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When should I ask for a promotion?

Recent UT Austin grad Sarah asked: 

Is there a standard as far as when to expect or ask about promotions when you’re in an entry-level position?

Hi Sarah –  this is a great question, both for those new to the workforce and for those getting ready to enter the workforce.

Looking for that first job? Bring this topic up when you are interviewing

It’s a great way to learn about the short and long term opportunities that are available, demonstrate that you are serious about the process, and show that you are evaluating them while they are evaluating you.  Plus, you’ll get some info that will help you immediately and down the road.

Ask questions like:

What is the typical career progression for a top-performing entry-level professional in your organization?

What are the new graduates you hired last year doing now?  Is this typical of the entry-level candidates you hire?

Can you tell me about the performance review process?  When and how frequently are reviews conducted?  How is job performance measured and assessed?  

To what extent is compensation tied to performance?  Are there bonuses based upon performance?  If so, how are they awarded?

The answers you get to questions like these will help you determine whether or not the job is a good fit for you.

Already in the workforce and eager to advance? Ask as part of performance reviews and as new opportunities present themselves

Where am I now?  How am I doing? How do I see my career progressing? are questions that should be central to every performance review.

Since performance reviews usually take place annually (sometimes more frequently) and are usually scheduled, you have time to prepare. So, be prepared!

Do your job well.  Keep track of your accomplishments and be prepared to share them during your review.  Use some of the time during your performance review to talk with your boss about how you would like to see your career progress and see if your thoughts align with hers.

No one is as in-tune with your performance, your skills and experience, and your career goals as are you!  Pay attention to the job vacancy announcements in your company. Pay attention to the career advancement of others.  Be honest (not too bold and not too humble) in assessing your capabilities.  If a job comes available and you honestly believe you can do it, ask for the chance. Consider the following examples.

A more experienced colleague in your group gets a promotion, and you would love to move into her role.  You could approach your boss and say:

I was so happy for Shannon!  She really deserved that promotion. With her moving into that new job,  I’m really interested in stepping up into her old job. Given my performance and the experience I have gotten during the past year here, I think I’m a competitive candidate and would appreciate your consideration.

During your annual performance review, you might say:

I really enjoy my job here, and I am very interested in advancing with the company.  Can we talk a little bit about the next steps I might be able to take here and when you think I will be ready to take them?

A job that interests you in a different division of your company comes available.  You could approach your boss and say:

I noticed that a a Network Support position just opened up  in  the Customer Service Division.  I’ve been working very closely with our Network Administrator for the last six months, and I think I could do that job.  Would you support my candidacy?  I really like working here, and this looks like a great opportunity to grow with the company. 

However you approach the topic you have to be sincere, you have to be truthful, and you have to be realistic in your expectations.

In a perfect world, you and your boss will already be on the same page with regard to your current role and performance and possible future roles for you with the organization. But who lives in a perfect world, right?

In the real world, you are going to have to negotiate office politics, competing agendas, and different perceptions of your value to the organization.  There are obstacles that come along with almost every opportunity.

Sometimes, the best way for you to advance in your career is with your current employer.  Other times, the best way is to seek new employment elsewhere; regardless of whether your current circumstances are great or lousy.

The right time to ask for a promotion is whenever the opportunity legitimately presents itself

So, pay attention – You don’t want to miss those opportunities when they come along.

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