may not be easy, but you’re the only one who can do it! Remember, that while there are people who support you and your career dreams, only you can make them happen. As long as you put in the work, do your research and most importantly, shake off any self-doubt and believe in yourself, you’ll be more equipped than ever to make that big ask.
If you get the promotion, congratulations! Take time to celebrate before diving into the new role.
If the answer turns out to be no, don’t let that discourage you from your professional goals! If it’s due to a lack in skills or experience, ask for more opportunities or training to help propel you toward that next step. But if the reason didn’t provide actionable ways to help get you to that promotion, maybe it’s time to join the modern-day job hunt. It may be exactly what your career journey needs to get to that next level.
Whether you’re preparing to ask for a promotion, starting the interview process or need career development tips, we can help! Our Career Resources collection is full of information that can help you achieve your dream job.
This article is for informational purposes only and includes information widely available through different sources.