When I first started out in my career, I came across a ton of articles about how women were consistently passed over for promotions for a startlingly simple reason – they didn’t ask for them. Whether these articles held much truth or not is another matter, but they affected me in the fact that I became hyper-aware of the promotion structure and my own abilities related to it. I wanted to make sure I was taking my career into my own hands and that I was being proactive instead of simply waiting for people to notice all my hard work. I’ve since asked for and received a promotion and I know this first step when you’re starting out can be hard so I wanted to share how I did it.
The first thing you should do is examine your work ethic. Inventory your recent endeavors and be critically honest with yourself. Have you been putting in the work? Have you been meeting your deadlines and quotas? Do customers and clients like working with you? Are you making the company money? Are you truly adding value? Ask yourself all these questions and examine your answers. You may find that you’ve just been skating by and that means you’re not ready. If not, you should still dig deeper and figure out why. Maybe you hate this job or the company or maybe you’re simply bored, but either way, your work isn’t reflecting what you’re capable of and it’s not deserving of moving up.
Next, try to get feedback from others. Performance reviews can be ideal for this but oftentimes they don’t occur frequently enough to be valuable. Ask people you work with frequently, ask your boss, ask the people you manage. Ask your clients. Whoever you feel comfortable asking – ask them! Tell them you’re always looking to improve and ask what you could be doing better. This will help add color to your self-assessment and help you see if you are giving yourself the same amount of credit others are.
Alright, so let’s say you have been working your butt off, adding value like crazy, clients and colleagues love you and you’re itching to take on more – now you’ve got to pitch yourself. You know you’ve been working hard, other people know you’re good at your job, so you’ve got a solid foundation to pitch. First thing I did once I got to this point was write down all the things I’ve been doing right lately, and I also wrote how they compared to how good I was at them when I started. Showing growth and improvement is a huge plus because it demonstrates that you are coachable and will most likely continue to improve. Have a good handle on all your positives, but also write down the things you can improve on and create high-level plans for getting better at those things. You want to focus on your positives, but you also don’t want to be taken by surprise if someone throws one of your lacking points back at you. You should be self-aware on all fronts before moving to the next step…
…which is is to schedule time with whoever the relevant party for a promotion is. Mine was my direct manager. Promotions and personnel changes ultimately go through C-suite management at my company, but my boss was the one I had to convince to fight for me at that level. I scheduled a specific time with him to talk about my progress thus far. My strategy was to approach this from a learning perspective. I knew I had been putting in good work, but I had to ask how he thought I had been doing, and what he thought was necessary for me to do to progress to the next level.
The thing is, I wasn’t comfortable yet just marching in and saying I deserve a raise and here’s why. Maybe someday I will be, but being so young in my career, I felt it was more advantageous for me to come from the perspective of wanting to improve and learn, rather than seeming entitled, no matter how much I really believed I deserved it. This approach took a little bit longer than maybe it would have otherwise, but it ultimately worked. I got proper feedback on my progress, my improvement points, and was able to prove that I deserved to move up.
Lastly, no matter how great you are or how deserving you may be of a promotion, it’s also important to realize that there might be external factors that could influence your progress. Your company may not have the budget to increase headcount or offer raises at the moment, there may be some management turmoil going on that you’re not privy to, they might be trying to restructure company hierarchy so promoting people doesn’t make sense at the moment. There are tons of things that could be happening so it’s important to be able to have those conversations as well.
If your manager declines your pitch, then you should ask why not. The answer to this question is important, because if it’s something as simple as title rearranging, then maybe you are ok to wait, but if they don’t give you a clear answer or vague feedback, then that could also be a sign that you’re in the wrong environment for your progress. Don’t be afraid to judge your managers and superiors just as critically as they may be judging you. You don’t ever have to offer that feedback, but it’s important to recognize it so you can change your situation if necessary.
Ultimately, if you’re only after a promotion for a title change or more money, then you probably shouldn’t be pursuing it. A promotion usually means those things, but it also usually means more responsibility and you should be ready to grow and change accordingly. This is why I felt it so important to learn about myself from this process so that I could truly be ready for that extra accountability when the time came. If they had given it to me when I hadn’t been ready, then I probably would have floundered under the pressure and that’s ultimately a loss for me and a loss for the company, and nobody wants that.