How to Get a Promotion at Work

Apr 7, 2021 | Career

Asking for a promotion or pay rise at work can be terrifying. So much so that it’s easy not to think past the initial ask – asking to discuss a promotion is scary enough, why would you want to worry about convincing your manager and other stakeholders to give it to you?

In any scenario where one person has control over your salary, responsibilities or job title, there’s a power imbalance. Unless your company makes decisions by consensus, like at Google, it’s normal to want to get on your manager’s good side so they’ll consider your request for a promotion more favourably. Plus, if you’re from the UK, our British etiquette tells us it’s rude to ask for something before it’s offered, so the situation becomes at catch 22.

Luckily, there are ways you can lessen the power imbalance to get your point across and secure the promotion you deserve. The aim is to turn the promotion discussion into a conversation between equals, rather than feeling like you’re asking for a favour.

Be clear on what you want

Before you do anything, be clear with yourself on what it is you want and why. Is it about more money? More flexible working hours? Stepping up to lead a team? Also consider why you deserve this new role. What have you done that proves you’re ready to level up? Think about specific projects and collect screenshots of feedback.

If this is the first time you’ve floated the idea of a promotion and your company doesn’t do structured Professional Development Plans (PDPs), be prepared to go away and show your competency in a few more areas before you get your raise. The key is to form a list of criteria with your line manager, so that once you’ve checked those boxes, there’s no reason not to reward you accordingly.

Get it in the calendar

Give your manager fair warning of the conversation. Book time in their diary and try to make sure you won’t be rushing to and from other meetings. If your conversation forms part of a regular 1:1, make sure to add “promotion chat” to the agenda rather than trying to shoehorn it in. This way you both know what to expect and you can’t chicken out.

Here’s an email template to help you book in that crucial chat:

Hey [line manager], I’m popping some time in the diary to discuss the possibility of a promotion. I believe I’ve got stronger as a [job role] in the last few months and want to make sure I’m headed in the right direction. Thanks,

Say your piece, then shut up

Once you’ve done your preparation, it can be tempting to lay all your evidence out on the table. The danger is that you end up rambling and dilute your message. Instead, say your piece and then give your manager time to process the information and respond.

This might look something like:

Thanks for taking the time to meet with me today. I wanted to discuss the possibility of a promotion as I believe I’ve got stronger as a [job role] in the last few months. How does that sit with you?

Be prepared for your manager not to be able to give you an answer there and then. They may need to go away and discuss your promotion with others, or they may highlight areas where you need a final push to meet the criteria discussed.

If there are actions for you to complete, make sure they are specific. Email them back to your manager after the meeting to check your understanding and get it in writing. Then book in a follow-up meeting to review the actions once you’ve completed them.

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