How to Get Promoted Fast
Work is going well. Your boss is happy with your performance. You enjoy your job, but your eye is on the next step on your career plan – promotion.
You envisage a higher salary and greater employee benefits, more responsibility, better job satisfaction and increased status in the eyes of your colleagues.
Landing a promotion, however, is rarely easy.
Working hard, then sitting back and waiting for it to happen is unlikely to get you there. Equally, demanding it from your boss without any evidence that you deserve a promotion is generally a path to failure too.
What you need is a clear plan to ask for promotion and a range of ways to demonstrate that you are ready for that next step on the career ladder.
Once you have made the decision to ask for a promotion, you can improve your chances of a successful outcome by following our clearly laid-out plan:
While many people take advantage of their yearly appraisal, when they have their manager’s full attention, to ask for a promotion, it is not necessary to limit yourself to that one slot.
However, timing really is everything and you should always consider whether this is the right time to ask for a promotion.
Do your research into when would be a good time to ask for a promotion by gauging the state of the company you are working for.
- Are they cutting recruitment or freezing salaries at the moment?
- How heavy is your manager’s current workload?
- What else is going on in your team or department?
Good times to approach the subject might be after successfully landing a lucrative business deal, receiving an award for outstanding performance or when your team is performing well and has met, or even exceeded, their targets.
It might be better not to pursue promotion during particularly busy or stressful periods at work; for instance, at the end of the financial year or when your employer is laying off staff or facing financial pressures.
Think about your motivation for wanting a promotion.
- Is it simply the higher salary that appeals to you?
- Maybe you want to move into a leadership role.
- Are you bored in your current job and looking for a new challenge?
- Are you happy to stay in your current position for a while or are you likely to look for work elsewhere?
Knowing the answers to these questions before you meet with your manager will mean that you know exactly what to say when they question you.
Based on your chosen motivations, are you sure that being promoted will address them in the way you wish?
For instance, if your motivation is a higher salary, will the promotion provide you with what you want and will it reflect the increased responsibility?
Before talking to your manager consider what the new role will entail.
Consider the following:
Your manager may be fully aware of the factors that will indicate you are ripe for promotion, but you should still provide evidence of why you deserve it.
This evidence might include:
- A record of sales targets achieved
- Your leadership experience
- An improved skill set and performance
- The monetary value you have brought to the business in sales or business deals
- Awards you have received for outstanding work, individually or as part of a team
- Skills and knowledge can you bring to the new role
- Soft skills like having new ideas, motivation and work ethic
Gather all of this information together for your meeting.
Now you are prepared, go ahead and ask for a meeting with your manager.
To get the best out of the meeting, you should make it clear that the reason for the meeting is to discuss a promotion.
This allows your manager to look into the possibility beforehand.
Where you approach the subject of promotion in your yearly appraisal, it is always a good idea to let your manager know that you would like to discuss this along with your performance.
At the meeting, make it clear that you are interested in a promotion and explain that you would also like to demonstrate how you are suited to the new role.
This is where all that evidence you have gathered plays its part.
Listen to your manager and answer any questions they have, but stay strong in your request.
- Comparing yourself to other members of staff
- Saying that you will leave if you are not promoted
- Becoming emotional or aggressive if the answer is 'no'
- Taking 'no' for an answer without asking for an explanation and a way forward
You may receive an answer at the meeting, or your manager may ask to consider your request before making a decision.
There are generally four answers that you may receive when you ask for a promotion: 'yes', 'no', 'not at the moment' and 'let me think about it'.
This is how you should follow up on each answer after the meeting:
Yes – Obviously thanks are in order, but beyond this, you may have questions that you did not ask in your first meeting. Before you accept the promotion, check that the remuneration and conditions are what you thought they would be and that they are suitable. You may wish to negotiate certain factors before you accept.
No – This is not what you wanted to hear but you should still thank your manager for meeting with you. You may wish to ask what you can do to improve your prospects of promotion in future.
Not at the moment – Again, this is not the answer you wanted but it does carry the potential that you will be promoted in the future. Thank your manager for the meeting and ask why it is a no for now. It may be that the manager feels your skills and knowledge need to be developed. On the other hand, it may not be about you at all. Perhaps promotions are being avoided by the company in the current climate.
Let me think about it – This may not be an outright 'yes', but it is still encouraging. Again, thank your manager for their consideration. Ask them if there is anything they need from you in the meantime and when you can expect to hear back from them.
Improving your chances of promotion is not simply about collating supporting evidence and asking.
There are many ways you can become a better candidate long before you meet with your manager.
Employers are always on the lookout for talented employees who can be developed and ultimately moved into leadership roles.
Lay the groundwork for promotion by letting your manager know that you are interested in moving up the career ladder.
The most obvious way to do this is to ask for a promotion, but equally, during your yearly appraisal you could mention that promotion is part of your career plan, even if there are no openings for promotion at that time.
Do not presume that just because you are promotion material, your manager will think this is what you want or offer it to you without you asking.
From your perspective, promotion is all about you and what you will receive.
Turn that attitude on its head and consider what value you will bring to your employer in return for that promotion and what value you are already providing.
