How and When to Seek Promotion

Cite this article as: Jason Mance Gordon, "How and When to Seek Promotion," in The Business Professor, updated December 17, 2019, last accessed April 8, 2020, https://thebusinessprofessor.com/knowledge-base/how-and-when-to-seek-promotion/.

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Successfully seeking promotion means building a case for why you should be promoted and presenting it at the correct time. In our article, What Will Help you Get Promoted, we discuss various situations that frequently lead to promotion. Even when these stars align, you must still have done the leg work to make yourself a strong candidate for the position at the time that an opening arises. Below is some guidance on how to seek promotion and when.

How to Seek Promotion

Below are some of the considerations for how you should prepare to seek promotion.

Meet the Qualifications

You do not have to be the best or brightest to get hired or promoted. You should, however, have solid qualifications for the position. Even if you have the ability to do the job, you need to be able to prove it based upon your past experience. For this reason, you need to build a file of what all you have contributed to your current position. Try to identify the places in which you have gone above and beyond. Try to demonstrate how your performance meets the standards of the new position. As we discuss in our material on Writing a Resume, quantifying your performance is paramount. It provides your boss with hard metrics that are difficult to dispute qualitatively. Also, if possible, develop an argument for how promoting you to a particular position can be good for the company. That is, will it increase efficiency, reduce costs, or add a new perspective. This shifts the argument from “I deserve a promotion” to “Look how good promoting me will be for you.” In any persuasive message, putting the other party first is the primary objective. The same goes for achieving a promotion. Make your superiors understand that having you in a higher position is the best thing for the company.

Positive Personal Brand

Developing a personal brand is important in every aspect of professional development. This is true as well when you are seeking employment. You want your colleagues, superiors, and direct reports to see you as a professional. It’s not uncommon in the workplace for colleagues to be jealous when one among them is promoted to a higher level. This jealous often manifests itself in resentment. It should not be a surprise to others that you are being considered for a promotion. This means developing a personal brand that makes it obvious to others that you are in line for a promotion. Remember, even if you have all of the talent necessary for a position, not having a positive reputation will cause others to stand in opposition to promoting you. As we discuss throughout this series on professional development, building a strong reputation is a combination of knowledge, technical competence, emotional intelligence, social skills, and work ethic.

Networking

The single most important factor for being promoted is having a positive working relationship with your superiors. Part of this comes from having a positive personal brand. Another part comes from sharing commonalities with those people. Generally, people gravitate toward people who are similar to them in demographics, cultural, interest, values, and beliefs. All of these things will make your superiors comfortable with you. The is, they feel as if they understand you – resulting in better communication. In this way, it will behoove you to assimilate to the dominant company culture. You should expand your knowledge to include things that are important to your superiors. Become culturally aware of their background and familiar with their interests, values, and beliefs. You will find that this will result in stronger personal and professional bonds with those above you.

Confidence

Finally, you need to believe that you deserve the promotion. Many of us suffer from “imposter syndrome” throughout our careers. This entails a level of self-doubt that causes us to be reluctant in seeking promotion or career advancement. If you have done the things discussed above, you will certainly be well-positioned to seek promotion from your current job.

When to Seek Promotion

Only you can decide if and when you are ready for promotion. Evaluate your personal and professional lives. Ask yourself if you are ready (in terms of knowledge, time, motivation, etc.) for everything that a new promotion entails. Achieving promotion before you are ready can have a negative impact on your current performance and future career progression.
Once you decide that you are ready, the next step is to recognize or create an opportunity. Below are some scenarios that can lead to a promotion opportunity.

A Position Comes Open

An obvious opportunity is when someone above you in the career ladder is promoted or otherwise leaves the position. This opens an immediate opportunity for you to step up and fill the position. Another situation is when the company creates a position based upon operational needs. If you meet the necessary qualifications for the position, you should be poised to seek the position.

Make It Procedural

You should not just wait around for an opportunity or promotion to open up. You need to take steps to create it for yourself. Many people see asking for promotion as a favor from the company. Even if they believe they deserve a promotion, they feel as if the company is giving them a gift. In reality, no company is going to gift you with promotion. Your superiors will seek to promote you when the company needs somebody in a higher position or when you demonstrate that you can add significant value at a higher level. With this understanding, start by thinking about promotion as a procedural matter. How do you set yourself up for promotion to be a natural occurrence at some point in the future? First, let your superiors know that promotion is a known objective. If your company does not conduct periodic performance reviews, ask for them. During these sessions, you ask your employer to lay out what is expected of you. Get an answer on what is required for promotion. This puts your objective of promotion in their minds. It also establishes metrics with hard numbers to work towards. Once you are regularly achieving these metrics, you are positioned to ask for promotion (or at least an increase in salary or benefits).

If your company cannot or will not give you metrics to work toward a promotion, it shows that they are not proactively thinking about moving you up in the company. At this point, you should probably begin the process of preparing yourself for and searching for new positions. In today’s economy, most businesses do not promote (or raise the benefits of) their employees as quickly as the employee’s market value rises. That is, an entry-level employee can generally leave an employer for a substantial increase in benefits or title within 2 years of employment. With all this being understood, you should continue to position yourself to be able to leave a company and secure a higher-level position.

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