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January 14, 2019

You’ve been working at your job for a while now, and feel like you could do it in your sleep. You’re ready for a new challenge.

You feel like a step up the corporate ladder is just what you need to boost your career (not to mention your financial situation).

You look around at the senior leaders in your office and believe that you could do a way better job at motivating people.

It’s official. You’re itching for a promotion.

But, how do you let your boss know that you’re ready to move to the next level? Should you just go ahead and ask?


But first, you’ll want to know that there’s a good chance that your boss will be open to a discussion. How do you do that? Make sure that you’re actually ready to move up.

Start By Shifting Your Perspective

A lot of people consider promotions from their own point of view (i.e. “Of course I could do that job—they'd be a fool not to give it to me.” or “I’m bored-I need something new to do”). While those might seem like valid reasons to you, you’ll increase the odds that you’ll get a positive outcome if you put yourself in your boss’ shoes.

Think about it: Every time a boss gives someone a promotion, they are taking a risk. After all, you’ve never actually done that job before, so they're taking a chance and hoping that you’ll be able to succeed. As an executive coach, I’ve been in a LOT of behind-the-scenes discussions with leaders who are considering promoting someone. Suffice it to say: It’s not a decision that’s taken lightly.

Therefore, if you really want to move ahead, your job is to make your talents so obvious that giving you a promotion won’t be considered risky at all. Instead, it’ll be an absolute no-brainer!

If you really want to move ahead, your job is to make your talents so obvious that giving you a promotion won’t be considered risky at all.

Here are some tips to get you started.

1. Make Sure You’re a High Performer

This one might seem pretty obvious, but there are plenty of people who fantasize that they could do a much better job than their bosses, although they’re not even meeting the expectations of their current roles.

Take a look at yourself. If your last performance review left much to be desired, or if you can’t honestly grade yourself an “A,” then begin by focusing on getting better in your current job. After all, if you can’t succeed at this level, why would someone expect you to be successful at the next one?

2. Brainstorm the Skills You Need to Level Up

Your next step is to reflect on the skills you’ll need to be successful in the job you want. Would you need to speak up more? Would you need to understand budgets? Would you need to be more organized? Would you need to be more comfortable taking charge?

Because you don’t know what you don’t know, you might also want to ask others for ideas. Conduct informational interviews with people in the field. Sit down with your boss and ask her what skills you would need to move up. That conversation will not only provide you with useful information, it’ll also let them know your intentions and show them that you’re interested in developing.

Make a list of the required skills, and try to be objective as possible as you rate yourself for each of them.

3. Make a Plan

Pick out three of the areas where you need the most growth, and create a development plan for each of them.

In your plan, outline the steps that you’ll take to develop in the areas you need it. Will you read a book? Take an online course? Work with a coach? Be more vocal about your ideas in team meetings? Broaden your network?

Beside each action step, write a deadline. That’ll help to keep you on track, and give you a little more encouragement to move outside of your comfort zone. Here's a development plan template I created that can help.

4. Demonstrate You’ve Got What it Takes

Your last step is to show your boss that you’ve got what it takes to succeed at the next level.

Talk about your intentions, and ask them to give you feedback about how you’re doing. Be proactive about showing initiative and asking for a bit more responsibility. If you want to manage others, ask to lead an internal project. It will give you valuable experience and help your boss to see that you’re fully capable of leading others.

Be proactive about showing initiative and asking for a bit more responsibility.

As you’re working to show your stuff, just make sure that you’re not taking on too much for yourself. For instance, I have a friend who was once told, "You get a promotion once you do two jobs at once successfully.” To me, that’s a recipe for burnout.

Yes, your goal is to demonstrate that you have the skills to take on a bigger job. But, if you burn yourself out in the process, you might be making yourself appear less capable, not more.

If you ask for more responsibility, be smart about it. Strive to be as efficient and productive as possible. Those are important skills that you’ll need if you take on a bigger job. However, at the same time, you’ll also need to know how to manage your stress and focus on self-care. Take care of yourself as you make a push for the next level.

Take care of yourself as you make a push for the next level.

The bottom line: If you’re already showing that you’re ready for a promotion, when you sit down to actually ask for one, it’ll be a much easier conversation. Even if there aren’t any positions available at the time, you’ll be top of mind when the next opportunity arises. More responsibility, a new title, and a bigger paycheck will likely be in your future!

Read next: How to Balance Career Success With Self-Care

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