The latter of those two, the value you add now, will form part of the supportive evidence you use when you ask for a promotion.
The value you will bring if you are promoted is further proof that you are the right person for the job.
Start by adding value now:
- How can you improve your performance?
- How can you go beyond your basic role and responsibilities?
- Can you improve your skills?
- Are there opportunities for you to be involved in committees, steering groups or other company activities?
Adding value to the company will improve your chances of standing out as promotion-worthy.
Show your employer that you are enthusiastic about your job, the company and the industry you work in by being proactive about developing your skills.
There may be opportunities at work to take courses, but equally you may wish to take these outside of work and at your own expense.
Are there openings at work to be involved in work groups or company activities outside your department or role that will develop your skills?
You can also carry out research to learn more and keep up to date with how the industry you work in is developing.
Stand out from the crowd by finding ways to get yourself noticed, for the right reasons, at work.
For instance, you might:
- Voice your opinions in team meetings and make constructive suggestions
- Join work groups and projects outside your immediate department or role
- Use the suggestion box or equivalent to offer ways that the company could be improved
They say that you should ‘dress for the job you want’, so why not improve your appearance to the standard that would be expected of you if you were promoted?
If there is a chance to take on additional responsibilities in your role, then these can help to indicate to your manager that you are able and ready to shoulder the added responsibility of a more senior role.
Ask your manager, and if they say yes, make sure you fulfil those responsibilities.
Become the person in the team who makes constructive suggestions, thinks outside the confines of their role and is keen to find ways to solve company problems.
Demonstrating that you have these skills and are enthusiastic to use them to add value to the company is a strong indicator of your promotion potential.
This is about doing your job to the best of your abilities and showing that you can be relied upon.
If you want to earn your manager’s trust:
- Be punctual. Arrive early if you can
- Be where you say you will be. If your manager expects you to be in the department or at your desk but you have to be elsewhere at work, tell your manager where you are going
- Work hard and do your best to fulfil your role
- Ask your manager how you can improve your performance
- If you finish one piece of work and have nothing or little to do until the next project, ask your manager if they need any help
Demonstrate to your manager that you can be relied on to do a good job in your current role so that they will trust you enough to promote you to a more senior role.
When an opportunity to demonstrate and develop your leadership skills comes up, grab it with both hands.
This might involve taking a leadership role in a team meeting or project when nobody appears to be taking charge, or speaking up in meetings.
Great leadership is inspirational, so demonstrate your skills by being a role model for your colleagues. Lead by example.
If your manager asks for someone to head up a project or meeting, put yourself forward.
Even if your promotion will not put you in a leadership role, your employer will likely see it as a path into leadership. Show that you can be a leader now.
Show you can add value and that you are an efficient worker by playing an active role in your team’s improved performance.
Help your team members if they are struggling with a task. Encourage and inspire. Focus on the ‘we’ rather than the ‘me’.
Ask your manager how you can improve in your current role. What can you do better or differently to be more effective right now?
This will help you to be successful in your current job, bring you to your manager’s attention, and demonstrate that you are ambitious and proactive.
This may be asking to be put in charge of a project but, equally, it may simply be that you take full responsibility for the workload you are given.
Keep track of all aspects of the project or workload, regardless of whether other employees are involved, from day one right through to the end of the project, and ensure that everything is tied off and accounted for.
When you ask your manager for a promotion, it is important that you can demonstrate that you have done your current job well and have added value already.
The best way to do this is to compile supporting evidence.
Keep an ongoing record of your achievements. Such as:
- Targets achieved or exceeded
- Successful projects you have been involved with
- Awards you have received at work
You could include courses you have attended and new qualifications too.
Keep a record of all of this to present to your manager when you ask for a promotion.
Build a network of business professionals both inside and outside the company.
Generally, they will work within the same industry as you, although it might be useful to make connections with professionals working in complementary industries.
It will also be helpful to network with colleagues, including those who work in other departments.
One key way to earn and maintain your manager’s trust is by avoiding gossip or office politics.
Office gossip may involve revealing, and spreading, information that should have been kept to those involved.
In the workplace, a manager will often be expected to maintain an employee's privacy or not reveal company plans until the right moment.
Equally, a manager must be able to maintain impartiality when dealing with their workforce, instead of taking sides or speaking ill of someone behind their back.
Show that you can be trusted by not being involved in gossip or office politics.
A positive mindset is usually an open one: open to learning, open to considering the opinions of others and open to new ideas.
Strive to be seen as a positive member of the workforce by:
- Making constructive suggestions at work rather than bare criticisms
- Accepting responsibility for your workload and actions, instead of blaming others
- Helping your colleagues and being a team player
- Working collaboratively and to the best of everyone’s abilities, rather than micromanaging tasks
- Celebrating the team or department’s success, and the achievements of individuals within the team
- Building strong relationships at work
- Doing your job well
Be proactive at work by looking to solve problems, instead of just accepting or moaning about them. Take charge when there is a lack of leadership in a project or meeting, and ask for work or more responsibilities instead of waiting for them to be given.
When you decide that promotion is what you want, improve your chances of success by:
- Becoming an ideal candidate
- Preparing supporting evidence of your suitability
- Making your interest in promotion clear to your manager