How and When to Ask for a Promotion

We knew millennials entered the workforce equipped with great ideas, a pride in work-life balance and a social conscience. 
But make no mistake. They also want to move up fast and reshape the C-suite.

Promotion advice, please

I’m encouraged by that. I think the new generation of leaders is going to make a big impact in their organizations, their industries and communities.
Having been promoted many times, and having mentored and promoted others, I thought I’d share my thoughts on when and how to ask for a promotion—advice that applies not just to millennials but to anyone.

1. Do a great job in your current assignment 

Rule 1 from my perspective is this: you’ve got to do an outstanding job in your current assignment. Period. 
Outstanding is not average. Outstanding not just meeting the job’s requirements or your boss’ expectations.
Outstanding means that your work rises above the rest and is being noticed not just by boss and colleagues but also by people outside your circle.
Here’s why this is important: Promotions usually involve input from several leaders, not just your current boss. You must make sure that your work is well known by people outside your circle so that when your candidacy for a promotion comes up, they will have good things to say about you.
I want to share a personal experience that instilled in me the importance of shining in any job, no matter how difficult, unglamorous or even mundane.
Years after I was promoted to an officer position I learned that a very powerful individual had spoken up on my behalf when I was being considered for the job.
Now here’s the key point: This individual was outside my circle; that is, we were in different parts of the organization. Still, he was familiar enough with my track record that, when my name came up, he said that I always delivered the results, no matter what assignment I had been given.
Bottom-line for you, you must bloom where you are planted because there’s always someone watching.

2. Identify and address the “Yes-Buts”

 “Yes-Buts” are gaps in your work experience or education that can, at best, keep you from getting a job and, at worst, stall your career. Like:
  •  “Yes she has domestic experience but no international experience,” or
  •  “Yes, he has great marketing experience but no operational experience,” or,
  • “Yes, he has an great educational background but does not have P&L experience.”
Before you ask for a promotion, do an honest self-assessment and face the brutal facts. Your “Yes-Buts” analysis will depend on your educational experience and the organization where you work or expect to work. Some companies demand more marketing expertise while others require more operational expertise. If in doubt, look at the background of your current leaders and figure out what strengths they have that you may be lacking. Then aim to remedy the gap.
Let me share a personal example.
Public speaking had not been in my engineering-school curriculum, so I entered the work force ill prepared to make a presentation. But just by looking at the ease with which my leaders addressed large groups, I knew that I needed to work on my public speaking if I expected to get ahead.
So, I signed up for the company’s speakers’ bureau and agreed to give talks to all kinds of audiences, from small business clubs to retirement associations. With practice, I got better. Eventually, my public speaking ability contributed to my success as a leader.
As you begin to plan your goals for 2018, consider doing that honest self-assessment now. Face the brutal facts and commit to addressing them in the coming year.

3. Are you willing to go where the opportunities are?

There is another bit of soul searching you need to do before you ask for a promotion.
Are you willing to pursue opportunities wherever they may be? Will you relocate or would you rather wait for the right opportunity to come to you?
You may be willing to forgo pursuing some opportunities in search of better work-life balance. That’s a perfectly fine choice, and it does not mean that you won’t get promoted. It just means it may take you longer.

4. When is the right time to ask for a promotion?

From my experience, the most appropriate time to ask for a promotion is during the annual performance review. 
That does not mean it’s the only time. But for me, there is no better time to bring up a promotion than right when you and your boss are talking about your performance, your aspirations and any shortcomings you may have.
But what do you do if your boss or organization does not provide formal performance appraisals?
You must ask for one, even if it’s just an honest, informal conversation.
To get promoted you will need your boss’ support, so there must be no miscommunication on how you’re doing, what you need to do to improve and what you need to do to be able to compete for the top jobs. 

Don’t let anyone limit your dreams

I know what you’re thinking: “What if my boss is not willing to support me even though I got an outstanding review?
I’d say, don’t settle.
  • If you’re working for a boss who doesn’t support you, then find another boss.
  • If you’re working in an organization that wants to put limits on what you can achieve, find a different organization. 
  • If you’re working for a company that doesn’t believe in your dreams, your aspirations, find a different company.
If you’ve been following me or have heard me speak you know how I feel about obstacles: Don’t ever let anyone put limitations on what you can achieve.  Not even yourself.
Good luck in 2018!
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