Skip to content

When and How to Ask for a Promotion

Man working at desk preparing for promotion

Career advice delivered to you.

Email Signup

So you’ve been toiling away at your job for a while now and you feel stifled and root-bound. You can see opportunities for career advancement and you want in. You deserve a promotion. But before you go cap-in-hand to the boss, you need to know how to ask for a promotion. Here are some things you should consider.

What makes a promotion-ready employee

If you’re a top-performing sales or marketing professional who is on-target all the time, chances are your boss is thinking about your career path almost as much as you are. To figure out whether your manager thinks you’re ready for higher duties, you need to think like they do.

 

This is what bosses consider when doling out sales and marketing promotions:

 

  • Excellence: You’re great at all aspects of your current job – not just hitting your targets but also administration and being a team player. If your performance reviews are lopsided, focus on the areas where you don’t excel – especially skills you’ll need in your next role. 
  • Self-direction: You need a plan for yourself and your work after you’re gone. You’ve probably heard experts say “make yourself invaluable, not indispensable.” It’s a warning that truly indispensable people will probably never be allowed to leave their current roles – or their desks until 8pm.! On the contrary, your boss wants to see that you have a handle on your career direction and that your promotion helps them meet their goals.
  • History of success. You need to show that you will succeed. Proving you can do a job you don’t have can be tricky, but the key is to build your capacities in new areas by stretching yourself in your current role. 

 

So that’s what managers are looking for. Now here are some important – and maybe a bit humbling – things that you should consider.

 

  • Tenure promotions don’t exist – Time served does not mean that you deserve a promotion. Seriously. Loyalty to the company keeps institutional knowledge in place and the cost of onboarding low, but for most managers, it’s a nice-to-have. They want high performers, not loyal drones who are calling it in. If that’s you, pick up your game.
  • Being promoted is not a panacea – When people want out of jobs they hate or toxic work environments, they look to a job promotion as a ladder out of the muck. However, they often find themselves in another ball of wax, with all the same problems and grievances – but with bigger targets to hit. It’s important that you examine the reasons you’re unhappy in your current job and whether a new role will solve them.

How sales and marketing promotions differ

In recent years, sales and marketing careers have been converging. But when it comes to climbing that career ladder, they require a different approach. Sales careers, especially at the start, are often tied to ascending tiers in business accrual – Account Executives often have 20% higher goals than sales managers, which have 20% more than specialists. Marketing, with its more specialized roles, can be a bit more complicated, but your manager is still looking for proof you can excel.

How to ask for a promotion

So you’re ready to ask but you’re still nervous. These are some things you should consider:

 

  • Timing – Wait until you’ve had some big wins, so the context of your discussion is how great you’re doing. Promotion conversations often happen during annual reviews, but don’t wait for a review period if you don’t want to. You can bring it up in a regular check-in, or even ask for a special meeting. Then you know your career aspirations have your manager’s undivided attention.
  • Tact – Approaching the conversation should be done gracefully and with consideration for what’s best for your team and the company. So no steamrolling in and demanding a promotion, and likewise, no sucking up! 
  • Planning – Anticipating their questions will help convince them, or at least show you’ve thought this through. They may ask things like who will do the work that’s currently on your plate, and how you plan to show you can excel in the new role. Have smart answers, so the conversation ends with only one question: Do you deserve a promotion?

Next steps

Whatever happens, your career path planning doesn’t end here. Even if you aren’t successful, your manager should have guidance on what you need to do. So take a beat to lick your wounds but then start work on a plan to build the capacities your boss identified, and tell them about it. Now that the communications channel is open, you can talk about your plans at check-ins and you’ll both know when you’re ready to step up.

 

And if you are successful, you’re not off the hook. The first 30 days in a new role are crucial and you should immediately start to figure out how you’re going to excel. What’s your next step? If you start planning for your next promotion as soon as you’re warming your new seat, you will always know where your career is headed and you will always be in control.