Unlike the military, promotions don't come automatically or routinely in a civilian company (or even a government entity).
For most employees, a request for a promotion or advancement must be made to one's supervisor, and then the decision is made at higher levels.
The request for a promotion must be timed right, communicated correctly and supported with good intel to be seriously considered. Consider and then prepare an outline of the following:
What promotion are you seeking? Are you pursuing a management role? Be sure you have the skills and relationships to help your supervisor see you in management. Are you seeking a promotion in another department? Do you know enough about the role to position yourself well for the move? What specific skills, experience and certificates are required to do the new job (and do you possess those)?
How are you qualified for the promotion? As clearly as possible, list the tasks you've performed that show leadership ability and the ways your work has created additional value for the team, department or company. Next, outline any and all ideas you've brought forward that have been implemented to the company's benefit. Then, clarify any obstacles you've overcome on the job (i.e., Did you face a lack of resources but still got the project completed? Were you asked to take on additional responsibilities and handled it well?)
Is your timing right? If you've been with the company only a short time, you may not have established your credibility or built the needed relationships to successfully gain a promotion. If the company is having hard times financially, or is positioning for a merger or acquisition, your timing might not be ideal.
Do you feel you deserve it? Many employees make the mistake of believing they "deserve" a promotion because they work hard, have been in the same job for a while, or because someone else got promoted. Companies promote for merit, not because you want a promotion. Your task is to make a compelling business case for the promotion, not claim you need more money.
Can you add more value in a new role? Show the company how promoting you to a new role (with more responsibility, more strategic thinking, more direct management, etc.) benefits it. How can you add more direct value to the team and the company's bottom line? Present "your ask" as a business proposition.
Be prepared for "no." While you always hope to get the promotion, you should be prepared for a rejection. There could be reasons beyond your knowledge, or control, that prevent the company from promoting you at this time. Get ready to go back to your current work, and team, with a positive attitude. If you hold a grudge, gossip about the process, or otherwise sour the environment, you might lose the job you currently have, in addition to any promotion consideration.
Asking for a promotion can be intimidating and make you feel vulnerable. This is normal. When you do your research and build a solid business case for why your promotion makes sense to you, and to the company, you increase the odds of impressing your supervisor. Even if the promotion isn't offered today, you could position yourself very well for a promotion the next time one is available.
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