Lara Mulawka

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How to ask for a promotion

Few workplace conversations stir butterflies as much as asking for a promotion. How you approach the matter, however, makes a world of difference. Rather than seeing it as a confrontation or as a “cross your fingers and hope for the best” situation, try treating the meeting as a mutually beneficial discussion. Employers, after all, want to retain great workers, so helping employees reach career objectives is in their best interests.

Raise the odds of walking away happy by taking the following into consideration when asking for a promotion:

  1. Be clear what type of promotion you want

    Promotions aren’t a one-size-fits-all deal. Before asking, think about what you hope to accomplish. Are you looking for a raise? Do you want a higher title? Are you seeking greater responsibilities or leadership opportunities? Do you desire certain benefits such as telecommuting or inclusion in a health-care plan?

    Knowing what you want helps with clear, effective presentation. And since the exchange may involve negotiation, forethought on what you’re willing to accept and what things you won’t budge on helps with advocating in the moment.

  2. Research what others earn

    Prior to approaching your boss about a promotion, solidify your case. Research what others in your position, industry, and geographical region earn. (Payscale, Glassdoor, and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook are good places to start.) If comparable peers make more, cite figures as justification for a raise. But if you’re already at the high end of the salary scale, know that a monetary increase may be a tough sell.

  3. Write out your accomplishments

    Write out things you’ve accomplished, especially beyond your job description. Your achievements demonstrate quality performance, initiative, and worth to the company – all factors that assist in painting a picture of someone who deserves a promotion. (Helpful hint: Maintaining a continuous journal of professional achievements makes this task even easier and also proves valuable if you ever choose to construct a new resume.)

    Use this list to create talking points for your conversation. For instance, maybe maintaining office supplies is a standard part of your job, but you’ve kept a close eye on needs and were able to trim 10 percent off the budget by buying the most requested items in bulk.

  4. Practice the promotion conversation

    Employees often become tongue-tied in face-to-face situations, so practice your case ahead of time. Act out the scenario with a trusted friend, or perhaps videotape yourself and then evaluate. Repetition builds confidence and gives you something to fall back on when nerves strike. Be sure to also watch body language. Slumping or failing to maintain eye contact greatly reduces the impact of what you’re saying.

  5. Time the conversation

    Promotion conversations should take place in private at an agreed-upon time when neither side needs to rush off to other matters. This set-up allows for thoughtful conversation rather than hasty dismissal.

    While a “perfect” time to ask for a promotion may not exist, some circumstances lend themselves to greater receptiveness. If your employer conducts annual performance reviews, this meeting provides a natural occasion on which to discuss a promotion. A work anniversary also can be a good choice, as it already marks your longevity and loyalty to the company. Another noteworthy option is following a significant accomplishment, such as when your name is top-of-mind because of that valuable new client you signed.

  6. Process the conversation

    If the conversation goes well and you receive the coveted promotion, formalize the terms in writing. This action gives both you and management a clear outline of what was agreed upon, such as when your raise goes into effect or what new responsibilities you’ll assume.

    If your boss denies the promotion, discuss factors that went into the decision. Perhaps the position you seek requires a higher degree or more experience managing others. Talk about ways to gain these necessary things, and set a future date in which to discuss the subject of a promotion again. Both of you should mark it on your calendar so that it becomes a set event rather than a vague objective.

    Denied a raise because the company doesn’t have the means to pay higher wages? Consider bringing other desirable benefits to the table. Negotiate for things such as the ability to telecommute three days a week, early entry into the company’s retirement plan, tuition reimbursement, a secured parking space – whatever would help you feel satisfied.

    Still unhappy with how the promotion conversation went? You may have hit the point where you want to start thinking about whether or not your present employer is meeting your career needs. But don’t let anger unleash heat-of-the-moment rants or threats. Instead, give yourself some time to process the situation and weigh whether going elsewhere might be in your best interests.

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