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Career Success

How to Ask for a Promotion and Move up the Career Ladder

Finance Analyst and Founder of the Financially Well Off Blog & Podcast
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I bet you’re thinking that you’ve reached the height of your career. You believe companies prefer younger employees. No matter which way you look at it, there’s no room for progress or a promotion. You’re not alone. A study from Robert and Half revealed that only 39% of employees asked for a promotion.[1] But the problem is that with this mindset, you cut all chances of ever getting a promotion.

So what’s the solution? How to ask for a promotion and climb the career ladder?

How to Ask for a Promotion

How to climb up the career ladder? You need to create plan. This is easier said than done. But, if you work on the right tasks, I’m confident you’ll be able to ask for a promotion.

Don’t wait for your boss to promote you. You must create an opportunity in advance and make a good case. Remember that to get a promotion, you have to have the skills and the attitude.

Let’s look into how to ask for a promotion and move up the career ladder.

1. Set a Goal

Your perfect plan will consist of writing down clear and concise goals.

Goal setting is the most important skill you can master to achieve any type of success in your life. Take this Harvard study for example, where MBA graduates took a survey on goal setting. 13% of students who had set goals with no concrete plans were twice as successful than the 86% who didn’t set any goals.

The interesting part is what happened to the 3% of students who’d set goals with concrete goals. These students were earning 10 times more than the 97% class combined.

Intrigued? You should be. Goal setting can make or break your chances of reaching the success you desire.

The first step to setting any goal is by defining what you’d like to do.

Since you want a promotion, write this goal down in a journal. Next, break this goal down into micro goals.


For example, ask yourself what’s required to land a promotion in your current role.

A great tool to break down your goals is Workflowy. For most of the goals you’re setting, you won’t have all the answers, but don’t let this stop you from making progress. If you’re ever stuck, make it your next step to find someone who can help you find the answers you’re looking for.

Finally, take time to reflect on your progress. In your journal, you’ll be able to view what’s accomplished and where you’re falling behind. I recommend you check your progress at the end of each week, month, and quarter.

This may seem exhaustive at first, but it’s intended to help you avoid heading in the wrong direction.

Here’s a summary of the goal-setting process:

  1. Clearly define what you want to do (i.e. Land a promotion in the next 12 months)
  2. Write your goal down in your journal
  3. Break your goal down into micro goals (i.e. take 1 hour of a specialized course in my field daily)
  4. Write down daily goals in your journal
  5. Review your progress each week, month and quarter to make necessary changes

2. Start with a Promotion Request

Climbing the corporate ladder is no easy feat. But sometimes, you just need to take the leap and ask for a promotion request.

Demanding anything sounds harsh, but here’s why it makes sense to do so in your career.

Being demanding will allow you to speak up for yourself and not feel guilty for asking for a promotion. As mentioned before, a study revealed that more than half of employees didn’t ask for a humble request for promotion. That’s why being demanding is your ticket to ensuring you’re heard by upper management.

You don’t have to come off as arrogant or rude, rather be someone who knows their value. The problem is, you’re your worst critic. And, because of this, it can sometimes be challenging to focus on your positive qualities.


Here’s a solution:

Start writing down your daily accomplishments in a separate spreadsheet. Have columns for the date, type of accomplishment, and how you overcame your challenge. It may feel weird at first, but you’ll be building a personal database of your accomplishments.

Make it a habit to review this spreadsheet each week to know what you’ve accomplished. You’ll quickly realize what value you bring to your team and the company. An added benefit for doing this is being prepared for your performance meetings.

3. Goof off in Your Free Time

Ever wondered why people who’ve worked the hardest sometimes don’t get promoted? Aside from not knowing how to ask for a promotion and raise, it’s most likely because they’d failed to network with others in their workplace.

But don’t take my word for it. A Harvard study revealed that lawyers who networked the best earned the most money.[2] These lawyers had a “promotion mindset”, while the others had a “prevention mindset”

People with a “promotion mindset” believe networking can bring them growth and advancement. And those in a “prevention mindset” believe that networking is a task they’re obligated to do. Even if you’re an introvert you can still be successful at networking.

So how can you improve your networking skills? By taking small actions every single day. Network daily and don’t wait until you’re in need.


