Ready for a promotion? Your step-by-step guide to getting what you want

By Liv Hung

It can be one of the trickier areas to navigate in the workplace: negotiating a promotion with your boss. You’ve worked hard to establish yourself in your current role, and you’ll need to be strategic if you want to convince your boss you’re ready. Being overly brash may hinder your chances, or worse, set you back. Make sure you’re prepared. My experience has told me that following these steps will help.

Step 1: Excel in your current role and beyond

Make sure you’ve mastered all of your current responsibilities. Do you go above and beyond what you are expected to do? Have you received excellent reviews in the past? If there were improvements suggested in prior reviews, have you demonstrated that you have made the changes needed?

The more you can demonstrate to your organization you’re worth more than what your current job demands, the better your chances are for a promotion. Take on extra tasks or more managerial work where available, even if it’s beyond the scope of your current role. Step in where others may shy away, and show your leadership. It won’t go unnoticed, and it’s a good way to show your manager you are capable.

Step 2: Wait for the right timing

Recognize the best time to ask for a promotion. During good times, it’ll be much easier for your boss to ask her boss for that extra budget. If your company has just gone through cut-backs, layoffs or hiring freezes, it’s not the best time to negotiate. Recognize that wider company economics are at play. Also consider when your annual review is. If you’ve just gone through a review, it’s best to wait until your next review unless you’ve been tasked with an extraordinarily large amount of work that’s beyond your work level.

Step 3: Do your research

There’s nothing more arrogant than walking into a review and expecting a big raise and promotion without knowing what similar types of roles may pay. I remember spending many hours before my review meetings researching salary and job descriptions for the type of role I coveted. Look for job titles, salaries and descriptions of the kind of role you want and see whether it matches an organizational need.

Step 4: Be prepared

Heading into your meeting, have specific examples of “wins” you helped drive in the company to show your worth. If you followed Step 1 above, you’ll already have taken on some of the extra responsibilities and have shown you’re ready to contribute in greater ways. If peer reviews are included in the process, be sure you’ve talked to those who may review you and they’re supportive of your goals. If your new role requires additional education or coursework, make sure you’ve ticked that off your to-do list.

When I wanted to make a move from interactive planning and project management to leading connection and media planning, I took an evening course for traditional media buyers so I could learn beyond my current scope of work. Not only did it help me get into the role I wanted, but it made the transition easier with my new skills. So think carefully how you want to approach the meeting. How will you describe your proposed new role, and how does it address an organizational need?

Step 5: Have a backup plan

Have a backup plan in case you don’t get what you’re looking for. It doesn’t mean you have to find another job or leave but you should know what your response will be if the powers that be don’t agree with you. If the answer is no, then ask what you may do to work towards your goal or if there is another interim level you may reach now or in the near future. Show your persistence and willingness to work hard.

Step 6: Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate

Put on your best negotiating face for the meeting and be clear and logical about what you want. Show your manager what is in your best interest is also in your boss and company’s best interests so that everyone wins. Position your request in a way that is most helpful to your boss—whether it means he or she will be able to entrust you with more work or that you’ll be able to score more clients or sales. Be willing to meet halfway if budgets don’t allow for what you’re looking for. It’s important to show your initiative so your boss knows you’re committed and serious.

Once you’ve broken it down step-by-step, asking for a promotion won’t feel so daunting. These simple steps helped me reach my career goals, and by following them, you’ll feel more confident going into your next review.

About the author

Liv Hung is a digital consultant, blogger and award-winning interactive producer. She currently works as an independent consultant specializing in digital planning and social media strategy.

She has over five years of advertising experience on the agency side, and eight years of marketing communications experience. She was a connection planner and media buyer at Wasserman + Partners Advertising, B.C.'s largest independent advertising agency, where she created connection plans to help brands connect with their target audiences.