Somebody asked me recently: “what are the best ways to get promoted fast at my work? And how do I ask for a promotion directly?”
I’ve helped quite a few people get promotions at work (and I’ve done it myself) so I decided to put together an in-depth guide to how to ask for a promotion AND how to get promoted fast throughout your career.
What you’ll get in this article:
- 3 methods you can use to ask for a promotion right now
- 9 steps to give yourself the best possible chance of getting promotions throughout your career
- Mistakes to avoid when you ask for a promotion
Let’s get started…
Part I: How to Ask For a Promotion
Asking for a promotion at work isn’t easy if you’ve never done it before. This section will walk you through how to ask for a promotion with 3 proven methods.
By the time you finish, you will feel confident and ready to approach your boss and ask for a promotion.
One of the most common reasons that people leave their jobs is lack of career-advancing opportunities. So taking the time to explore internal opportunities before spending months job hunting is a great idea.
And in many cases, your boss will be THRILLED to hear you want a promotion. Your manager can’t read your mind and might think you’re satisfied in your current role.
So the best way to get promoted is to simply ask and express your desire to advance.
Now let’s look at how to do this…
When is the Right Time to Ask For a Promotion?
The best time to ask for a promotion is after you’re comfortable that you’ve learned your current position and are performing well at your core tasks. After this, you should tell your boss that you’re eager to learn new more and take on new challenges. This will signal to your manager that you’re interested in earning a promotion soon.
Any good manager will be excited to hear this, so don’t be afraid to bring this up with them, whether it’s asking for a specific promotion or just talking about future opportunities in general.
Part of a manager’s job is to help employees advance and grow. This is often what they take pride in. A manager cannot do his or her job if you’re not open about what you hope to accomplish within the company.
How to Ask For a Promotion: The Indirect Method
This whole method tends to work better as a long term plan. If you’re completely fed up and thinking of leaving your company immediately due to lack of growth, you should probably skip right to Method 2.
The first method of getting promoted involves asking for responsibilities first, and then growing into the role. Think of it as “try before you buy” model, both for you and the company.
Essentially, you’d find a few areas that you’re interested in learning more about, and slowly incorporate some of these responsibilities into your current job.
You do this without officially changing job title (yet). You simply ask for new responsibilities rather than asking for a promotion.
The goal is to be promoted and have these responsibilities become a permanent part of your job once you’ve learned the basics.
This is better in a company that is smaller or more flexible in terms of structure. In flexible organizations, senior management will have more freedom to let you try out new things.
And sometimes a job looks great from the outside, but once you step into the role you find that it’s not enjoyable. That’s where a trial period can be fantastic for both sides.
I was once promoted to a Project Manager job and ended up hating it. I wish I had tried it out more “indirectly” before accepting the change in job title, because I quickly moved back to the old role that I was much happier in.
How to Ask For a Promotion: The Direct Method
This is the more direct way of asking for a promotion. This path toward promotion involves requesting a new job or new responsibilities up-front (before trying it out).
With this method of asking for a promotion, you’d want to schedule a time to sit down with your manager. Then in the meeting, be clear that you’d like a promotion, and ask if there’s an opportunity for that.
You can ask your manager if they’re aware of any higher-level jobs in the group, or what positions other people have gone on to take in the company. This will allow your manager to provide some helpful feedback and indicate to you whether they think you’re ready for a promotion or not.
Example of what to say when asking for a promotion with this method:
“Hi <Name>. Thanks for meeting with me. I wanted to sit down with you to discuss the idea of a promotion. I’ve been with the group for 14 months now, I feel like I’m excelling at my core work, and would love the opportunity to take on more and move into a higher-level role in the organization. Is there anything that comes to mind that might suit me as I look to grow within the company? Or what have other people gone on to do in the organization after ‘graduating’ from this role?”
How to Ask For a Promotion: The Ask-First Method
Finally, if you’re not sure the best way to approach your boss to ask for a promotion, there’s one more option.
You can ask them what THEY prefer.