Networking involves building authentic relationships, so start by changing your mindset. Think of networking as building relationships first, and receiving help second. Make it a habit to improve your emotional intelligence daily.[3]

When networking, it is important to remember that you can talk freely about your value as an employee without excessively promoting skills and characteristics, especially if you choose to reference personal experiences that have influenced your career.

This allows you to focus more on the lessons that you have learned during your career rather than yourself as an individual, which makes it far easier to communicate openly with colleagues and managers alike.

As you focus more on providing value for others, you’ll begin to grow a strong supportive network.

4. Give Yourself a Promotion First

Wondering how to ask your boss for a promotion? Why don’t you start with yourself first?

Before you receive any promotion, you have to promote yourself.

Here’s what I mean:

Build a mindset that allows you to feel worthy of a promotion. This is what self promotion at work entails. If you don’t feel certain about getting a promotion, then why should anyone else?

Besides working hard to exceed your performance goals, prime your mindset with visualization if you want to move up the career ladder.


Visualization is a technique psychologist have used for years. This technique has helped people reach their desired emotional states and life goals.

Start by visualizing the outcome of your promotion.

You can visualize two types of situations, an outcome or process.

Thinking of an outcome involves visualizing the end result of your goal. A process-based visualization involves visualizing the steps required to reach your goal.

For example, if you’re looking to get a promotion, imagine your boss congratulating you. Then visualize the steps you did to get there. This could be studying on the weekends to learn new material, or taking on extra to help your team.

As you’re visualizing, focus on feeling the experience to reap the most benefits. It can take some time getting used to, but the rewards will be worth it.

5. Work Less Than Most

Too shy to ask for a promotion? Then do the work. However, this doesn’t always mean spending rigorous hours in the office.

Getting a promotion isn’t earned by working harder, it’s done by working smarter. By being productive, you’ll be more likely to meet your work deadlines and manage stress better.


Productivity is a skill that most people put on their resume, yet fail to execute effectively.

Spend a lot of your time practicing productivity until you nail this skill down.

Learn how to prioritize your work and delegate tasks. For example, if you’re struggling with a presentation, ask your teammate for help. Don’t spend hours trying to figure out how to create a PowerPoint slide.

Also, look for ways to optimize your schedule. For example, if you have 5 meetings booked in one day, ask yourself if they’re necessary. Oftentimes, it’s more efficient to communicate via email than waste time in a meeting.

If you want to boost your productivity, here’re 50 Ways to Increase Productivity and Achieve More in Less Time.

6. Own the Process and Develop your Organizational Skills

It is also possible to shine as an introvert by actively showcasing your core skills rather than simply discussing them. Climbing the corporate ladder will be easier if you follow this tip.

Depending on your specific job role and individual responsibilities, for example, you may have the opportunity to adopt an organized approach to work and develop efficient processes for completing tasks.

Through innovative thinking and an ability to own the processes that you oversee, you can display your value as an employee without the need to indulge in verbal self-promotion.

7. Accept Additional Responsibility and Commit to Working Hard

While extroverts may be able to communicate openly and successfully articulate their skills into words, this will mean little unless they can support their assertions over time.

For introverts without advanced linguistic or self-promotional skills, however, there is a need to rely solely on hard work and the end results of their endeavors.


This provides quieter employees with an opportunity to gain an advantage in the workplace, so long as they are willing to commit to additional work and acquire further responsibility as they progress.

8. Surround Yourself with Motivated People

“You’re the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with” – Jim Rohn

You tend to pick up habits from people you spend time with the most. So, surround yourself with people who have productive habits and drive. Listen to productive podcasts and learn from experts who are achieving massive success.

These experts have the same amount of time you do. And, if they were able to achieve massive career success, so can you.

Do’s and Don’ts When Asking For a Promotion

Here are some of the things you should and shouldn’t do if you want to move up the career ladder.

DO: Examine the Present Performance

Make sure you’re surpassing expectations in terms of performance and that you have the expertise and credentials to support the desired promotion. Be honest with yourself about how you’re doing right now. Doing merely the job that is expected of you will not help you stand out; you must do exceptional work for management to notice you.

Maintain a good attitude even if you believe you are overqualified for your current employment. Continue to be engaged in what you’re doing and do it effectively to demonstrate that you’re serious about the firm and its potential for advancement.


DON’T: Go Under The Radar

While going above and above expectations is vital for standing out, don’t be hesitant to tell your immediate supervisor or other leadership team members about your achievements. It’s also crucial to provide regular updates that let people know what you’ve accomplished.

