Be ready to make case before you ever ask

  • Article by: LIZ REYER
  • Special to the Star Tribune
  • December 18, 2011 - 2:29 PM

QMy company is starting to do some hiring again, and I think it's time for me to ask for a promotion after sticking it out through the tough times. What's the best way to proceed?

APrepare a case based on performance, and then be willing to tell your story.

The inner game

What is the basis of your view that you're due for a promotion? Is it pride in your accomplishments or concern that you're being passed over? It's important to proceed in this from a positive perspective, so address any negative emotions that are fueling your perspective so that they don't interfere with pursuing your goal. "Being owed" won't get you where you want to be.

Determine the promotion that you'd like. Is it a grade level increase in a current job area, or a move into a new type of role? In either case, review the expectations for the position as written in the job description, and also as exemplified in the "real world" among your co-workers. Consider your salary increase hope, as well.

Now focus on your accomplishments and the impact of your performance. Reflect on your contributions, particularly as they fit with the role you aspire to. Also consider aspects where your boss may feel that you aren't qualified for the promotion, so that you have a response if it comes up.

On the emotional side, what are your feelings about actually asking for a promotion? These conversations can feel risky, but are a necessary part of the process. Understand any nerves you may have about it so that they don't derail you.

The outer game

Your first step is to create a business case for your promotion. Define the contribution you'd make in your new role, including the areas for improvement in your company that you'd like to help address. Outline why you're the right person for the role. If you're looking at a job area advance, outline how you're already performing at that level. Take time to create a compelling case, preparing a brief summary that you can give to your boss.

Then set up a meeting to discuss your professional development and advancement potential. Bring your most professional game in terms of appearance and demeanor. Remember that it's your meeting, so be ready to lead the conversation; this is where your business case will come in handy. Don't expect a resolution at this meeting; you're just opening the dialogue, so wrap up with a discussion of other information your boss will need and next steps.

Get people to help you. You'll want to practice your pitch a lot before the meeting, and you'll probably want plenty of cheerleading and emotional support. Friends or family who will give you kind but realistic feedback and who will push you to proceed will be invaluable.

And be ready to face the "what if" question: What if they say no? Will you be on the job market? Or will you just let them know that you'll be asking again?

The last word

Take a businesslike approach to seeking a promotion, keeping your company's needs in mind in order to get your own needs met.

What challenges do you face at work? Send your questions to Liz Reyer, a credentialed coach and president of Reyer Coaching & Consulting in Eagan. She can be reached at

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