Instead of guessing how your boss wants you to do things, you could simply go to them and say:
“Hi <Name>. Let’s say I wanted to earn a promotion… How would that process look, and how do you usually like an employee to handle that with you?”
Now they can tell you what they expect, how other people have gotten a promotion in the past, etc.
You’re being less direct and upfront than with the “Direct Method” above, yet you’re not spending weeks or months taking on new responsibilities without any assurance it’ll earn you a promotion.
So if you’re not sure how to get this process started, or you read the first two methods above and don’t think either seems quite right for you, then use this third method.
Mistakes to Avoid when Asking for a Promotion
Any of the 3 methods above can work very well. And any type of conversation you have with your manager about promotions will usually be a good thing.
However, there are some BAD times to ask for a promotion and some mistakes to avoid when asking. So now that you know what to say when asking for a promotion, let’s look at what NOT to say and do.
First, make sure you show appreciation for your current job when asking for a promotion.
You never want to sound frustrated or upset. You want to sound excited about how things are going, and eager to take on more. That’s the angle to take.
Next, don’t ask for a promotion when you’re in a brand new role or new company. It’s also not a good idea to ask when you’re struggling to perform well or have been getting poor performance reviews.
Learn your current job and make sure you’re performing well, first. Then ask for a promotion.
Also, keep your reasons for wanting a promotion work-related, and focused on your skills and contributions to the company.
Don’t ask for a promotion because somebody else got promoted. Don’t ask for a promotion because you’ve been at the company for X amount of time, either. You need to perform if you want to be promoted in most companies. Spending time in the organization isn’t enough. I’d recommend focusing on your results, not time spent, if you want to get promoted.
Also, don’t ask for a raise or promotion due to personal issues (long commute, gas prices, etc.) This is not as effective as asking for a promotion based on merit and work-related reasons (like the value you bring to the organization, the skills and experience you have, etc.)
Leaving Your Company is Also an Option
Sometimes it’s worth waiting for a promotion, but remember that you can also begin a job search and look elsewhere.
Not every company offers advancement and growth. Not every company even cares. So if you’re in a bad company, you should leave.
If you feel stuck or like you’ve hit a ceiling or dead-end, that’s a good reason to leave, too.
Some employers deserve your loyalty; others don’t. It’s smart to explore internal options for advancement before starting the time-consuming process of job hunting, but both can be great options.
And you can often earn a bigger raise by changing companies versus simply changing roles. This isn’t always the case, but I recommended changing companies at least 2-3 times in your career.
As a Recruiter, the lowest salaries I’ve seen (relative to their jobs) were the people who stayed at a company for 10-15+ years.
I’ve seen shockingly-low salaries for people who have done this. I’m talking about salaries that are $20K-30K below what they should have been.
This is what can happen if you stay with one company for 20+ years. So find a balance between asking for promotions and also changing companies a few times in your career.
Part II: How to Get Promoted FAST at Work
Now that we’ve looked at 3 methods for how to ask for a promotion at work, let’s look at some strategies and steps you can use BEFORE asking for a promotion to boost your chances of hearing “yes”.
These are 9 tips for how to get a promotion fast at work.
1. Find a great boss who supports you
Bad bosses will hold you back! I personally think having a great boss is even more important than finding a great company.
Ideally, find both. One of the best ways to get promoted is to find a fast-growing company and a great boss.
But here’s the bottom line: If your boss isn’t supportive, it’s going to be 10 times harder to get a promotion regardless of how hard you work.
Avoid bosses who seem jealous, impatient, rude, frustrated or unhappy at work. I’ve had some awful, awful bosses and it was not fun.
And I’ve had amazing bosses who literally propelled my career forward through advice, support and genuinely WANTING to see me do well. There’s nothing better! Go find a situation like this.
2. Volunteer for more responsibilities
Don’t wait to be asked to do more and don’t limit yourself to only doing what’s in your job description.
If you’re doing a good job with your normal responsibilities, look for ways to take on more. Ask your boss what else you can help with.
Look for ways to improve processes in your company, help the team more, make other people’s jobs easier, etc. (But always handle your “core” responsibilities first).
