How to get a promotion

How to get a promotion and not ruin your relationship with your boss

Where is the line between a selfish desire for more and a desire to be useful to the company? How to properly build a dialogue with the boss to get a promotion? Why master the art of self-promotion and how not to slip into bragging? These and other questions are answered by specialists from the Harvard Business School.

How to get a promotion

Many people get nervous before asking their boss for a raise. But when you’re ready for the next step in your career, it’s important to say this. How do you prepare for a conversation with your boss? What information should I have on hand? And how do you present your reasons? 

The organization won’t take care of you just because you are doing well. You need a certain amount of self-promotion

“Asking for promotion makes you feel vulnerable,” says Sabina Nawaz, a senior executive consultant who speaks and writes on leadership. “You are not in control of the situation, you put yourself in the hands of a boss who will judge you and may decide that you are not worthy of a promotion.” You may be afraid that you are “annoying” your boss or appear greedy or selfish to him. 

But as you build a career, you must learn to protect yourself, says Joseph Weintraub, founder of Babson College’s Leadership and Teamwork Counseling Program. “You cannot be expected to be taken care of by an organization simply because you are doing well,” he says. “You need a certain amount of self-promotion.” Simply put, “if you don’t ask, you won’t receive.” Here are some tips on how to apply for a raise.


The first step in the process is deciding exactly what you want, Weintraub says. “Do you want more power? More money? More responsibility? ” Does the organization have a job you are dreaming of or needs to be created? Do you want to move up, or might you be interested in horizontal movement? 

It is also important to “review your skillset and understand how it fits with the organization’s objectives,” he adds. This will help you align the request for a raise with the broader strategic goals of the organization.

Do your research 

It is useful to stock up on external data, says Nawaz. “The higher your position, the more likely it is not only your boss who makes the decision to promote,” she says. “Other leaders will have their say as well.” She recommends “asking mentors for feedback” to learn about your strengths and weaknesses, and talking to colleagues to “check your reputation with the company.”

Past experience is a precedent. Find out how others got promoted. This will help you find effective strategies. Also, ask your coworkers if they think you are ready for a promotion. And when it comes to meeting your request, “it’s not just business results that matter; you have to be the person people are willing to follow. “

Give your arguments 

Once you understand your aspirations, prepare a compelling case for why you deserve a promotion. This is especially important if your request for a higher position is at odds with your promotion schedule. Be prepared to bump into an attitude based on the question, “What have you done for me lately?” Nawaz says. She recommends that you prepare a note that “clearly states your accomplishments.” 

On a page or two, list “specific metrics that reflect your contribution,” describes the “solutions you proposed,” and the financial results you were responsible for. You can also include “data from other departments or from customer or employee surveys” that show your success. “You have to prove that you are already working at the level to which you are asking to be promoted,” she says. 

Weintraub also recommends thinking at this stage about “who could fill your position” and how to support that person. Show your boss that “you are working to develop others,” he advises. “This not only demonstrates your leadership skills, but it also makes it easier for your boss to know who to put in your position.”

Choose a moment

There is no perfect time to ask for a raise, but timing should be wise, Weintraub says. Obviously, the week after the company was laid off or the day your team lost a key customer is not good. Better to ask “after something good has happened.” For example, suppose you just closed a big deal, or the company posted good quarterly revenue.

Nawaz agrees: “If there is a churn of customers, the best thing you can do is get down to business immediately, roll up your sleeves and do your job to stabilize the company.” At the same time, do not give up. If your promotion helps the organization achieve its goals, insist.

Plant the seed 

Asking for a raise isn’t a one-off conversation, but rather a series of conversations, Nawaz says. She recommends that, based on your notes, you start off with something like, “I’m glad I work here and can influence the way the company operates. Here’s what I’ve already achieved. 

