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Career Paths

Get a promotion: Your everything guide to getting ahead

Posted by Glassdoor Team

Career Advice Experts

Last Updated May 27, 2022

Guide Overview

Get a promotion: Your everything guide to getting aheadWhat is a promotion and does it include a raise?Why ask for a promotion?When to ask for a promotionHow to ask for a promotionWhat if your request is denied?

Guide Overview

Get a promotion: Your everything guide to getting ahead

It’s a tale as old as time: your scope of work changes based on “shifting priorities,” giving you an exciting opportunity for growth and new projects, but not necessarily an updated title or pay increase. Or, a team member leaves, and you find yourself with an increased workload and new responsibilities. You’ve stepped up to the challenge, set and exceeded your goals, and now you’re ready for the next step. It’s time to ask for a promotion. 

What is a promotion and does it include a raise?

Technically, a promotion means to “raise” someone up to a higher level — a change in job title to one more advanced than their current one. But a promotion does not necessarily include a pay raise. While a raise might accompany a promotion, there are times it doesn’t; it can depend on your manager, your company, and more.

Consider what you want before you head down the path of asking for raises and/or promotions. Do you feel a higher-level role more accurately reflects your current job duties? Or do you simply want a pay raise, but are fine keeping your current title? 

Generally speaking, when most people think about asking for a promotion, they are looking for both a raise in pay and an elevation in job title.

Why ask for a promotion?

If you have had work heaped upon you and are frustrated, upset, and burned out at your job, getting a promotion likely won’t make you happier.

There are several justifiable reasons that you might deserve a promotion. Here are some top considerations:

  • Increase in workload or complexity of duties. Research typical duties at other companies for similar positions. If you are doing much more work than the norm for someone in your role, you can build a case for your promotion. Be sure you’re not burning yourself out. If you get a promotion with the increased work level, you’ll likely be expected to continue at that pace.
  • More advanced or challenging workload. Think about the types of projects you’re working on or your reporting structure. Has that changed? Have you gained direct reports? If you’re working on more complex, higher-stakes work, if your work is more directly affecting the company’s bottom line, or if you are supervising people (or more people) than before, this may be the time to ask for a promotion to a title that matches your job duties. 
  • Have you hit the wall? Most companies ask employees to create periodic goals. If you have achieved all you can in your current position and are consistently hitting or exceeding your goals, it may be time to take the next step up the ladder. If you find yourself bored in your current role and feel like you are ready for the next step, it’s time for a new challenge.

When to ask for a promotion

Timing is key. If any of the considerations above apply to you, you’re in a good position to ask for more. But there’s more to consider than your work. You should also think about: 

  • Company performance. Is the company doing well financially? Is the climate generally good, and do the prospects seem positive? If a company is struggling through hard times, it might not be the right time to ask. Also, consider the timing of the fiscal year as it relates to potential bonus payouts as well as typical timing of promotions and raises. 
  • Would a promotion help your manager? Your boss is a worker just like you, with goals and performance expectations. Think about how a promotion might fit into your manager’s development plan and help further their goals.
  • Consider the timeline. If a promotion might be premature — say, you got new job duties fairly recently and have not yet proven that you can do the job, or if you are pretty new to your position, you may want to wait a while before asking for a promotion. Document your progress and successes and track your accomplishments so that you’ll be able to demonstrate that you deserve the promotion when the right time comes.Whether you work from home part-time or full-time, your performance should be measured the same as someone who goes to the office every day. Findings show that remote workers are more focused and more productive without the frequent distractions in an office environment. If you’ve been getting more done by working remotely, you may have put yourself in the perfect place to ask for a promotion. 

That said, standing out as a remote employee can be a bit more challenging than if you are an in-person worker. Out of sight can mean out of mind. Be prepared to describe ways you’ve built strong relationships even while working remotely, how to describe your self-discipline and communications skills, and your connection to and understanding of the daily workings of the business.

How to ask for a promotion

The first step is creating a situation in which  your manager will likely say yes. This involves some prep on your part.  Here’s how to create the business case for your promotion:

  • Prepare. This will be an important, professional meeting. Show that you are a polished professional, with documentation prepared for your supervisor to review as you discuss your work. Keep a copy for yourself so you can go over the points in order. Practice and rehearse what you’re going to say, and be ready to discuss each of your presented points in detail.
  • Track your accomplishments — for the company. Describe projects you have completed and positive feedback you have received. (Don’t forget positive comments from your performance reviews.) Think about describing your work in a way that has benefited the department and the company, instead of making it about having checked off certain boxes.
  • Outline the impact of your role. Document and share how your work has changed, particularly the ways your work positively affects the business. Leave any personal reasons out of it, as these aren’t relevant arguments as to why you deserve to level up. 
  • Explain why this is the right time. Present a business case for why now is the best time to move you forward and how your new role can support your manager’s and department’s goals and lead to company successes..

What if your request is denied?

Rejection is hard for anyone to take, but you should prepare yourself just in case you hear “no.” No matter how uncomfortable you feel, keep your cool. How you handle yourself at this critical moment may be key to whether or not you will be granted a promotion in the future. 

If you’re turned down for a promotion:

  • Stay calm. Take a deep breath and keep your composure. Try not to take the denial personally, and instead, find out why your promotion has been denied. It may be out of your manager’s hands, so try not to jump to conclusions or react negatively. 
  • Ask why. Politely ask why your request can’t be accommodated, and take notes. If you can control some of the reasons , you can create an action plan to accomplish those goals. Then once you’ve checked those boxes, you can ask again.
    • If the reason is business based — for example, if your manager says they don’t have the budget right now — ask when they plan to work on the next one, so that you can ask again during planning. If your manager cites company performance and you have evidence that shows otherwise, ask for  clarification (without becoming argumentative, of course).
  • Ask for a timeline. Work with your manager on determining when the time is right to push for a promotion again. If they are reluctant to set a date, create a project plan for yourself with the goal of  overcoming the  challenges or complete tasks that are must-dos in order for you to reach the next level. . 
  • Be flexible. If a promotion is off the table, consider asking for just a raise. Or ask for a raise to be baked into next year’s budget, with a written promise from your manager that the raise will be granted at that particular time. Also consider other things you could ask for that could satisfy you, such as more paid time off, a spot or performance bonus, or the restructuring of your job duties to make your position more aligned with responsibilities you can accept.
  • Be honest with yourself. If there is no hope for advancement or it’s clear that you’ll never get a promotion, you have to decide if you’re content to stay in the position and at your current company, or if you should start looking for employment elsewhere.  Don’t threaten to quit because your request for a promotion and raise wasn’t granted. Keep it professional, thank them for their time and politely end the meeting. Then, take stock of where you are and what your options look like after you leave and can review your notes.

Go into the process with an open mind. It costs a company a lot when someone leaves and a new person has to be trained. You might be surprised at the mountains a manager will move to retain a valuable employee. Retention is a key focus area at many companies now, and people leaving can reflect poorly on the manager, so they are more likely to do what they can to make you happy. 

Be prepared, be confident, and find the success that matters to you.

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