I want a promotion – How to prepare

Something that women are not particularly good at is self-promotion. I think this issue is particularly prevalent in Australia with ‘tall poppy’ syndrome and people feeling like they can’t talk about their achievements without sounding arrogant. Unfortunately self-promotion is a key part of asking for, and proving why you deserve a promotion.

I’m going to take you through things that have worked for me personally. I also feel like these strategies don’t rely on you being super confident and outright talking yourself up. There’s certainly an element of that, but it’s also about building a personal brand and recording the achievements you have in a factual and logical way.

Building a personal brand

I know a lot of people HATE the term ‘personal brand’. It feels super tacky and like you are trying to market yourself to people. If you take that approach to it, it can be really cheesy and disingenuous. 

A personal brand in my mind is not something you should spend a lot of time telling people about. It’s something that will speak for itself based on the way you approach your work and your working relationships. 

For instance, my personal brand is a high-performing hard-worker, who always wants to help. I always give to the best of my ability. I never told anyone “This is my personal brand”. I just let my actions reflect what I want people to think about me. For that reason, whenever there is a new initiative or project, I’m always top of mind because my manager and team know that I’m always willing to give new things a go and will always do my best. That in itself has led me to amazing opportunities at professional development, and exciting projects – including one in Costa Rica.

Figure out what your personal brand is, even if you need to ask the people around you. It won’t be exactly the same as mine! If it’s not what you would like, think about ways you could change your actions and attitude to improve that brand.

Help as many people as possible

I said that my personal brand is around my hard work and my ‘give it a go’ attitude, but another important thing that you should keep in mind in asking for promotion is that your manager does not make that decision in isolation. They will be speaking to other parts of the business when they bring your promotion to their boss to make the decision. Some companies also require other department heads to approve promotions.

I love helping people and making them happy, which is probably why a lot of my professional background is in customer service. I think it’s important to help people around you, even when it’s not directly your job or someone from another department. Firstly, you are building that personal brand we spoke about earlier, but it’s also an easy form of networking. There’s opportunities for professional development outside your regular job, and you never know if it might lead to a new job somewhere else in the business. There’s literally no downside to helping people, so get to it!

Become a mentor for new-starters

New-starters are golden – usually they’re eager to learn and can offer you a new perspective on your current job. Whenever there is someone new starting on your team, I recommend asking your boss if you can help train or mentor them in the role. You’ll learn how to do your job better by teaching them, and it’s just a great thing to be able to add to a resume and your list of achievements when you ask for a promotion.

When asking for a promotion, it will usually come with some new responsibilities, so you want to make sure there is someone to pick up your slack. When you are training a new-starter, you are preparing someone to do exactly that. When you ask for a promotion, you can point to the person you trained when your boss asks who will take over your old responsibilities. You know they’re competent – you trained them!

Check out your job description and set some goals

When asking for a promotion, it can be useful to review your job description. Write down a list of everything you do in your current job and compare that against the job description. If there’s a lot of things in your list that aren’t on the JD, then you have a lot of evidence for a promotion – or at least a pay rise.

Another important element (which some businesses won’t do) is goal-setting. I have another post here about how to set effective goals so make sure you check that out if you’re not sure where to start with goals. At your annual or biannual review, sit down with your manager and set some goals with respect to what you want to achieve. Your manager should know what your ambitions and career goals are, so at least some of those goals should feed into those aspirations. 

When you get to your next review, you should be able to show completion or progress towards those goals. If you asked for a promotion in your last review and you weren’t ready for it, hopefully these goals you set then will justify a promotion in your next review.

Keep a record of achievements 

This is something that a lot of people fall over in and I’m going to tell you how to do this in an effective and easy way. Create a Google or Excel sheet and start recording your achievements. I use a Google Sheet and keep the document on my bookmarks bar. That way it is always visible and whenever I have an achievement that I want to record, I don’t forget it.

Check out the example below:

You’ll notice that there is a column for ‘Goal’ which is where you can record how the achievement contributed to the goals you set in your last review. The sheet itself is not super pretty or complicated, it’s just simply a record which you can use in your performance review or whenever you’d like to discuss a promotion. 

This kind of record is important regardless of whether you’re going for a promotion or pay rise, or if you just started at an organisation. You never know when you’ll need this information – for instance if your manager leaves and you get a new manager who doesn’t know your work performance. It’s just a good habit to get into, so start keeping this kind of record. Don’t assume your manager knows everything you do, and don’t assume they will remember everything you do!

Another thing to keep in mind is that this record should be specific, my example is a little too general. Talk about the specific conference or training you attended. You could also ask the people around you for written feedback which you could take into a promotion meeting.

I’ll also note that if you’re in a sales or any kind of revenue generating role, your achievements might have a revenue column so you can demonstrate how much revenue you have generated for the business. Don’t discount the non-revenue generating achievements however – building the brand of the business is just as important as making a sale.

Book in the meeting

If you have all of the above prepared – contact your manager and request a meeting to discuss your promotion. This should be a formal request via email. Your manager will take this meeting as seriously as you do – so treat it as such. 

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