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how can I persuade my boss to promote me?

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fashion in motionLately, I’ve been incredibly tired, due to being so busy at work. I think that I’ve got on average 6 days of work a week until the end of the financial year in March, with every possibility of it all being extended.

This is a problem, because I only have five days a week, and a blessing because my skills are specifically in demand. Each of the 6 projects that I’m supposed to be working on has requested me by name.

When I mentioned my busy-ness to my boss, he semi-jokingly said that I’d be looking for a promotion in April. Not wanting to pass up an opportunity to plant ideas in his head, I semi-jokingly replied that was exactly the case.

One of my goals for this year is to gain chartership and use that in part to get me a promotion. I intended to push more for a promotion in October (they occur bi-annually). On further quizzing of my boss, he said that he (probably) would support me in a bid for a promotion in April, but the powers that be (amorphous and undisclosed) may think that I need more time at this grade.

My performance review (which I hate) is coming up on 18th February, and that’s the best time to make an out and out pitch. We have corporate values and so on, that I was planning on mapping my achievements this year to. And I was intending to map out all the things that I’ve done that are really above and beyond the level that I’m at. But, after that, I get a bit stuck.

Who would like to give me some tips on persuading my boss that he really, really does want to support my promotion?

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20 comments for “how can I persuade my boss to promote me?”

  1. This might be a bit unconventional, but helpful to think it through from another angle.

    I think the main stumbling block is that people think they’ve found their level, and so don’t expect more. They’d like it, they know they’re working hard enough to deserve it, but it’s not ingrained in them that just because where you are at is where you should be.

    You aren’t asking for a favour by agitating for promotion- you’re just asking that your contribution is rewarded. Write out everything you’re doing as if you were writing a job description (and if possible, compare it to existing documentation for the higher grade). Go through the process of thinking of what you’d be after if you were recruiting these positions. Think about whether you’d recruit you*. And now that you’re thinking of yourself as a marketable commodity, who could (if your talents weren’t recognised where you are) happily move elsewhere, take that mindset into your review meeting. Don’t necessarily threaten to walk out, but just have the confidence of knowing what you’re offering.
    *if you wouldn’t recruit you, think about what’s missing from the package, and work on that. Let your boss know what you’ll be addressing, and agree an action plan, so that you’ll be promotion-ready in October.

    I started my professional career the same day as a lovely man of similar ability, and where I look at a job description and see the things I can do, he sees the things he can’t. Bottom line is that even though I’ve not taken all the opportunities I should have, I’m MUCH better off than him after only a few years. I’m not super confident, but you have to be confident enough!

    Posted by Pippin | February 1, 2008, 1:34 pm
  2. Hi Plonkee,
    As a veteran promotion recipient here are my thoughts:

    1. Your boss opened the door which means he’s in your corner. I think that’s always the biggest obstacle to overcome. Offering to help with whatever he needs to do to get it done is useful.

    2. Take a look at the job description of the position to which you’ll be promoted. In your performance review, specifically note which aspects you’ve already accomplished, and which you hope to learn to do (I assume your performance eval asks you for future goals?). I find the second obstacle is in proving you can can do it.

    3. Make a case for the business need. You need to convince the company that there is a need for someone in this position, and that someone is you (this overlaps with #2). You can be the most qualified person in the world, but if they don’t think they need someone at that level, it doesn’t matter. This is the third obstacle.

    After that, I’ve found it’s just bureaucracy. It might also help to ask people already in the future position what experience they had to get there.

    Good luck!

    Posted by deepali | February 1, 2008, 2:45 pm
  3. I know this will sound a little weird, but when I wanted a promotion, many years ago now, I did among other things similar to the great suggestions in the above comments, 1)some positive visualizations. I imagined my self in that job, the details of doing it, the details of colors, what I was wearing, the furniture, etc. To do this, I made believe I was watching a movie at a movie theater, and all this was happening on the screen. I did this every day for about 10-15 minutes before I went to sleep. 2) I set up three chairs. When I sat in one, I imagined I was my boss. When I sat in another, I was me believing I should get the job. Finally, when I was in the third chair, I imagined I was the negative me thinking I shouldn’t get the job. As I moved back and forth between the chairs, I took on the role of each “person”, and we had a discussion about the promotion.
    I hope this isn’t too confusing. Let me know if you need me to clarify any part of it. And best of luck too you! Keep us posted.

