How to get a promotion – Sealing the deal

Closing the deal may be the toughest part of the sales process. It may be relatively easy to introduce a product to a client and talk about its features and benefits. But sealing the deal is a different thing.

The same goes for job promotions. You may be performing exquisitely in your job. You might demonstrate all the key qualities needed to advance into a leadership position. And you know that it’s not just your opinion since your boss frequently praises your work. Even your colleagues, your boss’s peers, and your skip-level manager acknowledge this. So then why hasn’t the promotion happened yet?

In this post, I want to talk about the last stage of getting a promotion. Many things need to happen, mostly on your side, before you are in a good position to ask for it. But let’s talk about the situation where you already fulfill the technical requirements for the target job, and a position is actually available for you to potentially fill. What do you have to do to speed up the process?

The reason that promotions often don’t happen fast enough is that the individual seeking the promotion has not clearly and firmly communicated the intent to the relevant parties.

Is that really it? Simply ask for it and it’s done?

There is certainly no guarantee that by stating that you desire a promotion, you will get one. You will, however, maximize your chances, if you communicate it in the right way.

Promoting employees is seldom a priority for management. As long as an employee does the job that management wants her to do, and she doesn’t complain about it, from the management’s perspective there is no reason to rush a promotion. Although it is in companies’ interest to promote their employees to the position they deserve, in a timely manner. But assuming that most companies will take their time and are in no rush, it means that you are the party who needs to be more proactive about getting the promotion.

You might say that you’ve already talked to your boss several times about the possibility of a promotion. About your keenness to take on the position of Manager, VP, SVP, Regional Manager, etc. But a year passed and nothing happened. Chances are that there are several things that you didn’t address in your discussion.

Here are 3 things that need to be part of your discussion about a promotion:

1. State your value to the company in a future-oriented way

It is not easy to communicate how valuable you are to the company. You don’t want to come across as arrogant, but at the same time, you don’t want to undersell yourself. Think about it this way: Your boss already knows how great your performance is. So there is no need to reiterate every single detail during the promotion talk – this chunk should be covered during the performance view. In fact, this is not the time to convince your boss that you deserve a promotion, as your boss has likely been observing you throughout your employment and has more or less made up her idea about your worthiness. 

During the promotion talk, try to make it simple and focus on your most recent key accomplishment, and then quickly go over to talking about the future. Instead of elaborating too much on the things you did in the past that make you deserve the promotion, try to focus on how you think you can contribute even more to the company, in the future.

2. State options

Be aware of the fact the several candidates might be competing for the same position you’re after. So when you talk about your goal of being promoted to position XYZ, don’t make it the only option. Chances are, that within the same company there is more than one position that you could be promoted to. Of course, you can set your mind on just one position. But there is a possibility that you wait and wait and lose out to someone else in the end. You can state your preferences, but if your priority is to get promoted fast, then widening the range of positions you are willing to accept will increase the chances of this happening.

3. State your time frame

Without a clear set time frame, the simplest tasks can take double or triple the time that is actually needed. If you ask your staff to make a presentation in 3 days, then it is likely to be handed in in 3 days. If you ask your staff to make a presentation and tell him to ‘take your time’, or ‘finish it in the next few weeks’, then chances are that it will take forever. So imagine what happens to a request for a promotion without a time frame? 

It is crucial to talk about a timeline in your discussion about a promotion. 

Based on your own career goals, your vision and plan about your career path, you should have an idea of how soon you need this promotion to happen. It could be 3 years. It could also be 8 months. By doing some research beforehand, you will be able to have a better idea of how reasonable your timeline is.

This is by no means an ultimatum. An ultimatum would be a fixed and final demand for a promotion, which is non-negotiable. And I don’t believe that giving ultimatums to anyone in is always the best idea. On the other hand, bringing a time frame into the talk opens the door to a more concrete discussion. 

Communicating a time frame to your boss, during which you would ideally like a promotion to happen, will indicate to your boss that you have thought it through. That you know what your value is at this point. That you’ve thought your options through well. This will make your manager aware that time is a priority for you, and that you might seek out other alternatives outside of the company, should this not work out. It is however not an ultimatum in a sense that you demand a promotion by a certain date. It merely signals to your manager how urgent or how important this promotion is to you. This will shift the discussion to become more targeted. 

What will ideally happen is that you and your manager will have a sensible discussion about the possibilities of a promotion. When or whether it is likely to happen. Also what your manager expects from you.

These above things are crucial things to note if you want to get a promotion fast. It is not a recommendation for everyone though, as getting promoted fast is not everyone’s career goal. I know many people who are dodging a promotion instead of trying to get one.

If you are dying to get a promotion asap, then make sure to first get clarity on what you want to achieve, and what your thoughts are on the 3 points above. Then consider how you will communicate it and package it nicely.

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