How to Ask for a Promotion: A Step-By-Step Guide

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Learn when and how to ask for a promotion in a strategic and respectful way.

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You’ve been working hard at your job, getting things done, and succeeding for a while now. Yet, you know you have even more to offer – and are eyeing a new role as a result.

The question now is, how do you ask your boss for a promotion? More specifically, what is the most strategic – and respectful – way that you can go about asking your employer for a new job?

In this article, you’ll learn how to recognize when it’s time to ask for a promotion and determine the steps you can take to start the promotion discussion with your employer. Prepare to ask in the right way and your next role could be just a conversation away. 

When to ask for a promotion

Promotion is the next logical step for individuals who have been successfully doing their job for some time. However, many still wonder how to know they are ready for a promotion.  

While there is no single answer to this question that applies to everyone, there are some common circumstances that indicate you could be ready for a promotion. These include:

  1. You’ve been doing the job for a while and are looking for more responsibility. 

  2. Your current responsibilities no longer match your title. 

  3. You’ve already demonstrated your abilities and you know you have more to offer. 

Although there is no consistently perfect time to broach a promotion discussion, there are some times that are better than others. For example, if you recently had a positive annual performance review, then you might consider using the goodwill you’ve earned to discuss a promotion. However, if your employer just recently laid off other employees due to poor financial performance, consider waiting until the business is headed in a more positive direction. 

How to ask for a promotion 

You’ve decided you’re ready for a promotion and have the bandwidth to take on more responsibilities. Now, you need to start the process of actually asking your employer for the job. 

While it can sometimes be nerve-racking to put yourself out there, you can do so confidently by being prepared. Here are some concrete steps you can take to prepare for a conversation about a promotion with your employer. 

1. Research the job

The job you want to be promoted to will likely involve different responsibilities and require different skills than the one you currently have. As a result, it’s important to first research the job before asking for the promotion, so you can both identify your current suitability for the position and also any skills you might need to work on to be successful. 

You can research the job in a variety of ways. Some of the most common ways include: 

  • Ask someone already in the position about their day-to-day duties and the skills they use to perform them. 

  • Use online professional resources, such as articles produced by industry organizations, to identify the most common duties, responsibilities, and skills. In some cases, your employer might already have these resources available through their own website.

  • Read several job descriptions for the same position at other businesses and identify the most common duties, responsibilities, and skills. 

2. Prepare your promotion pitch

Once you have a good idea about what the job will entail, you can prepare the pitch for your promotion. Your pitch should outline the talking points that you will use in your discussion with your employer. 

Using your previous research, create a compelling case for the value that you can add to this new position by connecting your previous work achievements and current skill set with your desired job. At the end of the day, your employer is concerned about their bottom line, so above all else, you should orient your pitch around the value that you can add with a promotion. 

Your pitch should include the following elements: 

1. Clarify the position’s purpose: Define for yourself how the position fits in the organization, the problems it’s focused on solving, and the responsibilities it entails. 

2. Demonstrate your value: Outline your suitability for the position by defining the relevant skill set you already possess and your previous work achievements.

3. Depict your future: Paint a picture of the ways that you can help your employer meet their goals by describing what you will do if you are promoted to the position. Support your argument by tying it back to your previous work achievements. This will help your employer imagine you in the job. 

4. Know your weaknesses: Anticipate any objections or concerns that your employer may have about your suitability for the position by creating a plan for what you will do to overcome your current weaknesses. For example, if you lack a specific technical skill, then outline how you will work to gain it. 

3. Schedule a time to talk

After you’ve crafted a compelling pitch, you should next schedule a time with your manager to discuss your possible promotion. While the best way to do this is likely face-to-face, you can also request a meeting through a formal email. 

When you request your meeting, be clear that you are ready for the next step in your professional development and that you’d like to discuss the possibility of increased responsibilities. This will give your manager time to also prepare for the discussion. 

Test the waters

If you have a friendly relationship with your employer, then it can sometimes be a good idea to broach the prospect of a higher-level position in a more casual way than by scheduling a formal meeting. For example, you might lightly suggest the possibility of taking on more responsibility as both of you grab lunch or a cup of coffee. 

This can be a good way to see if your employer has any interest in the idea. If they do, then schedule a formal time to discuss the possibility in greater detail later. If they aren’t open to the idea, however, then take note of the reason why and decide later for yourself if it's worth nurturing the possibility over time or broaching the subject with them again later. 

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4. Make your case

On the day of the meeting, it’s important to show up on time to demonstrate your professionalism. During the meeting, you should present your pitch in a clear and concise manner, respecting your manager’s time by keeping your pitch focused and direct. 

That said, remember that this is primarily a conversation, so be prepared to answer questions and discuss the possibility of a promotion in detail with your employer. 

Some of the strategies to keep in mind as you are discussing your promotion to your employer include: 

1. Offer an overview of your time working at the job, emphasizing your key achievements and the concrete impact of your work. 

2. Clarify why you are interested in the position and why you feel you are well suited to it. 

3. Paint a picture of what you will do in the role and how you will add value to your employer’s business. 

4. Reassure your employer about any of your weaknesses by outlining the concrete steps you will take to improve your abilities and take on additional responsibilities. 

5. Look to the future

Either during or after the meeting, your employer will come to you with their decision. While it can be difficult to wait for their decision, remember that filling a new role with the right person is as important to your boss as it is to you. 

If you get the job, then congratulations – you did it! Now, you should prepare for the transition by finishing up the last of your current tasks and getting everything ready for your replacement. 

If you didn’t get the promotion or your employer says it’s not feasible right now, don’t despair. While rejection can be discouraging, it can also be a great opportunity to reassess your priorities. In some cases, it might mean that you simply need to work on honing your skill set and open up the conversation again later. In others, you might realize that you need to look elsewhere to achieve your professional goals. 

Whatever the outcome, you should be proud that you took the initiative to take control of your career and use this as an opportunity to plan your future. 

Next steps

To prepare for your new job, you might consider taking an online course to expand your skill set and qualifications. Coursera offers 7,000+ world-class courses, hands-on projects, and job-ready professional certificate programs for such in-demand fields as project management and data analytics

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