How to Ask for a Promotion

Recently Elliott Scott HR asked me to share my advice on how to have that tricky conversation with your manager to ask for that promotion you want. 

There will always be people you meet in the workplace who have the courage to ask for a promotion.   I was never that person.  It doesn’t mean I wasn’t confident in my abilities or that I was unsure that I was doing the best job I could.  Anyone who has met me knows that I am on the extraverted side and happy to talk to anyone but I do not like shouting about my achievements (but of course love it when people recognize them).  Therefore, asking to be promoted tended to sit on the too difficult pile, probably to my detriment at times waiting to be recognized rather than asking for that overdue promotion!  Fortunately I was able to grasp many opportunities along the way.

As I set up my own business I am reflecting a lot on what I learnt over the course of my corporate career and in particular the areas that I’m not so keen to do, so I can face my fears head on and asking for a promotion is one example of this.

Ironically my job in HR often required me to support people through the preparation for promotion and I often heard advice from senior mentors in the business about how to get that promotion.   So pulling this together now here are my 5 tips for getting that promotion:

  • Perform consistently at a high level

How is anyone ever going to consider you for the next role if you are not excelling in the current role? It really does not matter if you consider the role to be beneath you; now is the time to ensure that there are no questions about your performance. 

  • Take every opportunity you can

By this I mean volunteer to help others, find out what is going on in other teams and through this you can impress not just your current manager but also those in other departments.  Extra challenges can occur if your senior managers are in a different physical location to you but by getting your name known for your curiosity and your ability to go over and beyond your current job role you can build your reputation.  Opportunities come in the form of networking, projects or even organizing or participating in social activities.   Do not restrict yourself to just what is written in your job description.

  • Establish what you want and find out whether you are prepared

What is it you want for your next step?  Research expectations of the next level both in terms of skills in addition to other responsibilities.  If you see any gaps think strategically how you are going to develop yourself to meet the expectations.   This will help you feel ready and confident that you will be able to do a great job.  Stretch yourself but equally know what resources you will use to get there. Many companies actually want you to be already performing at the next level before they offer promotion.

  • Think about your succession plan

The most important thing for your manager is that the transition is easy.  Therefore if you have responsibilities that are not covered by someone else now is the time to think about how you would suggest how those responsibilities will be covered.  Maybe there is someone more junior than you that you can suggest you mentor and help step up to your role or now is the time to outsource some of your activities?  It might not be your responsibility to make the final decision but a well thought out proposal will help your manager to feel comfortable about the transition.

  • Pick your moment

Learn how to read your manager.  This will allow you to know when is a good moment to approach them – there will be nothing worse than being cut off half way through the conversation because of something urgent they need to attend to or because their mind is on another thing. 

Think about what you know about their style, how do they like to be communicated with, will they respond better to a formal meeting or a more informal chat over coffee?  Do you need a more structured proposal for them? 

Be prepared with the information you have from the previous 4 points so you have a solid and concise argument.  If you aren’t convinced then how will anyone else be?

But if it never seems like the right moment, then make one… above else, speak up – you are the only one in charge of your future and if you wait to be noticed for a promotion you might miss the opportunity all together!

Anna Champion is the CEO and Founder of The Talent Lighthouse, a consultancy supporting the transition of emerging talent into the workplace.

Elliott Scott HR is a specialist HR recruitment agency with offices in Hong Kong, London, New York, Sao Paulo and Singapore. For more information on Elliott Scott Group please visit our website, TwitterFacebook and LinkedIn.