how to ask for a promotion: the essential playbook.

  • career advice
  • March 28, 2019

Is your next career move a move up in the org chart? Here are the six steps you need to follow to succeed.

identify the opportunity

Identifying the specific position you want is an essential first step in planning and executing your big career move. Try to develop relationships with people from the department you're interested in, and make an effort to have conversations with as many different people at work as possible. Once you've discovered the role you want, zero in on the nitty-gritty — because the details matter. If you want to be an operations manager, for example, spend some time fine-tuning your understanding of what that job actually entails. From there, you can begin to modify your daily workload, focusing on tasks and projects you can take on that will demonstrate you're a viable candidate for the desired promotion.

do some informal digging

Has anyone else in the company been promoted while you've been there? If so, they should be a go-to resource as you prep for your next opportunity. Ask general questions about the steps they took — and in particular, try to listen for any factors that enabled them to successfully make their case for promotion. There might be specific levers, like your demonstrated leadership capabilities or firsthand knowledge of day-to-day operations, that not only make you an excellent candidate, but will resonate with senior decision-makers as well.

start by taking on new responsibilities

This is probably the easiest step you can take to support your professional advancement — it's an opportunity for you to demonstrate, day in and day out, that you have what it takes to assume a more senior role. Think of it as a stepping stone along the way in your path to promotion. But start slow, with one or two new responsibilities at a time: You'll be surprised at how quickly this can change the nature and scope of your daily work. Eventually, you might even discover you've evolved into an altogether new role. In the meantime, be sure to commemorate your wins, because these can later serve as proof points when you make the case for promotion.

sow the seeds

Even if you haven't identified a role within the organization that's right for you, you can still drop hints that you're interested in taking on more responsibility. For example, you might start by asking your supervisor or someone else higher up than you in your organization about the steps they took and the skills they acquired that helped them advance in their careers. (Hint: people love talking about themselves.) Follow up with an email thanking them for their time and gently implying that you, too, are interested in career advancement. By developing rapport with someone internally who can advocate on your behalf, or better yet, building a relationship with a boss who's genuinely invested in your growth, you'll be top of mind when opportunities open up.

set up a meeting

If it's not time for your annual performance review, your boss probably isn't expecting you to walk into the room for an in-depth conversation about your professional future. So email your boss ahead of time and give them some friendly advance warning — it needs to be clear in your message that your goal is to have a discussion about opportunities for growth. That will give your boss time to not only think seriously about your performance, but also potentially identify roles within the organization where you might be a good fit, now or in the future.

deliver a presentation

Putting together a formal, planned, well-thought-out presentation is a great way to demonstrate exactly the interpersonal, managerial and leadership skills that make you a candidate for advancement. Bear in mind that your presentation doesn't need to be flashy or long. Instead, it should succinctly articulate why you're the right candidate for the role. Focus on making a business case for your promotion, and keep the bullet points short so you can elaborate on them in person. You might include some highlights and achievements from your work with the company so far, as well as your bigger picture professional goals and aspirations. This is an especially strong tactic if you're interviewing with multiple people, as it gives you a chance to take control of the room — and take your career trajectory into your own hands.

key takeaways

While asking for a promotion can be anxiety-inducing, taking these six steps should help you take on the challenge in piecemeal fashion — and make valuable allies along the way. Simply by being proactive and keeping Randstad's guidance in mind, you'll find that you're far better positioned to ultimately land the job of your dreams.

Meanwhile, if you’re looking to improve upon your relationships at work, check out our essential dos and don'ts of workplace conversations.