    Posted by Lisa | February 1, 2008, 3:39 pm
  4. PS I got the job!

    Thought you might be wondering that.


    Posted by Lisa | February 1, 2008, 3:40 pm
  5. I just did an article about this for my blog. The important piece is now that it isopen really going for it. But a lot of promotions are won, or lost, much earlier.

    The best piece of advice I can give is to do the following:
    1. Make sure you understand the new job and its responsibilities and have an answer on how you could/would do each of them
    2.Always doument all of your sucesses in your current job, no matter how big or small. Get a little $2 journal to write them down, save any “Good Job” sort of emails, print them out and keep them in a file.


    Posted by RacerX | February 1, 2008, 5:39 pm
  6. “he semi-jokingly said that I’d be looking for a promotion in April. Not wanting to pass up an opportunity to plant ideas in his head, I semi-jokingly replied that was exactly the case.”

    Never joke about promotions or new job responsibilites! When someone says something like that, respond very matter-of-factly “Actually Yes I am looking forward to advancing my career here!”

    Posted by RacerX | February 1, 2008, 5:42 pm
  7. I was about to agree with RacerX. Managers aren’t mind readers, and are often too busy to worry to deeply about their individual team members’ career goals or take hints or jokes.

    Assuming that you are arming yourself with the usual review stuff like listing your achievements for the year and client kudos and your five year goal and all that - be direct, and insist s/he be direct back and not brush you off. So, what is the timetable s/he thinks you’re on, can you get something put in writing on your review form that’s staying on file, if he doesn’t want to discuss it now let’s set up a date in outlook calendars right now to discuss it later, etc. It’s generally worked for me in the past but I’ve no experience with giant HR departments looming in the background.

    Posted by guinness416 | February 1, 2008, 6:49 pm
  8. Wear something slinky.

    I’m sorry, I’ve got nothing helpful. So I’ll be as unhelpful as possible to make up for it. :D

    Posted by Mrs. Micah | February 1, 2008, 9:25 pm
  9. Good suggestions so far.

    In connection with managing a difficult subordinate, our HR representative recommended keeping a log of that person’s shenanigans. She is, mercifully, on her way out just now. This afternoon as I was thinking about what to do with the four-year-long, 236-page (single-spaced!) log, I realized…waitaminit!

    I could start a NEW log of the POSITIVE things that happen in the office. A regular log that records the accomplishments, small and large, that happen in your job–especially the ones you have a hand in–has gotta be invaluable come annual review time.

    Keep daily or weekly track of your accomplishments and also the things you feel are shortcomings–so you can explain why they happened or what you will do to overcome them. This may give you the ammunition you need to support your request for a promotion.

    Don’t be shy about letting the bosses know you want a promotion. Or at least a raise. After a few years in my last job, I ended up earning more than the guy who was hired at the same time I was to do a parallel job with almost identical responsibilities; I’m pretty sure that was because I kept reminding our boss that I needed more money.

    Posted by vh | February 2, 2008, 1:17 am
  10. You know yourself best, Plonkee, but right off the bat, you wrote how tired you were. Are you sure it’s worth it?

    Definitely, we want to get compensated for our work, but does the new job require even more out of you to make it not worth it?

    Finally, I’m not saying that’s the case of your situation, but I remember reading somewhere that people make themselves so invaluable (you) that their boss suppresses their promotions (despite what they say) because he/she simply cannot LET THEM GO!

    Make sure that doesn’t happen to you if that is your decision to move on.

    Posted by mariam | February 2, 2008, 3:34 am
  11. Thanks for all your great comments people, I’m at this very moment preparing all my appraisal stuff, and I’ll be sure to take everything you’ve said on board.

    You raise an interesting point, in this particular case the my workload over the next 6 months is likely to be heavy whether I get promoted or not, so it’s not really an issue. On the other hand, although I love my job, it is not my entire life and I think I’ll need to bear that in mind.

    Posted by plonkee | February 3, 2008, 2:25 pm
  12. You mentioned that you’re preparing, but I wanted to suggest actually practicing for your review - rehearsing your pitch, as it were. You don’t want it to sound stiff and memorized, but you want to get all the points out there too (in fact, walk in with some bullet points written down). And good luck! I’m rooting for you!

    Posted by Chief Family Officer | February 4, 2008, 5:16 am

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