Hi everyone!

Having browsed and listened to most of the wonderful podcasts by M&M, I have yet to find an answer to a question that I'm sure affects many listeners:  "How and when do you ask for a promotion?

I believe it's not a question of whether or not you should ask for it. IMO if you think you deserve it, it's best to let your bosses know about this, but what's the best way to do that?

Here's my personal situation: I've set myself a goal of getting promoted to the next managerial level in one year. I'm willing to move to another company if that's what it takes. The position I want tends to come and go at my present company (and it's always occupied before the rank and file ever knew about the opening). According to management feedback, my performance is very good (thanks to MT). However, I am relatively inexperienced compared to most of the peers at my level (2.5 years of experience vs. an average of 5+). Unfortunately, my manager never holds meaningful career conversations with me and so far I hardly ever brought up the subject...

What would you recommend?

1. When should I bring up the topic if I want that promotion in a year from now? (assuming such positions don't pop up every other day)

2. Should I mention or insinuate that I'm willing to move to another company to make this happen? (which is true). Will that give me any positive leverage?

3. After sharing this desire with my manager, assuming she says they'll be considering it, how often should I bring up the topic again if I don't hear any affirmative response? 

4. If my "deadline" approaches and the company doesn't seem to be giving me the promotion I want , should I keep my (expected) job seeking efforts completely secretive?

jib88's picture

First realize that just because you want a promotion doesn't mean you get one. The overall tone of your post strikes me as a bit presumptuous. I have to give you the benefit of the doubt here, but if you act so brazen in person I wouldn't be surprised if no one thinks you're ready for promotion.

You should certainly bring it up with your boss, but don't expect that they can then just make it happen for you. Letting them know you want to advance is a good start though. To get promoted a few things likely have to happen: 1 - You have to outperform. 2 - There has to be a position available to promote you into (even if it gets created for you). 3 - You need to have a good relationship with the hiring manager or decision makers. This third one isn't strictly necessary, but is just as powerful as producing excellent results. While it's good to have goals, realize that your's is ambitious. It's not impossible, but it's also harder to make this kind of move externally rather than internally.

As for your questions:

1) Bring it up any time, preferably during a 1:1. If you don't have those, schedule time to talk with your boss about personal development.

2) No and no. In most cases it would count against you. It's generally assumed that people may move on for the right opportunity.

3) Have regular development discussions. More often than quarterly would be too much for you to be scheduling yourself. Don't be surprised if you don't see anything happening right away. These things can take a lot of time. Acting "put out" or moping about will just highlight the fact that you're not emotionally mature enough to be promoted.

4) Yes. Job seeking efforts should always be very secretive. Nothing will ruin your chances internally quite like mouthing off that you're looking around.

jib88's picture comment really stands out:  "(and it's always occupied before the rank and file ever knew about the opening)"

To me this speaks volumes about your level of organizational awareness and your internal network. This is what I was getting at about relationships in my post above. If you know what's going on in your company and you know the people then you'll be one of those people that gets jobs that others didn't even know were opening up.

buhlerar's picture

Why do you want to be a manager, and why the urgency to do it within a year?  You're listening to MT, which is a good sign that you take the responsibility seriously, but curious why the deadline?

I would suggest you say to your manager that you'd like to PREPARE for a manager position over the next year or two.  Opportunities come along when they come along.  If you try to force the timing too much, you'll show it's all about you.  No one "deserves" to be a manager -- the company "needs" a manager and looks to you to fill that need.  According to M&M, when you are doing your job and 50% of your manager's job, then you can make a solid claim that you're worthy of consideration.  So focus on getting to that point, not on the role itself.

Despite your perception that manager jobs are scarce and impossible to get, the reality is that good managers are even more scarce.  As you get the experience you'll be in high demand.

And as JIB88 suggests, by no means should you think a threat of external search will give you leverage.  It will more likely kill any internal consideration, and even if it does give you leverage, it will usually be temporary.  And more likely than not, you'll just have to start the process over if you go to another company.  As a reality check, research jobs you'd like to have in a year.  You'll probably find that manager jobs typically require 5+ years experience and previous management experience, depending on the type of work, of course.

calouden's picture
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I'll echo the advice of others here and recommend requesting quarterly meetings with your manager to discuss your career. Beyond this, I'd recommend asking your manager if you can assist with any of his responsibilities in order to get more management experience. Odds are that none of your peers are doing this, so being eager and helpful will be taken well by your manager.

Also, consider doing things OUTSIDE OF WORK that will give you experience and tools at leadership. Join the PTA, coach T-Ball, join your homeowners association etc... And consider management/Leadership training, whether it be an MBA, a PMP, or something of the like. And apply what you learn there to what you do at work every day. And tell your manager that you are doing this. 

At every job there are people who whine and complain. These people rarely ever get promoted. If you want to be promoted: be a "company person." Speak highly of what the company is doing. Help management accomplish their goals. When co-workers complain, show support for management. If management makes a boneheaded move, remember, the people who are making management decisions are people too and make mistakes. Support management as best you can and, bottom line: Always stay positive! Having a great attitude, working hard, and putting in effort to have great relationships with your co-workers, managers, and clients will be invaluable to your long term career opportunities.

derosier's picture
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One comment that stood out for me was: "I am relatively inexperienced compared to most of the peers at my level".  That was relatively clear from your post and the post signals to me that you aren't ready.  2.5 years into my career, I wasn't even out of college yet.  2.5 years out of college, I definitely thought I was ready for management and moaned and groaned about not getting the chance.  Now, I realize how much I had to yet to learn at that point.  I would have been a bad manager then and my management at the time should have realized it.  Patience here is a virtue.