Consider taking on a high-profile project inside your department or as part of a cross-functional team. A project like this will allow you to develop new abilities, improve your network, and become more well-known inside your company.

DO: Maintain a Professional Demeanor

You’ve probably already imagined where you want to be in a few years, so start dressed, talking, and acting like it. Simple things like dressing for success might help you feel more confident and noticeable. One of the best tips in learning how to ask your boss for a promotion is to have a thorough awareness of your firm’s expectations, as they may differ based on your company or department in general.

DON’T: Be Afraid To Speak Up

Schedule a meeting with your boss to discuss this suggestion if you haven’t already been considered for a promotion. Many people consider asking for a promotion to be one of the most stressful aspects of their lives, yet it can also be one of the most crucial things you do for your career.

Prepare to communicate what you’ve accomplished and how it’s influenced the organization, as well as the exact position you’d like to land when you enter the conversation. During this chat, be receptive to feedback from your manager, as they may offer recommendations and suggestions for areas of development to aid in your advancement aspirations.


When to Ask For a Promotion?

As long as you believe you are deserving of a promotion, there is never a bad time to ask for one.

While this may appear to be an “easier said than done” issue, all you need to do now is summon the confidence to speak openly and honestly with your boss.

Speak Up When You Feel That You Are Ready For A Promotion

Unless you make your objectives known, no one will know that you are ready for a promotion or a pay boost. It doesn’t harm, to be honest, and ask how you might position yourself for a promotion or a pay boost.

Always inquire about your company’s professional advancement opportunities with your management. After a successful project launch or when your contributions start to influence the bottom line, it’s the greatest moment to ask for a promotion.

These are all signs that you’re ready to take on greater responsibility, such as taking on a new project or broadening your career to include new functions or markets.

Don’t Put Off a Performance Evaluation Until the End of the Year

While a performance appraisal may be the best opportunity to ask for a promotion or a pay raise, you can also discuss it at other times. Larger businesses are abandoning formal performance reviews in favor of regular check-ins with their employees.

This strategy illustrates the company’s ability to adapt to changing business conditions brought on by digitalization and changing client needs. Job scopes are updated regularly to reflect current work issues and possibilities better.


How to Handle a No When Asking?

It’s never easy to be rejected especially if you really want to move up the career ladder. It never becomes something we can just slough off without any bad sentiments, no matter how many times we have to deal with it. This is especially true when it comes to being passed over for a promotion at work.

Ask For Honest Feedback

Even if you want to leave the room as quickly as possible, stay and ask for feedback from your manager. This may add salt to an already swollen wound, but asking for input can demonstrate to your boss that you’re forward-thinking and willing to grow and work even more.

Make sure the feedback is specific and that you can create targets to address any issues. Push for more information if they say you need to ‘perform better work.’ What specific areas need additional attention? What are some examples of how you might be able to improve?

Give Yourself Some Appreciation

you’ve worked hard, and you’ve earned it. It took guts to ask for that promotion or raise, but you did it, and at the very least, you aren’t in the dark anymore. Instead, you’ve taken the time to examine your job and your performance, and you’ve devised a plan to assist you in achieving your objectives.

Try not to get too worked up over it. Sure, it could seem odd when you run into your boss at the coffee machine the next morning, but smile and tell them everything is good and that you’re moving on.


Consider Alternatives

Finally, you must decide whether you should stay or leave. After being rejected for an internal promotion, consider all of your possibilities.

Make a list of the advantages and disadvantages of your current position and employer, and compare them to the advantages and disadvantages of working for someone else. Before you jump ship, make sure you have a complete and accurate list. You don’t want to look back on your decision to leave your current employment because you were scorned and passed over. Don’t make hasty decisions!

The Bottom Line

Let’s get a quick checklist of what you need to ask for a promotion:

  • Be Positive
  • Make a persuasive argument for why you should be promoted
  • Prepare a memo list that details your track record and includes solid measurements of your influence
  • Request regular comments and suggestions from your employer on how to advance to the next level
  • Your manager might be impressed by a nice PowerPoint presentation that summarizes your performance and expertise
  • Be Patient; they will see your potential and give you the promotion you deserve

You now have a mini blueprint on how to ask for a promotion and climb the corporate ladder. My guess is that most of the people reading this article won’t take action.

You’re not an average person. You’re an action taker. Now go get your promotion, it’s all yours.


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