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3 Mistakes to Avoid When Asking for a Promotion


Thu Jan 28 2016

3 Mistakes to Avoid When Asking for a Promotion

It happens in every company: Some people work in the same position for many years and never get promoted, while others get ahead pretty quickly. What makes a person promotion material? How do you ask for a promotion?

If you aspire to move up to the next position, here are three mistakes to avoid when you ask for promotion. 


1. Consider “asking for a promotion” a one-time event.

Preparation for a promotion starts way before the moment you formally ask for one. Decision makers need to see that you have already demonstrated the ability to work at the next level before promoting you. 

In Stephen Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Effective People, the second habit is to “begin with the end in mind.” This means you should clearly define your vision and purpose, and then determine if they map to your team’s vision and purpose. During informal conversations with your leaders and co-workers, find out what challenges they’re facing and share how you can help with those challenges. Also, demonstrate that you’re thinking beyond your current position by taking on stretch assignments or volunteer projects. 

2. Surprise the decision maker with your request.

Asking for a promotion is stressful not only for you, but also for managers or decision makers. No one likes to be surprised or put on the spot to make important decisions without notice. Be respectful of their time, give them one to two weeks to prepare, and provide documentation of your achievements and qualifications. You may want to email them in advance. For example:

I’ve been with the team for a year, and I’m grateful to have worked on \[list projects with achievements\]. 

I noticed that the team is in need of a person who can take \[current projects\] to the next level. I would like to \[share your aspirations\]. Please consider my track record and my achievements. May I request 30 minutes of your time to discuss the details? 


3. Think only about how the promotion benefits you, not the team.

It’s finally the time to discuss a promotion opportunity with your manager. The key is to create trust and connect with your manager. As John C. Maxwell stresses in his book Everyone Communicates, Few Connect, find common ground. Your promotion will help your leader do a better job and meet organizational goals, as well as grow your career. Focus on how you can help your manager and what value you can add to the team. 

If you sense hesitation from your manager, be open and honest and find out what you can do to remove any obstacles. For example: 

I understand the team’s critical priorities are \[list the team’s goals\]. I worked very hard during the past year to develop the skills and knowledge of \[list specifics\]. Customer feedback is also very positive. This position will empower me to make a greater contribution to the team. You seem to have some concerns. What can I do to make it easier for you to decide?

The three mistakes to avoid have a common theme: Promotion is not just about what you can get, but about what you can do to help your team. It takes time to understand the roles and for your leader to recognize your potential. If the only thing you’re seeking is financial compensation, you might be disappointed after finding out what the position really entails. Finally, it’s important to understand who you are and reach the top of your career potential. If your promotion request is turned down, don’t take it personally. Find out why and keep working at it. Although not everyone's potential is the same, each company needs these two types of talent: high potentials, who can lead, and high performers, who can follow and execute.

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