Asking for a promotion is right up there as one of life’s more difficult conversations. So what’s your best bet for ensuring the chat goes well?
According to Carole Brown, National President of the Career Development Association of Australia, it’s preparation.
“You need to put in the groundwork and have already developed a good, trusting relationship with your boss over time,” she says. “You want to make sure you have enough runs on the board so that in a sense, asking for a promotion won’t be a surprise – it’s almost a no-brainer.”
Whether it’s at annual performance review time or at a more informal meeting, Brown offers the following tips to help ensure your conversation runs smoothly.
Set the agenda
“There’s no use turning up and saying ‘I want a promotion’,” says Brown, who is also the Manager of the Centre for Career Development at the Australian National University. “You need to give your manager forewarning, making sure there’s enough time in their diary and they are aware of the purpose of the meeting.”
Brown suggests sending an email in the lead up to the meeting saying you are looking forward to it and outlining half a dozen points you want to address.
“You are effectively setting an agenda, a structure for the conversation,” she says. “If you approach this in a respectful, positive way, it’s hard to ignore.”
Gather your evidence
Over several months to a year you should have collected information to prove you have not only met but exceeded your organisation’s expectations.
Brown says it’s a good idea to jot down a series of dot points to highlight your achievements and how you have added value to the organisation, enabling you to expand on these points in the meeting.
Prepare and practise
“Some people go into these meetings almost paralysed,” Brown says. “Some of the best performers in organisations are also the ones that don’t ask for anything and tend to get frustrated when they are overlooked for promotion.”
Brown recommends everyone should practise the challenging conversation with relatives or friends. “You need to provide an overview of what your skills are and your performance case for promotion and then practise articulating that,” she says.
Handling the meeting
“You have to position yourself in such a way that you show you are critical to the organisation’s success,” Brown says. “If you think your capabilities are really important you need to show some good evidence to support that.”
Brown urges people to show they are organisation-focused, not just out for personal gain.
“The language has to be about the organisation, not you,” she warns. “You say ‘this is how I’m supporting the goals of the organisation and contributed to A, B and C. On the basis of that I believe I am ready for the next step’. You then outline what you’d like to be able to achieve over the next 12 months, suggesting a promotion would enable you to do this.”
Avoid being defensive
Brown says: “Avoid adopting a defensive mindset of ‘I have to defend my turf’. You need to go into the meeting wanting to have an open and honest conversation. You shouldn’t be wedded to the result because then it becomes very stressful.”
Remember – timing is everything
The annual performance review may not be the best time to ask for a promotion, particularly if the organisation is going through massive redundancies and budget cuts. But Brown says there’s nothing wrong with using this time to flag the fact you would like to move into a certain area or take on more challenging work.
Got a promotion requestion war story? Or some tips you’d like other readers to consider? Let us know below.