Enterprise Software

10 things you can do to get a promotion


Very few people hire on with any company or organization with the intention of remaining indefinitely at the position for which they were hired. Just because you started as the grunt who had to fix the copy machines doesn't mean you don't someday want to be CIO. At most companies, this could entail half a lifetime of climbing the corporate ladder. Each step up that ladder is generally going to involve asking for and receiving a promotion. The thought of asking for advancement is usually pretty frightening, but these tips will help you be more prepared.

Note: This information is also available as a PDF download.

#1: Show them the numbers

When you make your pitch about what a great job you've been doing and your value to the company, it will help your case if you can show your employer or supervisor specific results. Prepare documentation showing how and how much your brilliant ideas have helped them. This can be especially useful in the common scenario in which the person you're dealing with doesn't have the power to grant you a promotion. If that person has to fight on your behalf with his or her boss, you had better provide the best ammunition you can.

#2: Ask for more responsibilities

When asking for a promotion, it's best to avoid that "P" word. If instead, you tell your boss you're ready to take on more responsibilities, it will show that you're prepared to tackle a larger or more complicated workload and aren't just looking for a bigger office and fatter paycheck. It also gives your boss the option of gradually giving you the more important duties rather than just dumping you in a new position. Just make sure that if, after a few months, your tasks no longer resemble your job description, you bring that up and (with luck) get the new job title and paycheck.

#3: Invent a new position

If you feel that your skills are best suited to a position that doesn't exist at your current organization, and you think you can make a strong argument for a need for that position, by all means, do so. Even if they won't (or can't) make the new position happen, you will have earned points for creativity while at the same time making it clear you are looking to advance.

#4: Bring up the topic in an informal setting

If you have the opportunity to meet with your boss outside the workplace, this can be a good way to make use of the occasion. Whether it's at the bar for a drink after work, a big conference, or the company picnic, people will naturally be in a more receptive mood when they aren't busy busy busy. But be careful in these settings. If you press too hard and your approach falls flat, you could be left in an awkward place for a couple hours with no easy means of escape. Phrase things lightly and back off if you don't make any headway.

#5: Schedule a private meeting

Obviously, the alternative approach to having the promotion talk is to ask during regular work hours. Since during this time your boss is generally going to be busy, it's a bad idea to just ask for a couple of minutes of his or her time. If you try to talk about a promotion like that, you could get shot down without your boss even looking up. Instead, schedule an appointment so that a block of time is set aside specifically for listening to you. Also, if possible, try to avoid revealing the specific topic of the meeting beforehand. Don't go too far with this; you don't want to annoy your boss by making the purpose of the meeting too mysterious. It's just a bit harder to articulate a reason to say no to you when you're in the room.

#6: Don't be afraid to toot your own horn

Just make sure to play the right notes. It's okay to brag a little -- as long as it doesn't sound like bragging. There is nothing wrong with reminding your boss of your accomplishments, since even if they were great, he or she might have forgotten about them. Mentioning that you've done this, this, and this, and that there are 15% fewer incidents in your department since you have started the job is great. Saying you're the best system admin in the company is much less persuasive. Also, don't forget that this is about you, so concentrate on all of your positive aspects and not on anybody else's negative ones.

#7: Don't make threats or demands

Be careful not to make your request for promotion sound like a demand. Don't threaten to leave if you don't get what you want (especially if you don't intend to follow through on it). If you have been offered a new job somewhere else, you shouldn't throw it in anyone's face or try to use that offer to leverage a better deal where you are now. Doing so can potentially damage your reputation with both places. Remember to stay calm. Even if you really are fed up with your current position, try not to show it.

#8: Make friends in higher places

Before you actually ask about advancement, it's a good idea to find somebody in the position you're aiming for who is willing to take you under his or her wing. This offers four benefits:

  • Prior to making your pitch for promotion, it will give you the opportunity to see what's in store and make sure that it's what you want.
  • It will show your boss that you've taken the initiative to learn the ropes already.
  • It will give you a buddy on the inside -- one who may have some influence in deciding whether you get the position.
  • After you get the promotion, it will give you a friendly ear you can go to for advice if things get hard.

#9: Learn new skills

It should go without saying that any time you have the opportunity to learn something new, you should take it. In particular, when you're seeking a promotion, you'll impress your boss if you can show that you've learned new skills that go beyond your current position. You might consider earning additional industry certifications or maybe go back to school for a higher degree. Taking on these things while working full time can be quite taxing, but with the ever-increasing availability of night classes and self-study materials, it's definitely possible.

