13 steps to getting a promotion

Kayla Medica · 05 Mar

There are times where it may feel like you’ve been overlooked for a pay rise or deserved a promotion. This can be frustrating and demotivating, but can also be a great catalyst for assessing your own performance and what you can do to improve.

Whatever your motivation is, from purely higher pay to wanting to work on higher level strategy and work towards being a key decision maker, you’ll need to take the same steps towards that promotion.

The first thing you should do is ask for a performance review. This will give you a baseline to judge your improvement off, and might point out some areas you didn’t know you were weak in. You can even turn the notes of this meeting into a to-do list.

Once you’ve identified your weaknesses, make a plan to address them. Meanwhile, there are some other things you could be doing to show you’d make a great manager and can handle more responsibility without letting details get overlooked.

  1. Take notes

In any meeting you’re part of, take notes and offer to send them to everyone who was there. It’ll show you can be present and attentive, and follow up on things so they don’t get forgotten.

  1. Speak up when you have an idea or differing opinion

When you have an idea and you’ve filtered out the best ones, present them to your boss (in a meeting or email) accompanied by your thought process. Demonstrate your critical thinking and willingness to challenge your boss at appropriate times.

Offering a solution with reasoning behind it can be what puts you above your colleagues for the next round of raises.

  1. Ask questions

You should constantly be asking questions like what you can help with, questions around future strategy for the company as a whole, where you fit in with that and even who else you should talk to in the company.

Ask your boss what their biggest problem is right now and what you can do to help. During your performance review, ask what your boss would like to see before they’d feel comfortable promoting you.

Most importantly you should be asking for feedback from everyone, including your peers and colleagues.

  1. Build your skill set

Even if it’s a new hobby on the weekends that doesn’t apply directly to your work, having a mindset of perpetual learning can help you pick up things from work that you previously wouldn’t have noticed.

Another avenue is to directly ask HR what skills they’re hiring for, what skills they’ll be hiring for in 6-12 months, and if there are any other gaps to fill - there might even be something in your team you didn’t know about.

A really good generic skill to work on is listening, and it’s one that is quickly noticed by those around you.

  1. Own your mistakes

Admit to making them, and then describe how you’ll avoid making the same mistake in the future. This could be done as a checklist for that task or an action plan.

  1. Become a helper

Offer to help on as many projects as you can manage, or even just individual tasks from the person sitting next to you. Show you’re a team player and that you can teach and manage other people while still getting your own work done. This is a double edged sword though so be careful - don’t take on so much your own work slips.

  1. Do your research on yourself

When you finally get to asking for that promotion, you want to go into it armed with numbers. These are the stats you’ll definitely want to know;

  • Your personal ROI (what has the company gotten in return for hiring you)
  • Achievements you can attribute to yourself (increased X by Y%)
  • Your market value
  • Suggestions you offered that were taken up and their results
  • Any points you can refer back to your performance review
  1. Keep it professional

Avoid bringing up your personal situation (like a rent increase) as a reason for why you should be promoted. Also avoid comparing yourself to your colleagues or putting anyone else down, this won’t work in your favour.

You need to look at what promoting you will do for your company, not for yourself - try and look at it from your boss’s perspective.

  1. Ask for references

Your coworkers and even managers from other departments could be great references to give to your boss. If someone thanks you for helping them, ask them to forward their compliments to your boss, or get them to email it to you. It can be as easy as saying “thanks for acknowledging my work, it would really help me out if you could put that in writing, I’m working towards a promotion.”

  1. Consider the timing

It could be your employment anniversary, the end of a financial year, or quarter. Whatever it is, think of it in terms of when budgets are set - you don’t want to ask for a raise right after budgets have been set and locked.

Try to time it a few months before budgets are decided, this will give you negotiating time and reasonably follow ups if needed.

  1. Let the quality of your work speak for itself

You shouldn’t need to brag about your work, if you’re on the right track you should be getting comments on how much you’ve improved. Avoid sounding arrogant and always thank anyone who was involved in helping you.

  1. Practice asking for the raise

Grab a friend, mentor, or partner and go over your arguments of why you deserve the raise or promotion. Build up the confidence before you go into the meeting to officially ask for a raise.

What to do if you get a no

Make sure you get a clear answer of why it was a no. Is it timing or budget? These can be outside of your boss’s jurisdiction. If it is budget, you might be able to see if there is an alternative budget to get a bonus out of, like asking for the company to pay for some learning and development courses.

If the feedback you’ve gotten in the meeting is that you’ve asked for too much, try negotiating. Alternatively, request milestones and timelines to a performance review, and an agreement that if you meet all the milestones, discussions for a promotion or pay rise will be revisited. You can even schedule that meeting in on the spot to make sure it goes ahead and show how serious you are.

Now get out there and get that raise!