,   |  September 22, 2014

Q&A Monday: Should I ask for a promotion?

I get so many good questions from readers so I thought we should make this official. Introducing Q&A Monday! Each Monday I’ll answer one of the questions that was sent in through the “ask a question” page. I look forward to hearing from you!

Q: I’ve been working for my company for about a year and I’m noticing that people around me have gotten promoted around their year anniversary. I’d like to have a conversation with my boss about this and work towards the next level as well. Should I ask for a promotion?

Thank you so much for this question! I’d love to share my general tips on this topic. Let’s start by talking about when it makes sense to ask for a promotion… Then, we’ll dive into the conversation you can have today (if it’s not currently time to ask for a promotion) that will ensure you can bring up this important conversation in the near future.

Important note: Today we’re not talking about raises. We’re talking about a promotion to a new job title that would definitely come with a raise. My criteria for asking for a raise is a bit different!

You’re ready to ask for a promotion if…

Your job and your responsibilities have changed significantly: When I say “significantly” I’m not talking about covering for a co-worker when they were sick for 3 weeks (that’s being a team player) or the fact that you always follow up with clients 3 times instead of the mandated 2 (that’s going above and beyond – something you’ll also need to do if you want to be promoted). I’m talking about large scale shifts in job responsibilities. An easy example is someone who recently went from not managing anyone to getting 2 direct reports. Or someone who is managing 5 accounts at once instead of 2 which is the standard for the team. If you were hired to do one job, and you’ve taken on more responsibility and more tasks, it could be time to ask for a new title and a raise along with it.

Not only that, but you’re also crushing it: If you’ve taken on those 2 direct reports but suddenly are drowning and not performing well, a promotion conversation probably isn’t going to go well. Make sure you’ve had some time to prove yourself with these new responsibilities and are the right person to hold onto them long term. If you ask for a promotion before people around you feel confident you can do the job, you might get met with a “well, we’re actually going to find someone else to take this on” versus being convinced you’re the one.

The results you’re achieving are above-and-beyond what others in your role are achieving: This isn’t necessarily about a change in your job, but it’s about consistently getting better results than your peers (that are of value to the company). While this doesn’t clearly fall into my typical promotion criteria, companies make it a priority to retain those who achieve amazing results, and if getting a promotion will help retain you, it could be on the table. That being said, perhaps your stellar results will be rewarded with a raise (no title change) or a monetary bonus vs. a promotion. Still, if a promotion is what you want and you have a proven track record (1 year or more) of crushing it I’m not opposed to bringing it to the table. Keep in mind, in order to move forward with one, you may need to take on some new responsibilities as well.

You see an open job, and you’d like to step into it: Perhaps your boss or someone else on your team recently left the company. More likely than not, the company will need someone to step in and do that role (either hire externally or look for someone ready for the next step). While in many cases, you’ll be approached by someone if you’re a viable candidate, there is no reason not to make your case as long as it’s reasonable. Actually filling a need that the business has today is a great way to take the next step in your career.

All this being said… these are are my general guidelines from what I’ve learned during my time in HR. If you are in a unique situation, I think it’s good to get advice from an expert or pay close attention to the way your company functions when it comes to this topic. The reader above mentioned that their peer got promoted after a year. If that person is doing the exact same job, yet has a new title, it’s worth asking what promotion criteria looks like at the company.

If you’re not yet ready for a promotion based on the above, you can still have a conversation about future growth…

So maybe you don’t fall into the above buckets just yet but growing with your company/getting promoted is a priority for you. Great! You should still start to have conversations with your manager about this.

The right time for this conversation is probably around your 1st annual review (or around your one year mark if you don’t have reviews). Let your manager know you’re eager to grow with the company, would like to take on additional responsibilities, and would like to receive a promotion down the road. Ask for their advice on what you need to do between now and your next review (or another period of time you deem appropriate) in order to take that next step.

Share your existing accomplishments and track record: I recommend keeping an “accomplishment list” or as my friend Maxie calls it a “Sh*t I do really well” list. When you’re having a conversation about future growth, make sure you also share what you’ve accomplished in your current role. If you’re not already operating at 100% in the job you’re doing, you’re not likely to get a new one.

Don’t just make it about the money: While $$$ is of course one reason you may want a promotion, your manager isn’t going to respond well if that’s your only motivation. Highlight other things such as desire for personal development and growth long term with the company as other reasons you’re looking for the next step.

Have you successfully asked for a promotion? What were the circumstances and did you get it? Would love to hear about your own experiences in the comments! If you’d like to submit a question for a future Q&A Monday, click here.

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