How to Get a Promotion

Woman talking to her boss about a promotion.

A Guide to Advancing Your Career

Earning a promotion takes hard work, success, reading the right signs and a little bit of luck.

A promotion is how your employer demonstrates that they value your work and that you have an important place at your company. Promotions always come with more responsibilities, but they are opportunities to grow in your skills and your career. If you’re planning to get a promotion, it helps to talk with managers to see what will be required to progress into a more advanced position.

This guide will cover how to get a promotion, how to ensure your performance review will lead to your next promotion, mistakes to avoid when seeking a promotion, how to revamp your resume after a promotion, when to avoid a promotion, understanding the worth of your promotion, reasons why you haven’t been promoted, when to ask for a promotion, and when to look for a new job.

How to Ask for a Promotion

Typically, when asking for a promotion, you’ll want to follow the steps below.

Make sure that you’ve made a case for yourself with your performance and development. Then, when communicating, make sure to convince your senior manager that you’re ready and able to take on more responsibilities. Finally, once you’ve proven yourself and you know your worth on the market, set up a semi-formal, formal or lunch meeting with your manager to discuss a possible promotion, as well as whether the company is able to support you in that role.

How to Ask for a Promotion

When to Ask for a Promotion

When asking for a promotion, the first steps are making a case for yourself and knowing your worth. Next, you’ll want to time it right. Asking for a promotion around the time of performance reviews is usually the best opportunity for success. This is when your senior staff is ready to hand out bonuses and accolades. Making a case for yourself based on your performance review and growing role in the company can increase your chances of landing a promotion.

When to Ask for a Promotion

Know Your Worth

Before entering any talks regarding a promotion, you need to know your worth. Understanding your value to your company, and on the open job market, gives you the negotiating power you need to get a promotion.

Knowing your worth gives you leverage in promotion discussions because you’ll be able to display your objective value. An easy way to do this is by using Glassdoor’s Salary tool, which will show you your true market value, how it compares to other workers in the same field and open jobs with current salary data.

Before going into any conversation for a promotion, come prepared with

  • Your real worth on the open market.
  • A list of your current tasks and responsibilities.
  • Data demonstrating the value you bring to the company.
Know Your Worth

Seek Out New Skills

Besides knowing your worth, developing new skills is a great way to earn a promotion. Showing your employer or management team that you can grow and find new ways to bring value to your company can open new opportunities, roles, and responsibilities.

For example: If you’re a Content Marketing Manager, you can develop skills in SEO or email marketing, and be in line to be promoted as a Digital Marketing Manager.

Some of the top skills career experts recommend are:

  1. Foreign Languages
  2. Web Development
  3. Data Analysis
  4. Mobile Development
  5. Cloud Computing
  6. Social Media Skills
  7. Computer Programming
  8. Ability to Learn Quickly
  9. Collaborative Mindset
Seek Out New Skills

Express Your Interest in Career Growth

If you don’t talk about wanting to advance your career with your managers, then how will they ever know?

Proactivity is the name of the game, so make sure to talk to your managers frequently about your current role, where you see yourself in the company and keep your name top of mind to be noticed.

“If your manager doesn’t know your ultimate goal of rising up the corporate ladder and you do great work at your current job, you may be overlooked,” notes career expert Angela Copeland. “It’s important to communicate with your manager about your long-term goals, so they can be your advocate.”

Express Your Interest in Career Growth

Browse Other Roles at the Company

If you’re looking to get promoted within your current company, then knowing the expectations that come with similar roles is a great way to start building a path towards a promotion.

This helps you to build a case for why you deserve the promotion in the first place, and it will help ensure that you meet the requirements once you’re in that role.

Also, using Glassdoor’s 49 million reviews and insights for approximately 700,000 companies you can read what other employees at the level you're looking to be promoted to have said about promotions, workload, etc. “You can see what current and former employees have to say about working there, including what’s working well, what needs improvement and advice to senior management. Depending on what you want in a company, reading reviews is a great way to better understand what goes on inside a company and the type of culture that is best for you,” career expert Jamie Hichens says.

