The Ultimate Guide to Getting Noticed and Promoted (Get a Promotion in 4 Steps)
If you’ve avoided asking for a promotion because you weren’t sure how, or if you’ve waited for your employer to promote you instead of asking, then you’re likely missing out on the best opportunities to advance your career.
I’ve been promoted twice myself and spent most of my career as a professional recruiter.
So today I’m going to share 4 key steps to getting promoted in ANY company. And all while completely bypassing the competition (your coworkers).
HOW TO GET NOTICED AND GET PROMOTED
The best way to stand out and get promoted is by asking directly.
Companies often have promotion opportunities available for those who ask, long before they publicly announce the opportunity. And asking is also more effective because you won’t be competing with every other qualified person for the promotion.
Some organizations can also custom-create a position for you. Your manager could design a new position, talk to other team leaders to discuss transfers, and get creative to find ways for you to do more (and earn more).
They key is to ask, though. Managers aren’t mind-readers and don’t always assume you’re looking to advance. (In my experience as a recruiter, many people would rather stay in their comfort zone and not advance. The point is: Your boss doesn’t know what you want unless you tell them).
But don’t just run into your boss’ office and tell them you want 3x your salary or you’re going to quit (Have fun looking for a new job). There are a few CRUCIAL steps to take first.
By following the steps I’m about to share, you’re going to demonstrate your value to the company and make yourself indispensable, so that you have the best possible chance of hearing “yes” when you ask for a higher-level position.
1. Become ultra-reliable in your current role
The first step to getting promoted is showing your boss that you’re rock-solid in your current role.
You want to be the person who your boss never has to worry about; that one person who they know will get the work done no matter how hectic things get and how much else they’re worried about as a manager.
So the first thing I recommend to anyone looking for a raise or promotion is to do an “audit” of your current work performance.
Review your core responsibilities (from the job description of your role) and list out which pieces you feel you’re above-average at, which you’re average at, and which need improvement or are below-average.
Your goal should be to have every core responsibility be average or above-average. There should be no weaknesses, and at least a few areas should be above-average.
Then, if you feel something needs improvement, either decide if you can handle it on your own, or seek assistance. Sometimes asking for advice can help speed up your development, so don’t be afraid to go to a coworker or manager and say:
“I’m trying to improve in ___, do you have time this week to share some tips and ideas? It seems like a topic that you’re very knowledgeable about.”
Most people think asking a question is a sign of weakness that will prevent you from being promoted. IT’S NOT. It’s actually a great first step to signal to your boss that you’re taking initiative to improve, and that you care about your development at work.
2. Go above and beyond what’s asked of you
After you’re consistently above-average in your core role, look for ways to go beyond your manager’s expectations. This will show them you’re working hard to contribute.
Try to solve problems without being asked. Spot potential issues before they become big problems and take care of them.
Anything you can do to save your manager time or effort is a big win. If you can’t solve something yourself, try to bring it to their attention before it becomes a major issue.
For example, you could say:
“Hi Amy, I was doing ___ today and noticed a potential problem with ___. The issue I saw was ___. I don’t want to bog you down with details, but I thought that if this isn’t resolved now, it could end up costing us more time in the future, so I wanted to try to stay ahead of this and see what you thought about it now.”
Become the person your boss trusts as a second set of eyes and ears on the team.
Show them you’re thinking about the “big picture” and seeing beyond your day-to-day job duties. Work to understand how the team functions overall and how they interact with other groups.
This will start to signal your boss that you’re a good candidate for higher-level work.
3. Expand your job duties “unofficially”
Next, it’s time to ask for ways to play a bigger role (without asking for more money or a new job title, yet).
This will expose you to new challenges, give you a sense of what type of role you’ll enjoy as you grow, and most importantly – will show your boss that you’re ready for a promotion.
Whereas in the last step, you were doing small things to go above and beyond your job duties, you’re now asking for responsibilities to be added to your day.
As an example from my own career: While working as a recruiter, I asked to be on the panel of people who interviewed new candidates that we were considering hiring.
I wasn’t initially invited onto this panel, but by simply asking, I was able to join it! This is an important lesson to take away: If you don’t ask, the answer is always no.
I could have assumed that there was a reason I wasn’t invited onto this panel and given up. In fact, the idea crossed my mind. Fortunately, I asked my boss about it, and she simply said, “Oh, no problem. I didn’t realize you wanted to be a part of this.”
As a recruiter, I also trained and mentored new team members. I was given this responsibility because I asked for it, too.
I’d listen to their phone calls, give feedback, teach them my best scripts and opening lines when “cold calling,” etc.
This showed my managers that I was able to lead, teach, be a mentor to newer staff, and ended up earning me a promotion from Recruiter to Project Manager soon after.
The key was asking for responsibilities before asking for a promotion. I demonstrated my value first, then asked for more money after.
4. Ask for a promotion (when you’re ready, not when one opening is announced)
Once you’ve gone through the steps above, it’s time to tell your manager that you’re interested in an official promotion.
You should do this whether or not a promotion opportunity has been announced. The timing of this is based on your performance, not based on what’s happening in the company.
As mentioned earlier, if you wait for a promotion to be publicly announced, you’re going to have way more competition. And that’s going to make it nearly impossible to stand out.