I want to constantly discuss with you what it takes to get to the next level. ” Weintraub suggests “talking about the pursuit of excellence,” along the way arguing for your promotion. “Tell your boss, ‘I want to make sure I’m not just doing well, but great.’ Then ask, “What can I do to convince you that I’m ready for the next step?” “Demonstrate a willingness to grow and learn,” he advises.

Take care of the sprout

After sowing the seed, “look after it,” says Nawaz. She advises asking your boss for an appraisal of your work “not so often that it becomes annoying, but, say, once a month or quarter.” Be specific. If, for example, your promotion is associated with increased responsibility towards customers, say something like: “Over the past month, I have often talked with our key corporate clients and this is what I learned. How can you evaluate these steps? “

Another good strategy, Weintraub says, is to tell your boss “how you would spend your first 90 days in your new role.” Show that you are prepared and serious about getting promoted.

You must prove that you are already working at the level to which you are asking to be promoted

Don’t take risks

If you have an offer to move to another organization, you may be promoted in your current job. Either way, such an offer will strengthen your self-confidence and give you a better idea of ​​how much your labor is worth in the market. 

(This is especially true if you are looking for a promotion primarily for financial reasons.) However, if you want to win over your boss with this strategy, you are at risk. “Forcing a promotion isn’t the best way to make friends and influence people,” Weintraub says. “As a rule, people react badly to ultimatums,” Nawaz echoes.

These tactics often “negatively affect relationships” and “lead to the artificial promotion of people who are not ready for higher positions,” she says. Play this card with extreme care.

Be patient (to a certain extent) 

It would be great if the boss would immediately agree to promote you, “but don’t count on it,” warns Nawaz. Promotions rarely happen overnight, and you shouldn’t be discouraged if you are not successful immediately. “Be realistic,” she says. In the meantime, “keep doing good work, openly look for ways to increase your influence and improve your effectiveness.”

But don’t ignore the signs that the situation is not going in your favor. “If you see others being promoted and you are not, talk to your boss,” Weintraub advises. – Ask: “Will you recommend me for a higher position when there is a vacancy?” “Realizing that you are“ not on the boss’s shortlist, ” think about whether you want to stay in this organization or look elsewhere. ” … But the good news is: “At least you know how things are.”

Create a “summary of achievements” 

At some point in her career, Gretchen Van Vleemen, then a human resources manager for a Chicago-based company, decided she was ready to talk to her boss about a promotion. At the first stage, she determined what position she wants to get. 

“I figured out where there are gaps in the company that needs to be filled,” says Gretchen. “It was clear to me that if I could connect my career path to the core goals of the company, there would be more reason for management to promote me.” Eventually, she chose a new position: Vice President of Human Resources. This job involved managing the HR department and finding and hiring new employees for the company.

It’s not just business results that matter. You must be the person people are willing to follow.

Before speaking to her boss, Gretchen compiled a “summary of accomplishments,” which included numerous examples proving that she was capable of fulfilling the responsibilities of her job and was ready for the next step. For example, Gretchen described how she reworked the internal instructions for the company, using both skills honed in the consultant’s work and ideas from the team she already led. 

(The instructions were circulated throughout the company.) “I wanted to show what I did for the organization beyond what my position required,” she explains. “I also wanted to demonstrate how these efforts have impacted the productivity of the team and the entire department and ultimately the bottom line of the company as a whole.”

Gretchen also developed a plan for how the team would handle if promoted. “I made a list of responsibilities that I could easily shift onto the team members I trained,” she says. Then she made an appointment with the boss. “I spoke clearly and concisely, based on my ‘resume’,” she says. 

She understands that things like this are not done right away, Gretchen told her boss. Indeed, he didn’t say yes right away. Some things worried him. “He asked tough questions about how I would manage to find time for my many new responsibilities,” she says. The meeting ended with a promise from the boss to return to the issue in the coming months.

“In the meantime, he gave me a few short-term goals.” Gretchen was successful. She received a promotion and is now Vice President of Human Resources at Stratex, a recruiting firm.