#10: Excel at your current position

Sometimes, actions speak louder than words. The best way to show that you deserve advancement is to simply shine where you are now. Go above and beyond the call of duty. Get to work early every day and stay a few minutes late. Try to come up with solutions to problems that haven't been addressed yet. If your deadline is Friday, try to have everything done by Thursday.

Finally, remember to be a team player. Make sure that you aren't irreplaceable. If you're at the top among your peers, take the time to ensure that you aren't the only one who can keep things running. This will show your superiors that you can be a proper leader, and it will help curtail the disastrous response to a request for promotion: "I'm sorry, but you're doing such a great job, we just can't afford to lose you where you are now."


Kristoffer Littlejohn is a graduate of the University of Texas at Dallas, distinguished by its large population of nerds and lack of a football team (almost unheard of in Texas). He builds computer systems, does network consulting for small businesses, and teaches chess. He grew up in a home that had four times as many computers as people, and has been trying to tame the beasts for most of his life.

About

Kris Littlejohn grew up in a household of tech writers and has been playing with, building/disassembling, and writing about computers and other gadgets from an early age, including a number of articles for TechRepublic.

17 comments
lizzz
lizzz

On a whim, I once told one of the boss's spies that I had received an offer from another organization for a better position and $10 per hour more. I told her to keep it in strictest confidence. The next day, the boss told me he knew about my offer from a friend at the other organization and would match it. And so I got a better position and more money.

jonheights
jonheights

yEAH - EXACTLY - ONCE THEY KNOW YOU CAN PERFORM AND IMP[ROVE ON THIER DINO-PROCESS

nazaniaamath
nazaniaamath

thank you very very very much i need more

mandrake64
mandrake64

I appreciate the comment right at the end regarding being a team player, however, without the right people being mentored, this is not enough. Over the last 18 years, I've trained up and placed people in my teams in positions where they can develop new skills and stand out from the crowd and guess what! They have all left for better positions and significantly higher pay, some locally and some overseas. While this has given me much satisfaction, I am still left holding the fort. The hiring and personnel development plans of the organisation leave much to be desired. Outsourcing is not the ansr to everything. With great skill and knowledge comes the burden of responsibility. This tends to keep people stuck in the same job for many years (18 years and counting for me). The one saving grace is that every time I've motioned to leave, someone has found out early and I've found myself with a pay rise anyway. So I'm stuck with a few problems: - too much knowledge about systems and business domain processes to easily pass on ( generally need a full year to do this effectively); - a lack of people to be mentored (as I seem to have little influence on the way the team is run with my current team leader); too much loyalty to the organisation (guilt about leaving); and a sizeable pay packet that makes changing jobs a financial problem for myself and my family. Promotions within an organisation are simply not possible if the organisation ends up blocking your attempts at greater responsibility by paying you more to stay where you are and ignores nepotism to be rife further up the management chain!

jamerican_Tech
jamerican_Tech

I agree with all the points of this article. Even as a Federal Employee, if you can create ways to streamline processes and/or save money, it will get you noticed. I've heard people say Navy stands for Never Again Volunteer Yourself, but that is one sure way to get noticed, especially if it's a high level project. Volunteering to do some extra work, especially when needed, pays big dividends in the long run.

18th Letter
18th Letter

how do you not shine if it's all you know & since everybody else has thier own responsibilities how do you start to teach other ppl your job so that you aren't irreplaceable?

femijumo
femijumo

Everybody want promotion but not is promotable thanks for your eyes opening article

PeterSS
PeterSS

I've also found that presentation is important. If your boss wears a suit, and you always come to work in jeans, you are less likely to be considered as able to work at a higher level. Professional people dress professionally, and get noticed more.

Timbo Zimbabwe
Timbo Zimbabwe

"if you can create ways to streamline processes and/or save money, it will get you noticed." Very true. As a support tech, I'm often in a position to show where processes lack or where money/resources are wasted. Excel at your job, offer valid feedback to those that you work for and going "above and beyond the call" will *ALL* work in your favor and get you noticed.

marc
marc

The best approach in this case is to simplify and document. If you can make it as easy as possible to back fill the position you will be well positioned for a promotion.

njderelict
njderelict

Dress for the job you want, not for the job you have.

jfrappier
jfrappier

Sad but true... we are an image based society. Not only do you have to be good at what you do, but you have to look the part as well. I ran into this even in startup life, the jeans route got me nowhere.

marc
marc

This is great advice but I wonder how my boss would feel about me comming into work in tights since I really want to be a trapeze artist.

saulo.murguia
saulo.murguia

You probably would be suggested to leave the company. This would be a great opportunity to take a chance on circus business.

Editor's Picks