In the next section, we’ll look at how to ask your boss for a promotion step-by-step…
ASKING FOR A PROMOTION: HOW TO HAVE THE CONVERSATION WITH YOUR BOSS
Once you’ve followed the steps above, you’re in a great position to ask for a promotion.
The best way to do this is face-to-face. It’s a bit intimidating if you’ve never done it before, but that’s why I’m going to walk you through everything you need to know.
The reality is: Doing a mediocre job at delivering your message in-person is still more impressive (and more effective) than sending the perfect message via email.
This type of conversion is best done in-person and your boss will respect and appreciate what you’re saying a lot more if you deliver it to them face-to-face.
Set up a dedicated time to talk
First, this discussion is important and deserves its own conversation. Don’t bring this up at the end of a regularly-scheduled weekly check-in or other meeting.
Get a separate meeting scheduled by emailing or asking your boss for a time to talk.
I prefer email because if you ask your boss for a time to talk in-person, there’s a chance they’ll say, “I’m available right now actually. Why don’t you step into my office?” And if you’re not yet ready, this can be a problem.
So I recommend sending an email to schedule a time to talk. Here’s a template you can use:
Do you have 20 minutes available to talk this afternoon? I was hoping to discuss something in private with you.
Practice your opening line
Next, when you walk into the one-on-one meeting, you want to sound confident and never be apologetic. Start by saying, “Thanks for meeting with me.” Never say, “Sorry to bother you,” or “Sorry for taking up your time.”
It’s literally a part of your Manager’s job to discuss this with you, so never worry that you’re taking up their time; you’re not.
Another way to boost your confidence is to practice this discussion at home with a friend or family member.
While you can’t predict how the real conversation will go, you can practice the opening, which will set the tone for the rest of the conversation and will help you feel more calm and confident.
Be clear about what you want
After sitting down with your manager and thanking them for meeting with you, be clear and direct about what you wanted to discuss.
You don’t want to leave them guessing, as this will be seen as a lack of confidence or lack of belief in what you’re asking for.
So get right to the point after sitting down. I recommend telling them that you’re excited about what you’re doing and how you’re developing.
Then, tell them you wanted to discuss a potential promotion and find out what opportunities are available. Make it clear that you’re interested in moving to a higher level position.
Put the ball in their court
Once you’ve been clear and direct about what you want, the best thing you can do is stop and ask for their thoughts.
I recommend ending your request for a promotion with an open-ended question like, “What are your thoughts?” or “What do you think about this?”
This is more effective than continuing to talk and make your case because you’ll find out specific objections if they have any, or specific limitations based on company situation, budget, etc.
Don’t panic if they’re not quite convinced yet. You can still overcome their objections or to work toward a compromise, but you need to find out what they’re thinking first.
If your manager doesn’t say, “yes” immediately, try to remain calm and ask questions like: “What’s your main concern?” or, “What factors are making this not possible right now?”
You’ll find out if your manager has specific concerns about your work, or whether it’s simply an issue of the company not having a place to promote you into (or the budget to do it), etc.
Then, if it’s something specific, you can respond and address their concerns or come up with an action plan to revisit the conversation in the near future.
For example, your manager might say, “You’ve been doing a great job here. However, for the next level in our group, you’d need a lot more hands-on experience with XYZ.”
You could say, “Great, I understand. Is there a way we could begin exposing me to that type of work in a more hands-on manner, so that we can have this discussion again in 3 months?”
Sometimes it has nothing to do with your performance, too. Your manager might say, “I agree, your performance has been outstanding. Unfortunately, the company just doesn’t have the budget to pay you more or move you into a higher-level position this year.”
From here, you could ask if they expect a new budget to be released the following year (many companies receive new hiring budgets in January of each year and do a lot of hiring and promoting at that point).
Plan to follow up
Whatever you and your manager decide, plan a time to follow-up.
If they say they’re going to promote you or look into a promotion, say, “That’s great. What’s your expected timeframe for this to happen?”
If they say that you need to work on a few things, say, “Thanks. That feedback really helps. When would be a good time to follow-up after I address these areas we’ve talked about?”
Now you have a timeline and an angle you can use to follow-up until you get the promotion you want!
Stay positive (even if you hear “no” at first)
No matter how the conversation goes, try to sound positive and optimistic when wrapping up the discussion.
If the company is in a situation where they can’t promote you immediately, then you can go home and plan accordingly (by deciding whether you’re willing to stay in your current role and wait for the situation to change, or whether you should begin an external job search.)
If your boss told you something specific to work on that’s within your control, then you can go home and strategize about how to address that.
However, showing frustration or disappointment in-person isn’t going to solve anything. So wait until you’re home to think about everything that’s been said.
Practice makes perfect
If you follow this plan, you’re going to give yourself the best chance at receiving a promotion while also strengthening your relationship with your boss.
And the more you practice this type of communication, the better you’ll get at it. So if you earn a promotion now, try to repeat the process in one or two years to keep advancing your career. If you change companies, wait a year and then try this in your new company as well.
If you do this, you’ll always know what type of opportunities exist in your company, and you’ll have a significant advantage over your coworkers when it comes to landing promotions as they become available.
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