Q: How can I prepare to ask for a promotion?
Career Advice That Doesn't Suck!
I’ll be the first to admit there is no one way to approach asking for a promotion, especially when there are a bunch of external factors outside of your own performance that come into play.
For example, can your company support another person in the next role up? Does your company have set promotion cycles? Are there pay bands attached to specific roles?
Even though these scenarios exist, there are still several things you can do to set yourself up for success in the meantime:
Document your work and your outcomes
It’s easy to leave things until the last minute, but if you document your work as you go, you’ll have an ongoing list to pull from whenever it’s time to share what you’ve done. I keep a personal “activity log” that I update each quarter so that my quarterly reflections and self assessments are easier. Since I have a laundry list to pull from, there’s more editing and less creating from scratch. Not only do I capture what I do - I make sure to also share the outcomes of my work, but more on that next.
Capture and measure your “success metrics”
One of the biggest differentiators between top performers and those who simply show up is the ability to capture and communication why your work matters. In other words, did you accomplish what you/your team set out to do and if so, how do you know? Enter success metrics. These are just fancy numbers that you can capture and measure over time. For example, if you’re a social media manger, you could simply say “Over Q1, I set up social accounts and shared 10 posts per week.” Technically, that may be true, but there’s a huge different and that and sharing, “Over Q1, I set up social accounts and share 10 posts per week which converted to 20% in traffic to our website. From that 20% increase, we gained 10 paying customers.” Now that’s something your manager can take to their manager.
Lay out next steps for after you get promoted
This is another one of those actions that sets people apart. It’s easy to ask for a promotion, but when you lay out a plan for what you’ll be doing once you get that promotion, it shows initiative and that you’re already displaying the behaviors of someone in that next role. It also means your boss can focus on managing you less and coaching you more. What’s the difference? Managers manage work and coaches coach people. When you show that you can mange yourself, it opens the door to focus more on how you want to grow in your career.
Conduct an experiment
In the design world, we’re no stranger to design thinking, which is our version of the scientific method. We interview people to learn about their pain points, define the problem to solve, ideate possible solutions, prototype the best, and then test them with those same people in order to learn faster. There is no reason why you can’t do the same within your own company even if you aren’t a designer. If you’re eyeing a promotion, why not use the time leading up to it to conduct your own experiment in order to deliver more value to the business. Worst-case scenario, you don’t get the promotion, but you end up learning more and picking up another skillset for the next job. Best-case? You have more evidence to show why you are worth investing in.
Share your story
What’s the last step? Take everything you’ve done, including all of the previous suggestions, and package it up into a compelling story using PowerPoint (or Keynote or Google Slides…you get the picture). This is where it pays to keep things short, sweet, and simple. This is also your chance to brag on yourself, so don’t shy way from sharing your story and painting the picture behind your worth. Before you dive in, trying outlining the overall flow of your story so that you don’t get lost in the weeds during any one part. Remember - this might be priority number one for you, but your boss probably has a lot on their plate. If you want to level up your communication at work, try testing out some of these principles.
And there you have IT! These are just a few nudges to get you started. Did any of them help? Let me know by responding to this email or leave a comment on Substack!
And we all know making your boss look good is one of the quickest ways to get promoted.