If you’ve been toiling at your job for some time and are proud of the goals you’ve accomplished throughout your company tenure, you’ve likely considered putting yourself in line for a promotion.
Still, we know that asking for a promotion isn’t exactly an easy or comfortable task — even during “The Great Resignation,” the current workforce climate in which job openings are flourishing and salaries are on the rise.
To gain a better understand how you can advance your position, we spoke with a trio of experts from online MS in Human Resource Management program at USC Bovard College: Christine Hernandez, Theresa Haskins and Todd Mayhew.
Below, they explain how to know you’re ready to ascend the career ladder, when to approach a manager about a promotion, tips on how to handle the conversation and more.
How to Know if You’re Ready for a Promotion at Work
While many of us would gladly accept a higher salary and a more prestigious title, the truth is, we’re not always ready for a promotion.
Before approaching your manager to discuss the possibility of advancement, consider what you’ve accomplished during your time at the company and how you’ve helped make a difference in your team.
“The first step to take before you go to your manager is to inventory your team goals and assess your contribution to its success. Ask yourself, is the team reaching its goals, and are you helping to make that happen? What are the things you specifically deliver? Know how you are contributing to the overall goals of the business.” Haskins explained.
You should also reflect on whether you’re ready to take on more responsibilities and if you’ve learned the skills necessary to accomplish advanced work.
“If you can document and showcase your work, I would think it’d be a very productive conversation with your manager to say, here’s what I do, this is what I’ve contributed, and why I feel I’m ready for this next level of responsibility, increased pay, or changed title,” Haskins added.
When to Approach Your Manager About a Promotion
Once you’ve determined you’re ready for a promotion, it’s time to find the right moment to have the chat with your manager. While it can be a bit nerve-wracking requesting a meeting to discuss career advancement, Mayhew assured us there is no reason to feel uncomfortable.
“It’s certainly on a manager to be having clear conversations with employees regarding their performance, but employees shouldn’t shy away from them either,” Mayhew said. “Most organizations go through some sort of performance management cycle. Some have monthly check-ins, some do annual things, some do semi-annual things. Regardless, there’s usually a forum in which an employee can express interest about their growth and development. And if they don’t have that for you, you should take the initiative to create it.”
Of course, while performance reviews create a natural opportunity to discuss promotions, it’s not necessarily the most opportune time of the year to ask. Hernandez actually recommends trying to schedule the discussion right before budgeting season.
“As a manager, I have to budget for the promotions that I’m going to give the following year, so I’m planning for that right before I have to submit my budget. So, the best time to ask is right before your manager submits their budget … There’s a technical aspect to it. Make sure that there’s money in the budget for this promotion. I can’t give a promotion if I don’t have the money,” she explained.
Hernandez also emphasized the importance of setting time for frequent check-ins with your manager. That way, your performance can be discussed naturally, and you can regularly assess your growth.
“Set up those regular checkpoints with your manager. Don’t wait for your manager to manage you. Manage your manager. You are in charge of your own self-development. We live in an at-will employment world. Our job is to develop ourselves and to leverage the opportunities that are in front of us. Don’t sit back and wait for somebody to take care of you,” Hernandez explained.
And of course, be aware of your company’s policies around promotions. In some organizations, promotions only happen at a certain time each year. Research your company’s promotion procedures before opening the conversation, Haskins advised.
How to Ask for A Promotion and Discuss Possibilities
To begin your promotion discussion, come prepared with concrete examples that prove your worth to the company and show off the skills you’ve gained that contribute to the organization’s success.
“Come to me with an understanding of your job description, an understanding of how you’re working beyond your job description, and a job description you’d like to have that you think there’s a business need for and why you are the right candidate for that. Don’t rely on your manager to do the work for you — you explain it to them,” Hernandez said.
Once armed with your list of achievements, research average salaries in your industry to reference as you present your case and begin negotiations. Glassdoor, Indeed and LinkedIn are all reliable sources, and the more evidence you have to back up your demand for a higher salary, the better.
Sometimes, employees can also take advantage of outside offers to help them secure a promotion. This tactic can work, according to Mayhew, but he advised that you proceed with caution.
“You have to be careful about that technique because it can backfire. If you show up with an offer in hand, you’d better be prepared to take it. Often, this kind of move can alienate your employer, number one. And, number two, a lot of research says that if you’ve gotten to that point in your career journey where you’ve already pursued another opportunity, you’ve received an offer, and you’re considering it seriously, even if you get countered, there’s a high probability within the next 18 to 24 months you’re going to leave anyway,” Mayhew said.
Above all else, make sure to communicate in a clear and respectful way. Thank your manager for their time and be sure to follow up on the conversation if necessary.
Keep in mind that there’s always the possibility that you won’t be rewarded with a promotion. There may not be room in the budget, or your manager might not think you’re ready to move up. If that’s the case, discuss the next steps for you to achieve that advancement, Haskins said.
“This conversation would also be a good time to develop a performance plan of how you can gain the experience or knowledge you need to bridge the gap to be ready for that promotion next round,” she explained.
If it doesn’t seem like there are a wealth of possibilities available at your current company or even room to grow, it may be time to consider landing a promotion through an external move. After all, the job market is thriving this year, and there are many outside opportunities for success.
“More than ever, managers need to be receptive to their employees’ career aspirations. If you want to land that next promotion or job growth, you have to articulate as much. You have to be very clear about where you hope to go and in what time frame. Enlist your managers to support you in that journey. And if they’re not supportive of you in that journey, that should tell you a lot. That should tell you maybe it’s time to accelerate your search, maybe outside or in another part of the organization, because that’s one side effect of the ‘Great Resignation,’” Mayhew said. “You have more choices out there than you may realize.”
Learn more about the online MS in Human Resource Management program at USC Bovard College today.