There might be fifty ways to leave your lover, but most people fail to realise there are at least that many ways to lose the promotion at work they’re ready for.
Despite a deserving individual’s expectations, promotion at work is unlikely to be an automatic event. Whether you work in a mature professional environment, or in a shoot-from-the-hip early-years company, you want to be sure that you get that next step up, and not a colleague.
In the absence of a vacancy being advertised, asking for a promotion is the only way forward, but how you do that will make a significant difference to your prospects. If your ambition creates a new problem, rather than helping the department or organisation, your chances of progression will reduce.
Working out how to get promoted at work doesn’t involve designing Machiavellian plans to bury rivals, you need to prove your worth as a team player. Whatever the next level you aspire to, you need to inspire confidence in your potential as a manager and leader, so let’s look at how to ask for a promotion.
Why do you want to be promoted?
The answer is obvious – you want more, but more what? You might measure promotion at work in terms of status, equating that to a fancier job title or the ability to command more resources. You may be attracted by the prospect of a higher salary or you might just feel you could do a better job than your obviously incompetent boss.
Alternatively, your driving force may be the desire to expand your horizons, face more challenges and further test your abilities. You might then want more complex project work, enhanced budgetary control or management responsibility at team leader, supervisor, manager or senior level.
Your organisation has no interest in your personal ambition, ego or needs, but every interest in your potential to deliver future results. If you understand your own motivation, and translate that into the contribution you could make, you’ll be able to constructively answer the question, “Why do you want to be promoted?”
How do you earn a promotion?
When someone promotes you, they’re putting their own reputation on the block. Earning a promotion involves reducing the perceived risks that would arise through your appointment whilst simultaneously increasing belief in the potential value you offer.
Your boss will consider the views of their peers, your colleagues and senior managers so unless you’re widely seen as a safe pair of hands and an achiever, the tide will be against you. If move mountains, conquer invading tribes and secure the kingdom every
single week, and do so quietly and modestly, all credit to you, but you’re unlikely to win promotion. These ten actions will build both your expertise and your reputation:
- Build your knowledge with study and short courses.
- Volunteer for short-term projects, relish the challenges.
- Make certain you get person-management experience.
- Think of something small to improve, every single week.
- Dress the part, act the part and eventually you’ll be the part.
- Work with enthusiasm, inspire positivity, never be a drama queen.
- Help colleagues achieve their own goals, be a team player.
- When you take a problem to your boss, take solutions with you.
- Quantify the value you deliver on projects, know your worth.
- Get to know more people using your company’s charitable activities.
How to ask for a promotion?
For an advertised opportunity, applying for a promotion is as simple as ensuring you follow the suggested application route. Even if the role is a stretch, there is no harm in declaring your ambition and experiencing the selection process first hand. At the very least you’ll get yourself noticed, maybe even marked out for next time, and with feedback you’ll identify weaknesses to work on.
Alternatively, asking for a promotion is easiest at review time, but otherwise raise the issue cold. Get space booked in your boss’s diary for a solid discussion about opportunities, prospects and your relative suitability. Aim to leave having identified specific actions and a timescale for decisions. Knowing how to ask for a promotion can be broken down into logical steps.
Writing a cover letter for a promotion
A cover letter for promotion requests is like any other job application cover letter and can be built using this simple promotion letter template.
Opening paragraph – Keep it short and sweet, your boss knows who you are. “I’m writing to express my interest in further developing the contribution I make to the department (or organisation). I’d welcome a discussion about either my suitability for future promotion, or some other way I could take on more responsibility.” The first sentence makes it clear you’re concentrating on what you can give, not what you want, and the second covers the widest array of options for you.
Middle section – Your boss is busy and will thank you for being succinct, rather than wheel-barrowing in a world record justification. Use a few lines of text to explain what’s prompted this letter and add three bullet points to show why you’re worth more responsibility. Focus on the benefits you can deliver, not your wants and needs.
Closing paragraph – Keep this short. “Thank you for your consideration of my request. I understand that there is no advertised position open today, but I would appreciate a meeting with you whenever convenient, so that I may be ready for the time when there is.”
This whole letter, probably less than half a page of A4, lays down a clear marker. It makes it hard for your boss to dodge or delay and ensures they have little choice but to advise you how best to proceed. Whatever happens, you come out ahead.
Job promotion interview questions and answers
How things proceed depends on your boss and any organisational protocols in place. You might face a structured interview, a formal discussion or a just an exploratory chat. Regardless, your preparation should be the same, just vary the delivery tone of your main points accordingly.
Prepare by deciding what’s possible, what you want and what you’d be willing to accept. Build the solid arguments that evidence your suitability for promotion and then imagine all the questions that might arise. Constructing your answers in advance ensures you’ll put your case clearly and concisely on the day.
Negotiating with your boss
Unless there is a very specific role that you want to ask for, keep things open so your boss must work out how best to make use of your capabilities. You might be surprised what’s offered to you. As a general guide:
- Never threaten, work toward the best win-win opportunity you can uncover.
- Focus on gaining increased responsibility, whatever form that may initially take.
- Be prepared to progress in several steps if necessary, rather than one giant leap.
- Be pragmatic over pay, until you’ve fully proven yourself in a new role.
Understanding your boss’s viewpoint
Your boss has the final say, but they’ll consult HR and senior management on timing, scope of responsibility and benefits. That can take some time to grind through, so be patient. Haranguing your boss over a delayed response will leave them wondering if it’s just easier to say no to you.
What about if you don’t get a promotion ?
If things go against you, identify the specific reasons. Think of those as free consultancy and focus on what to do to make next time a certainty. Agree an approximate date in the future when your boss feels it will be appropriate to reconsider and make sure you thank them for their efforts.
You might be disappointed, but look forward optimistically. Plan how to gain extra skills and experience and then act. Don’t see a knock-back as a defeat, see it as having uncovered a clear route to victory. Not only will you increase your chances for next time, you’ll be considerably improving your employability elsewhere too.
The future is yours, own it
If you want promotion, ask for it. To quote Brian Tracy, personal development trainer, “The future belongs to the askers. The future does not belong to people who sit back, wishing and hoping that their lives and their work will become better.”
Your next promotion will be forged by your capabilities. Focus on mitigating the perceived risks of promoting you and relentlessly expand the scope of your capabilities. Ask for help. What manager wouldn’t like an employee to contribute more? Ask to be mentored. Use the ten action items listed above to guide you. Your achievements will be ky, but the scope of your experience and any formal training are equally important. Work hard, put the effort in and be objective driven, not a clock watcher.
For a flying start, these related articles will help you chart, plan and manage a route to the next exciting stage of your career.