Advocating for a Promotion

Photo of business women in the office

You’ve been in your role for some time and you know your contributions to the company are driving serious value and results. From shoutouts in company-wide communications to hitting each and every one of your KEIs/OKRs/#goals, you are feeling pretty fab about the work you are doing. So, what comes next? Well, it just might be time to advocate for a promotion for yourself.

👉 Why we say “advocate” and not “ask”: Promotions are nearly always merit-based. When you receive a promotion, it’s because you’ve earned it. You’re advocating for something you’ve proven you deserve, not asking for a favor.

Promotion, raise or both?

A promotion should always be accompanied by some sort of  compensation increase. Generally this is related to your base salary or hourly rate but it could also come in other forms such as stock grants. And yes, there are times when you can advocate for a raise without a title change, too. 

Advocate for a raise when:

  • You’re eligible for an increase based on company standards
  • Your compensation is well below the average for your role
  • Your performance merits recognition, even if you’re not quite ready for a promotion

Advocate for a promotion when:

  • Your responsibilities have increased substantially
  • You’re managing more people than before
  • You’ve stepped into many of the activities typically managed by more senior coworkers

When to advocate for a promotion

When it comes to advocating for a promotion, there are factors you can control and those you can’t. It helps to be familiar with any factors you cannot control though to ensure you are advocating at the best time for success.  

With that in mind, be sure you understand any corporate policies about promotions (for example, if they are only awarded during an annual review process). And, consider the overall state of the economy and the company. When times are tight, it may be more difficult to get a promotion and raise, no matter how well deserved they are. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try, though. Even if a promotion doesn’t pan out it never hurts to remind your manager of all the fantastic work you are contributing to the team. There is never a bad time to advocate for yourself and the work you do. 

Then, there are the things you can control like tracking your accomplishments, speaking up and collaborating with others. These are practices you should  start from your first day on a job and by the time you broach the topic you’ll have a wide history of proven work to showcase. Start planning early to lay the groundwork and you’ll be ready when the time is right. 

Speaking of which, there’s no “perfect” time across the board to advocate for a promotion, but consider if any of the following statements are true for you:

  • Your role has evolved into something more senior than your title
  • You’ve become a key decision-maker
  • You’ve launched new processes or products that have increased revenue

If you answered yes to any of the above it is most likely a good time to start the conversation about the potential for a promotion with your manager.

Lay the groundwork

Be vocal about your desire to increase your responsibilities once you are ready for more. Or better yet, find ways to increase your responsibilities that help drive more results for your team and company. Employees that can identify a problem and come up with a solution before their manager even considers asking are often ones that create  a lasting role within the company for themselves.

Focus on future growth regularly during check-ins with your manager. Whether it’s a formal review or a weekly meeting, speak clearly about your desire to advance, the ways you are working on your professional skills and the ways a promotion can unleash more growth for your team, department or company as a whole. And be sure to get regular feedback on your efforts as well. You don’t want to spend time working on a specific skill for months only to realize it’s irrelevant to your role or company, or to miss leveling up in an area where you may need it.

Often, promotions are decided in rooms you’re not in. If these people aren’t familiar with you, at least casually, it’s easier for them to disregard your request. Identify the decision makers early, and then be sure these people are aware of your aspirations and abilities. Additionally, if there isn’t a formal review and promotion structure within your company, you’ll need to have conversations with the key decision makers to understand what the process for promotions looks like. 

What if I don’t want to stay at a company long-term?

When it comes to advocating for a promotion, it can help to share that you’re interested in being a long-term contributor to the success of a company. If you’re uncertain about your future plans, focus more on the additional value you can drive for the company by expanding your responsibilities. There’s no obligation to provide an in-depth roadmap for the future.

Connect the dots

It’s not enough to simply say you’d like to be promoted. It’s important to connect the dots for the decision makers. Promotion requests that focus on explicit value and documented results are more likely to be successful. 

Your request for a promotion should focus on the value you provide to the company and how that will continue to increase in your new role. While this part of your request is all about you, it’s important to tie it directly back to what’s best for the company. 

Be prepared to spell it out with clear results-oriented statements that highlight productivity, increased revenue and smarter processes that benefit multiple teams. You want to be seen as both a coach, leading others to perform better, and a team player, contributing to the success of the company by positively impacting multiple departments. 

Examples of points to include:

  • When I lead client kick-off calls, I set proper expectations so we can deliver outstanding customer service. Each of these clients has referred new business to us.
  • I increased Instagram followers by 40% with my new marketing strategies, and I could attract even more digital traffic on all of our platforms if I were promoted to director of social media.

Create a value portfolio

A value portfolio is a way to showcase all the results you’ve driven for the company to date. You should begin assembling this from your first day on the job. That way it’s always ready when the right doors open for you to have a conversation about a raise, a promotion or to begin interviewing at a new company. 

A value portfolio can include:

  • Testimonials from clients or coworkers praising your performance and your work
  • A list of your key accomplishments and the value those results have created for the company
  • An overview of your responsibilities and how they have changed over time
  • Certifications or courses you’ve completed that increase your qualifications

Use this value portfolio during your meeting to discuss your promotion, and leave behind a copy for further consideration. If there are key decision makers who weren’t in the room, send them a digital copy and thank them in advance for their consideration.

Think outside the current path

Keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities outside your specific team or department, too. Sometimes taking your skills to a different job function, like moving from a marketing coordinator role into project management, can drive value for the company, too. Even better if your experience includes cross-departmental collaborations with the team you’re interested in moving to. 

When the answer is "no"

Even if the answer is “no,” you’ve taken an important step in cementing your value to your manager and other decision makers. By speaking up, you’ve shown your commitment to the common goal of moving the company forward and contributing to that success in any way possible. 

Continue to have open conversations about your desire to be promoted, always with a focus on the value this will drive for the company. Look for opportunities to network with key decision makers and work across departments to increase your visibility within your organization. 

And keep that value portfolio updated! It’s a great way to reassess your contributions and personal goals every quarter or so. Plus, you’ll be ready to respond quickly to any opportunity that arises.

When the answer is “yes”

Congratulations! And keep in mind, a promotion doesn’t just promote you … it helps promote all working moms! When you receive a promotion (and the accompanying bump in pay), it helps lessen the pay gap we face in the workplace. It also helps reframe many of the misconceptions employers have about hiring moms. Advocating for yourself is a powerful way to advocate for others and that is a job we should all be willing to do.


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- January 6, 2021

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