A good boss will be thrilled that you’re taking initiative to ask what else you can do and learn. And it’s their job to find ways to keep you engaged and growing!
That’s why I mentioned the importance of having a great boss in point #1 above.
So to recap, so far… having a great boss and taking initiative to ask them for more responsibilities is one of the best ways to get promoted in your job.
Let’s talk about some other things now…
3. Take a bigger role in company meetings and events
Participate in events. Make sure people get used to seeing you at company events whenever possible. Volunteer to help out any time your company does something like volunteering in the community, putting on a party for the holidays, or anything else.
Also, come to events relatively early so you can have a chance to meet new people, and leave late.
Do not skip these if you want to be promoted. Make sure you’re seen!
4. Make sure people in the company know who you are
There are always a few people in each company like this. You don’t work with them directly but you know who they are. You recognize them when they’re walking around. You know their name.
Start working your way toward being one of these people. It starts with showing up company events (mentioned above in point #3), but it’s also something you build each day in the office.
Go introduce yourself to other teams and groups in your company. Introduce yourself to people at lunch. Try to get lunches or coffees with people outside of your usual circle. Talk to people in the hallways, the elevator, EVERYWHERE. Whatever it takes.
What should you say when you meet them? Create a quick elevator pitch to tell them what you do at the company and who you are.
5. Try to be a part of the process of interviewing new people
If your company has multiple people involved in the interview process (rather than just one manager interviewing people and deciding), ask your boss if you can be a part of it.
You’ll gain valuable experience, you’ll feel like you are a bigger part of the company, and it’s another way of showing management that you’re interested in your work and that you’re looking to be a bigger part of the company.
The worst that happens if you ask is they say they don’t think you’re ready yet. No big deal. Ask again six months later! Even asking and hearing “no” is STILL going to leave a positive impression on management because you’ve taken initiative and clearly told them you are looking for more ways to involve yourself (more on that coming up…)
6. Never complain
This is so important and one of the most powerful ways to get promoted at your job. I know it’s hard sometimes but you cannot complain if you want to be viewed positively. It’ll ruin your relationship with people.
If you’re having a tough day, you don’t feel like being at work, or something a colleague said to you is really bothering you- think twice before complaining out loud! It’s going to hurt your reputation and people WILL remember.
So if you want to get promoted at your job, wait until you’re home and vent to a friend, not at the office!
7. Be accountable and communicate clearly
If you’re going to be late on a project, tell your boss! One of the best ways to get promoted at your job is to be transparent and have a rule of “no surprises” for your boss and team.
And be accountable. If you say you’ll do something, do it. If you can’t do something, make this clear and explain why right away.
It’s amazing how many bad situations you can avoid by just communicating clearly, pointing out a problem the minute you see it instead of trying to cover it up, and things like that. Be super accountable and upfront, and EVERYONE will trust you more.
Speaking of trust…
8. Show up on time every single day
There have been studies that show just showing up when you say you would does a TON to build trust. Your boss will see you as being so much more reliable if you simply go to work on time.
And managers promote people who they can trust. So showing up to work on time every single day is probably the simplest, easiest way to get promoted quickly at your job.
And it’s something anyone can do. It takes zero talent or skill.
Just leave early enough to get work on time, no excuses. If you want to get promoted, this is a must-do. If you aren’t doing this, or are making excuses to yourself right now about why you can’t do this… then you don’t want to get promoted badly enough. Somebody else is willing to do this, and they’ll get promoted first most likely.
If you don’t ask for something, you won’t receive it. Your boss isn’t a mind-reader. That’s why the whole first section of this article was dedicated to asking for a promotion.
While you’re sitting quietly wondering why you haven’t gotten promoted, your boss might be wondering if you really want more responsibility, if you like being here, etc.
So don’t make them guess. Go ask for the promotion! Tell them you’d love to be considered for the next opportunity available.
And before this, you should have been spending time taking on more responsibility “unofficially” (without more pay or a new job title). That’s what step #2 above was all about!
Getting promoted is a great way to advance your career without having to change companies often. It also looks fantastic on your resume. If you read the steps above, you now know how to ask for a promotion and advance your career!