Career Advice

How To Ask For A Promotion At Work (and Get One!)

asking for a promotion at work

Did you know that on average employers promoted 8.9% of their employees during one year? 

According to the 2019 report by ADP, that’s what the promotion rates are today in the US. Another survey, conducted by McKinsey, also notes that women are more overlooked than men when it comes to career progression. Only 85 women were promoted to a managerial position per 100 men. For nearly, six years in a row, women are under-represented at every managerial level.  

The statistics are sobering. But don’t let the numbers deter you from requesting a promotion. On the contrary, go after one! But do prepare to build a strong case for yourself. After reading this guide, you’ll learn how to ask for a promotion with confidence! 

When to Ask for a Promotion?

Timing can be crucial for getting a promotion. Thus, before you approach your boss for “the talk”, analyze the overall corporate environment. Factors indicating that now is the best time to ask for promotion include the company’s stable performance, clear and strong strategy, high profitability compared to peers, high customer retention, recent funding rounds. Additionally, you have a higher chance of getting promoted if you work for a company with a prestigious employer brand, mature employee retention practices, and positive workplace culture. 

On a more personal level, you should be asking for a promotion when you have:

  • Recently completed a successful project
  • Delivered measurable results for the business
  • Taken on extra responsibilities 
  • Successfully trained or mentored new team members
  • Completed extra training or earned a certification

With that in mind, let’s move onto the tips! 

How to Ask for a Promotion at Work: 4 Tips 

The first rule of asking for a promotion (and getting it!) don’t undervalue yourself! 

Before you enter the negotiations, prime yourself up for the conversation. Have a quiet moment and analyze:

  • What results have you recently achieved? How did they affect the department/company?
  • Have you improved your technical skills? Or got better with interpersonal communication? 
  • Are you more productive and efficient than before? Can you complete more work within the same time slot? 
  • Did you develop a better understanding of the industry and business? How so? 
  • Have you received any new training, developed other skills, or core competencies? 

Based on the above, create a specific list of accomplishments. These will be your main talking points during the conversation. 

After you’ve done the soul-searching part, move into the following steps: 

1. Do Some Background Research

As mentioned already, timing is key. 

Requesting a promotion when the company’s doing its best is the easiest way to hear a “yes”. So do some casual browsing and perhaps a bit of a chit-chat with other colleagues to gauge the current corporate environment.

On the other hand, the economy isn’t at its best right now. But great employers understand that such turmoils affect their teams too. If you are a valuable asset, most will agree to bump up your salary a bit or provide other types of benefits to help you cope with the challenging times too. 

doing some background research

Next, do some quick salary research. Chances are that the average compensation for your role changes since the time you’ve entered the job. Also, if you didn’t negotiate your salary at this point and didn’t have a raise in a couple of years, it’s a strong sign that you should be discussing money too. Websites such as Glassdoor and PayScale provide up-to-date salary information for different roles and even specific employers. So get your ballparks! 

Using the above, prepare yourself well before you approach your boss. Be prepared to respond positively to a knock-back should your boss refuse your request. Don’t take no for an answer if you truly believe you are long overdue for a promotion or a pay raise.

2. Frame Your Ask 

When approaching your manager for a promotion, you cannot be vague about what you want or expect from your move. Whether it is applying for a newly created role that is in a higher band or wanting to take on more responsibilities for a higher salary, you need to make it clear to your manager what you want and are prepared to do.

If you are applying for a managerial role that involves looking after staff or team members, then you will need to demonstrate your leadership skills and give examples of projects where you took the lead or steered the progression.

3. Check in with HR About Internal Recruiting 

The aforementioned ADP report states that companies are more likely to promote employees for managerial positions than to hire externally:

  • 17.2% of managers are promoted whereas 15.6% are new hires
  • At executive (upper management) level: 21.5% of candidates are promoted vs 12.5% hired. 

The above dynamics are often described as the “hidden job market”. You should definitely join that not-so-secret club! Thus, book a slot with your HR department to have a quick conversation about your career objectives and potential openings. 

talking with HR about internal position

Company reorganization can be looked at as an opportunity to step up and discuss with your manager how you can see yourself fitting in with the new structure as the changes take place. If the company is downsizing and faced with deciding between two workers to keep, employers are more likely to choose to keep a staff member that is proactive and has their finger on the pulse.

4. Schedule a Meeting with Your Manager 

Unless you have an annual review coming up, then you will need to book a meeting and give yourself enough time to pitch a decent case. Start by sending an email to request a meeting and ensure that you spell out that you want to talk about your work record and potential career progression. The last thing you’d want is to catch your manager by surprise with your request, coming literally out of nowhere. 

How to Talk to Your Boss About a Promotion

Knowing exactly what you want to discuss with them, your manager can pause for thought and reflect on your work performance and achievements. 

Sabina Nawaz, a global CEO coach, recommends making “excellence” the focal point of your conversation. To effectively discuss a promotion with your boss, try the following:

  1. Create a summary of your proven track record: recent accomplishments, successful projects, a summary of skills. Think of this as a trimmed version of your resume. 
  2. Quantify your impact. When possible, peg your achievements and overall progress to specific metrics. Highlight the correlation between your day-to-day work and specific business or financial outcomes. 
  3. Pitch a list of successors: Explain how you see the transition process. You can mention your willingness to train or mentor the new hire or point towards a colleague who’d be a great fit for your place. 
  4. Round up with a call to action: Say something along the lines of “what can I do to show you that I’m doing not just good, but excellent?” Demonstrate that you are very interested in taking the next step and ready to work for it! 

What to Say When Asking for a Promotion

The exact wording is up for you to decide. In general, you should focus on explaining “what’s in it for them” aka how your boss (and the company as a whole) will benefit from promoting you. To accomplish that, do three things: provide an overview of your performance record, highlight the main achievements, explain how you plan to further contribute to the success of the company moving forward.

Also, don’t forget to practice your responses to different reactions from your boss. Think through what you will say if your boss:

  • Acts all surprised and reluctant about considering you for promotion 
  • Deflects your attempts in salary negotiation 
  • Tries to coax a salary figure from you first 

In every case, have some quick pointers on how you’ll respond. 

To Conclude 

Approaching your boss can be quite stressful or even intimidating, so don’t cave in to their casual brush-offs or if they try to blame outside forces, such as the state of the current economic climate. Prepare yourself with plenty of research that can counter their arguments and provide them with some pretty persuasive evidence that works in your favor.

Take some time to write out exactly what achievements you have brought to the table that have been beneficial to the company. You need to emphasize your value to your manager and to the company as a whole. Be specific, act confident, and stay positive!


  • Elena Prokopets

    Elena runs content operations at Freesumes since 2017. She works closely with copywriters, designers, and invited career experts to ensure that all content meets our highest editorial standards. Up to date, she wrote over 200 career-related pieces around resume writing, career advice... more

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