Get a Mentor

If you don’t work with top management or decision-makers regularly, then it helps to do so when fighting for a promotion. Asking a senior staff to mentor you gives you much-needed visibility with higher-ups and gives them firsthand experience working with you.

Not every person in a senior position is going to be a good mentor — part of your job as a mentee is to hone in on who actually has the chops to help guide you. Also, don’t shy away from someone who has given you constructive criticism in the past. They wouldn’t have given it to you if they didn’t see your potential and want to help you improve; those are two qualities you definitely want in a mentor, right? It’s also worth it to identify people who possess skills you want to work on and pursue them as possible advisors. Is one of your superiors an incredible negotiator and you want to work on your boardroom bartering? Well, then that’s a no-brainer.

Get a Mentor

Read Job Descriptions at Your Company

If you know that your company is currently hiring for a role that you’d be a great fit for, then take the time to read the job posting. Chances might be that you have the exact skills that your managers are looking for in a role, and simply reading the job posting and talking to your boss may give you the best chance of earning a promotion.

Understanding which skills a company is willing, or not willing, to negotiate on is difficult. It’s important to never look at a job description in basic black and white — be creative.

The number of years of experience a qualified candidate needs is a great example of where companies might have wiggle room. Think beyond typical work experience and consider volunteer opportunities, education or even skills you acquired from previous positions.

When considering skills and requirements, it’s important to be honest with yourself and the company. Overselling your skills or committing to learning too many new things at once could set you up for a stressful start — or worse, failure.

Read Job Descriptions at Your Company

Prepare for a Conversation With Your Boss

Getting a promotion inevitably results in having a conversation with your manager about the role and your fit. Ensuring you get the promotion is all about preparationMake sure that you’ve focused on being productive and proactive. That means exceeding expectations on all projects and responsibilities, driving results and contributing to the company culture.

When preparing for the “promotion conversation” it also pays off to know your worthKnowing what your value is on the open market and what similar companies are paying for someone with your skills and experience is one of the most important tools in your arsenal.

Prepare for a Conversation With Your Boss

Apply for Jobs Within Your Company

If you’ve explored your company’s careers page or heard that they are hiring for a role that you could be promoted too, then apply to the open job. Maybe your senior team hasn’t thought of promoting from within, and knowing that you’re interested can fast track you through the consideration-to-hire process.

Apply for Jobs Within Your Company

Follow Up on Your Conversation With Your Boss

If you want a promotion, then proactivity is key. This can’t be said enough.

You’ll need to be proactive to take on new responsibilities, develop your skills and to have conversations with your boss. Letting them know frequently that you’re ready to take on new/more responsibilities will keep you at the top of their mind when they’re ready to promote from within or create new departments.

Follow Up on Your Conversation With Your Boss

Create a Succession Plan

Show your management team that you’re ready to make the transition to a new role by creating a succession plan. Figure out the details for how projects and tasks will be handled, create a job description to replace your role and determine what your KPIs (key performance indicators) will be and how you will be measured. Taking charge of this process shows that you’re ready for a promotion and the responsibilities that come with it.

Create a Succession Plan

Consider Searching for a New Job

We’ve stated multiple times that knowing your worth is one of the most important factors in getting a promotion. If your management team is unwilling or unable to give you the promotion you want, then go to the market with your skills. Once you know your value, you can see other companies that are hiring for the role you want, and you can provide prospective employers the top of market-rate for your salary and back it up with real data.

Consider Searching for a New Job

When to Avoid a Promotion

Accepting a promotion is a no brainer, right? Not always. Sometimes, you may want to avoid or decline promotions because you don’t want the added responsibility of management, you see yourself as an individual contributor and/or you want to do the work you love without being bogged down with managing employees. Other times, you’ll want to avoid promotions because you’re thinking of changing career paths, or you don’t want to possibly disrupt your work/life balance.

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