Make a plan with your manager for development with an eye to management, that sets a clear enough statement that you want to go that direction.  Under no circumstance would you threaten or even mention looking for a new job if those requirements aren't meant.  That will tell the manager that you're not mature enough for a management position nor perhaps ever would be.  If you do need to move companies to get that position, then you'll need to do that, but make that decision up to you, threatening to leave gives them the power to direct that aspect of your career.


EDC's picture

Thanks for the inputs.

I am at fault for failing to describe my situation properly.

My current position is a first line manager (for the past 2.5 years) and I would like to become a senior manager within a year. This is a somewhat arbitrary time frame, if it weren't for the fact that I believe I outperform my peers and that I can get a similar job elsewhere. You don't need to (and shouldn't) take my word on the former, so I'm not going to try to convince you about it. The latter should be very doable as I see it.  All things being equal, I prefer to stay at my company, but I would give this up for a promotion.

Considering this and your feedback, I think I'll take this strategy:

  • Let my superiors know that I'm interested in a promotion. Make sure this topic is brought up every 3-4 months.
  • Take/ask for additional "next-level" responsibilities
  • Keep doing the best work that I can with best intentions and regardless of whether or not a promotion is viable.
  • Actively begin looking for external opportunities in 6-9 months and not mention a word to anyone.

In other words, my  only "deadline" right now would be to commence an external secretive job search in 6-9 months.

If you have any other helpful tips, please feel free to share them. 





dan west's picture
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I want to echo everything that has already been stated. There are two pieces I'll add to this discussion.

First, it's incredibly rare that someone with less than 3 years of managerial experience can step into a 2nd level managerial position successfully. You don't know what you don't know and experience is the only way to know it. MT is great at helping you learn some of this stuff, but not everything. Every company has quirks that MT can't anticipate.

Also, it takes time to form the relationships that you will need to be successful at that level. You should have most of these before you get the promotion. Build these like your career depends on it.

Second, don't ask for the promotion. You can ask for a lot of other items that will indicate you are ready. Instead, ask to help your boss with some of their tasks. Find ways to visibly demonstrate that you're adding value beyond your team's charter. Solve problems that impact more than just your team. Demonstrate that you see the big picture before anyone paints it for you.

If one of my reports started asking me for a promotion every 3-4 months, they'd start getting negative feedback by the 3rd time - maybe even the second. 

cim44's picture
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I agree with

"If one of my reports started asking me for a promotion every 3-4 months, they'd start getting negative feedback by the 3rd time - maybe even the second."

If you mention it once, they'll remember (eg. during annual goal setting). I like the idea above of presenting it as you want to "prepare" to be a manager at the next level.  That kind of language should be loud and clear as to you want a promotion, anyways. 

jib88's picture

Hi EDC -

Given your clarifications and re-reading my first reply I realize it was a bit harsh. I apologize for that.

I still stand by my recommendations on your questions though. Given that you are already a first line manager, my advice would be a bit different:

You know that your goal timeline is completely arbitrary. Because of this, there really isn't any kind of consequence if the goal isn't met. Your timeline and goal sound like they're really there to motivate you to keep growing more than anything else. If you are successful in your current role and truly outperforming others then you will get noticed. This is especially true if you keep asking what you need to do to grow.

If I were you I would err on the side of staying at your present company rather than moving externally. By all means you should always keep an open eye out and have good relationships with recruiters. But focus your efforts on building your internal network and being successful at your present company (provided you enjoy the culture, role, etc). If it takes longer than a year or two you're still probably better off internally.

What does your company value in leaders? Look at what fast-risers in your company do well. Are they seen as experts in people development, possessing great technical expertise, good with operations & metrics, etc. You might find a common thread and can try to emulate those qualities For example, if it's people development, try organizing something like a talent review for your team & your peers' teams if it's not done already.

Get yourself a mentor two levels above you in the org, preferable in a related line (but not your own line). Look at peers of your boss's boss first. They should be able to tell you what your company looks for and what you need to do to make the next move.

Good luck!

Jrlz's picture

Hello EDC,

You are on the right track with letting your boss know that you want to "move up".   There are a few other things that you should also focus on.  They are:

  1. Develop a development plan so that you are ready for the next step.  There are some MT/Career Tools podcasts on individual development plans.  By doing this, you will have a foundation of the skill sets needed for that promotion.
  2. Build your personal network.  Many jobs, especially those higher up in the compnay, are filled before they are even posted.  Often times the posting of the job is just a formality.  By developing your network, you will know about the openings before others do.  Also, those in a position to influence will know you and may even help.
  3. Volunteer to work on other projects.  This will give you more visability in the company.  It could also help to develope the skills needed for that next level.  You want to be a valuable asset to your company and seen that way by as many people as possible. 
  4. It is hard to tell in a written format, but your tone sounds too aggressive.  Perhaps in person it does not come across that way.  You would want to make sure that you come across as driven and A player.  You want to make sure that you dont come across to your boss as being only concerned with a promotion rather than performing your current assignement above standard.
  5. Lastly, you should continue to develope your external network and be open to opportunities outside your current company.  I would not share with your boss and anyone, however that you are open to opportunities outside.  As a wise old boss of mine once said: "Perform to a level of excellence and you will get noticed.  Not always by your current employer, but you will get noticed".  Manage your career because no one else will.
EDC's picture

I took your ideas and synthesized them into a development plan with an emphasis on behavioral attributes. 

The only conflict I saw was some people suggesting to directly express my interest interest in a promotion while others advised to refrain from it. I guess there is no "correct" answer, so I'll go with what I feel is right - expressing it subtly from time to time and not fearing to admit that I have a goal of advancing (in the event that some superior asks..).