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How to ask for a promotion

Exactly how to turn asking for a promotion from a uncomfortable conversation into an enjoyable discussion and a no-brainer decision for your boss.

Ramit Sethi · July 10th, 2015

Ben Franklin wants you to ask for a promotion

 

Asking for a promotion is an extremely stressful moment in your career.

  • “What if they say no?”
  • “What if they laugh me out of the room?”
  • “What if they don’t see the value I add to the company?”

Just thinking of the possibilities can make you sick.

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But if you’ve tackled larger workloads, added tremendous value, and never missed a beat since starting your current role, shouldn’t your job title adequately reflect your increased value?

It’s time to ask for a promotion.

In this article, I’ll show you exactly how to turn a typically uncomfortable conversation into an enjoyable discussion and how to make this a no-brainer decision for your boss.

This is how you leapfrog others who get stuck on the corporate ladder for years and how you get paid what you deserve.

Knowing how to ask for a promotion can make you rich

Consider these two points:

  • A promotion conversation can take as little as 10 minutes.
  • A promotion can propel you to the next level in your career.
  • Many of my students and friends who’ve used the techniques I’m going to share have negotiated raises of $10,000 or more.

Even if a promotion only gets you half of that (a $5,000 raise), it adds up dramatically over time.

Take a look:

A 1-time salary increase of $5,000. Invested and compunded over 40 years: $1,398,905.20

Investing that $5,000 raise each year would leave you with an extra $1,398,905.20 upon retirement (not counting taxes)!

The lesson is clear: asking for a promotion is a smart and time-effective way to put more money in your pocket and improve your career.

So why do most people leave their career trajectory to chance. Because they haven’t defined how much value they add and communicated that to their boss.

How to define your value to your employer (you’re probably doing too much)

How long have you been at your company?

2 years? 5 years? 10 years? Let’s just say it’s been awhile.

During that time, you’ve definitely gotten better at your job. You’ve probably developed new and improved skills and you’ve undoubtedly taken on new responsibilities. You’re probably helping the company much more than you did a year ago. So while your contribution continues to rise, your compensation has remained stagnant.

Many of us are humble and modest by nature — and that’s okay. But there’s a BIG difference between being humble and undervaluing yourself:

  • Humble: “I’ve done XYZ, and I’m proud of that accomplishment.”
  • Undervaluing: “Oh sure, I kinda helped out with that project, but it wasn’t just me. Besides, anybody could have done that, so why should I feel special?”

Here’s an exercise you can do to break this limiting belief: List all the ways that you’ve become more valuable to the company since you started your job.

Be generous with your list, but push yourself to get specific:

  • Have you delivered specific results? Which ones? Estimate how much they were worth.
  • Has your communication improved? How so?
  • Are you more efficient than before? How do you know?
  • Do you know the business better? How does this translate to the company’s bottom line?
  • Have you developed new skills? What kind?

Keep in mind that achievements which seem mundane to you might seem exceptional to someone else. No achievement is too small. Write them all down.

Now that you know the value you add, it’s time to prepare for the conversation with your boss.

The Number #1 Mistake When Asking For A Promotion

The absolute WORST mistake you can make when asking for a promotion is to simply show up on the day of your performance review and ask for a promotion and raise.

If this is your plan, you will lose.

And what’s more, you deserve to lose.

I learned this lesson the hard way. When I was a student at Stanford, I did some work for a local venture capital firm. After a few months, I decided that I was going to ask my boss for a promotion — after all, I’m a smart guy and I’ve been working pretty hard, so I should ask, right?

The conversation went something like this:

Ramit: “Hi Boss, thanks for meeting with me. So, I’ve been working here for a few months now, and I think I’ve been doing a really good job. I’ve really gotten a good understanding of the ins and outs of the business, and because of that I’d like to discuss with you the possibility of a promotion.”

Boss: “Why do you think I should give you a promotion?”

Ramit: “Well… you know, as I mentioned, I think I’ve been doing a really good job, and I’ve been learning a lot about the company and how everything works here and… yeah.”

Boss: “No. Not gonna happen.”

Ramit: “Oh. Okay.”

It wasn’t pretty. And I was actually mad at my boss about it for two whole days (‘he said NO!!’).

But then I realized I was being ridiculous. I hadn’t given him any legitimate reasons why he should be giving me more responsibility and paying me more. So why would I have expected him to?

I’ve gotten a lot better at negotiation since then, and this is the #1 rule I’ve discovered about negotiation:

80% of the work in a negotiation is done before you ever walk into the room

That means the conversation is only a small fraction of what actually makes or breaks the negotiation. In reality, when asking for a promotion it’s your PREPARATION that will determine whether you succeed or fail.

Put another way, would you rather spend 0 hours preparing and get immediately blown out of a negotiation — or would you be willing to spend 20 hours of preparation with a 70% chance of successfully negotiating a raise and promotion?

Front-loading the work

Top performers are willing to put in the time and effort, which is why they can reap disproportionate rewards.

I call this “front-loading the work.”

Here are some examples of front-loading the work you can try (I cover even more of these preparation tips and other advanced career strategies in my Dream Job program):

  • Doing amazing work for at least 3-6 months, with written praise collected from your coworkers and your own boss.
  • Creating a 5-page document of proof of performance, showing all the ways you’ve added value above and beyond your job’s requirements.
  • Practicing with another skilled negotiator, recording that on video, preparing for every contingency and objection that your boss might have.

Once you’ve put in the work and have done a decent amount of preparation, you’ll want to make sure your boss knows you plan on asking for this.

Prepare your boss for giving you a promotion by setting expectations

Your boss should NEVER be surprised by you asking for a promotion. If they are, you did something wrong and your chances for success drop dramatically.

Think about it: If you simply blindside your boss, you’re putting him on the spot.

Nobody likes being cornered, especially regarding money and promotions. Their natural reaction will be to become defensive. In psychological parlance, they’ll experience “reactance” (which is a fancy way of saying “no way, Jose”).

Instead, prepare your boss for giving you a promotion. I walk through exactly how to do this in this video:

 

The word-for-word scripts to ask for a promotion — even if you’re inexperienced or nervous

If you’ve made to this stage, the final step is knowing simply what to say when you finally ask your boss for a promotion. You want to make the conversation flow as smoothly as possible. The discussion should be mutually beneficial so your boss sees the tremendous value you’ve delivered.

I’ve gone the extra step and included word-for-word negotiation scripts here. Now, you’ll walk into your discussion confident and skyrocket your odds of getting a better title and a better salary.

Get my word-for-word scripts to ask for a promotion — even if you’re inexperienced or nervous

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