Planning Ahead for a Promotion

A common question in our Negotiations workshops is, how do I get a promotion?

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not just a matter of delivering great results and waiting for your employer to recognize your good work.

So, you’ve got the great results: they’re a pre-requisite for getting promoted. What else do you need to do? 

First, ask yourself – why do you want a promotion?

Is it:

  • greater responsibility, the chance to do something more challenging
  • higher pay
  • higher compensation or benefits: access to performance bonuses, stock awards
  • title
  • prestige
  • a stepping stone to other opportunities

The reason may be a combination of several factors. Why is this important? Being clear about what you want (and why you want it) may open up additional options to get you what you want, with or without a formal promotion. Remember our BATNA – the Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement – if you can’t get a promotion, what’s your next best option?

Next, understand how the promotion process works, especially if you’re at a large company with a formal policy.

  • Are there specific times of the year when promotions are approved?
  • What is the process?
  • Who has to approve the promotion?
  • Are there published criteria?
  • What’s the general practice? (which may not always be written down)

Do you have everything you need to be ready?

  • Have you demonstrated the business results needed?
  • Have you demonstrated the leadership skills or behaviors expected for your new level?
  • Do you meet the criteria for the level that you want?
  • Is there a position available at the level that you want?
  • Does your manager support getting you a promotion?
  • Does your manager have the right support from the rest of the organization, to be able to get the promotion for you?
  • In addition to your manager, do you have sponsors who will go to bat for you, and be your advocates when career decisions are being made?

Be honest with yourself. What are you missing, and what might potentially hold you back? Make a plan to resolve potential gaps, so they don’t become roadblocks at the last minute.

Have a discussion with your manager well beforehand. This takes a lot of the potential tension out of the conversation, and gives your manager an opportunity to be your partner in preparing for a promotion. Ask for their candid feedback, and really listen.

If your annual performance evaluation happens in July, don’t wait til June to have the conversation with your manager. Do it at the start of the year, when you’re discussing work plans and assignments for the coming twelve months.

A great question to ask is, “I would love to show that I’m ready to take on bigger responsibilities. What would I need to deliver in the next 12 months, to demonstrate that I’m ready for the next level?”

Enlist your manager’s support by asking for their help to put together a challenging work plan that, if achieved, will demonstrate that you’re ready for that next step. Ask them to help you understand the promotion process and how it works.

Get regular feedback. Throughout the year – perhaps quarterly – ask your manager to let you know if they agree that you’re on track to achieve your goals. If not – what’s missing? This will give you an opportunity to adjust course (or correct any mis-perceptions) early, well before your formal performance evaluation.

Good luck!

Have you been promoted in the past? Are you in the middle of negotiating a promotion or getting ready for one? I’d love to hear from you – please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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