Most people think that getting a promotion at work is something they have to wait for.
It could take years, but if they're patient and keep their heads down, it will happen.
The reality is, you don't have to passively wait years to get promoted.
It can happen a lot quicker if you make the right moves.
For the past 20 years, I've been teaching consumers the ins and outs of good credit and personal finance while providing them the solutions to help manage their financial woes.
But a lifetime ago, I was working in the nuclear medicine department at a hospital (that's where doctors use radiation to treat and diagnose diseases like cancer).
One day, I caught wind of the hospital's upcoming job opening for the role of Radiation Safety Officer (RSO).
The job was a step up from where I was and I wanted it. The only problem was I wasn't certified for the position and the nearest certification courses were out of state.
Rather than throwing my hands up and saying, "Oh well, maybe next time," I did some research and set a plan into motion.
I talked to my manager and shared my goal to become the hospital's RSO. I presented the details of the certification course and explained the value I would add to the team as the RSO if I could obtain the necessary training and credentials.
Next thing I knew, the company was paying for the certification course and giving me paid time off to travel out of state for the training!
When I completed the course and returned in a few weeks' time, I successfully applied and got the hospital's RSO position.
I had advanced my credentials and my job seniority, plus I got a big-time boost in my salary!
The truth is, promotions seldom happen simply as a result of years of hard work and loyalty.
Do that and you'll just end up busting your butt working overtime with little or no recognition, doing all the wrong things to get noticed.
There are strategic ways to request a promotion diplomatically and to enhance your candidacy for a position upgrade.
In fact, if you apply the strategies and methods laid out in this article, you can get yourself on your boss' radar and land a promotion in some cases in as little as 180 days.
The Planning Phase: Day 0–Day 30
The success of your goal to get promoted and make more money largely hinges on what you do during the planning period.
It's worth taking the time to do things right. You can't just blindside your boss with a random conversation about getting promoted without first laying down the groundwork.
Know what you want
The most important thing is to know the new role you're looking to be hired for thoroughly, well enough that you could write a cover letter for the position.
Setting a goal so that you know exactly where you eventually want to end up. This will help you identify whether an open position is a good fit for you.
Ending up in a position that's not a good fit can result in you feeling miserable at work—to the point of wanting your previous job back—even if it is technically a promotion.
Take some time to really think about what you want your future with the company to look like.
Do some research on the job positions above you in the company's hierarchy.
Try to get a copy of the position descriptions from the company's HR department or look at job postings from other companies for the same type of positions to get a feel for what you should expect.
Define the value you bring to the business
The single most critical thing you need to do to get a promotion is identify your role within the bigger picture of the company's operations.
Ask yourself: What skills and responsibilities do you have and how do they contribute to the larger goals of the business?
Where do your skills and the company's goals overlap? Find the intersection between what you do really well and what your bosses value.
Remember, the value you can bring in a new position is not necessarily determined or limited by your current job description.
Align your promotion with measurable outcomes. When you do your research, identify some key performance indicators (KPIs) your company is striving to achieve and focus on them.
For example, if you are in sales and you know your company has set a goal to double sales within two years, think about how your skill set could help to make more money.
The Execution Phase: Day 30–Day 90
Before you ask for a promotion, make sure you're delivering
After completing phase one, you will have identified the value you need to show you have in order to get your promotion.
Now you need to deliver.
First, become a top performer. You want to leave no doubt whatsoever that you deserve the promotion.
Make sure you over-deliver on all your current work assignments, and take on any additional initiatives you can.
For example, if you're part of a project team, put in some extra hours to complete your contribution ahead of schedule.
Once you're work is done, check in with other members of the team to see if there are any challenges that could potentially hold the project up and jump in to help keep everything moving smoothly along.
If you didn't document it, it didn't happen. Make sure you document all your contributions, successes, and accomplishments.
Before you even start working above-and-beyond the call of duty, take a "before" snapshot of the state of affairs where you work.
Accurately capture how things are, taking note of the inefficiencies and trouble spots affecting your group, your department, and the company as a whole.
When it's time to negotiate your promotion, you'll have something to compare against the "after" picture your hard work has helped create.
A key part of achieving a promotion is the story you tell, so don't paint your journey as a pie-in-the-sky experience, or a result that can simply be attributed to mere coincidence.
It should be clear that it was your deliberate effort and proactive stance that got it done.
Increase sales, increase your odds for promotion
No matter how good you are at your job, your salary will always be located in the "expense" column of the company ledger.
To change yourself from being seen as an "expense" to an "asset," you need to demonstrate the dividends or profits the company earns by paying you to do what you do.
Show them the money. No matter what your job description is, there is one thing a business will always hold in the highest regard: Sales.
There's no better way to prove yourself as an indispensable member of the team than bringing in customers or clients.
Build influential relationships
Gently approach someone higher up on the company ladder (ideally in an influential position) and humbly ask them to become your mentor.
They will be flattered and impressed by your initiative, and the mentor/mentee relationship can grow and become a great springboard for a promotion.
Don't burn any bridges. In the meantime, avoid office gossip and politics.
You don't want to jeopardize the relationships you need to move upward by getting caught up in petty conflicts and office politics.
The Negotiation Phase: Day 90–Day 180
Get noticed and go get 'em!
You're crushing it at your job and over-delivering on the key aspects and metrics your boss values.
It's time to get on the boss' radar and get yourself a seat at the negotiating table by initiating the conversation.
Don't be shy, you need to be upfront. Set up a meeting with your boss and let them know what you want and present them the results and proof you've gathered of your stellar performance so far.
If you've done the execution phase properly, most bosses won't object to you coming right out and stating your interest in a promotion.
The best part is, you've already got the performance metrics to back it up.
Once you've told your boss about your interest in a promotion, ask them what more you could do to qualify yourself for the better job.
They will probably come to the realization that you've already done everything necessary to deserve the move upward, and there will be nothing stopping you from getting promoted.
Prepare your sales argument
The most important sale you will ever make is selling yourself and the value you bring to a job.
This is simply a matter of explaining (and presenting proof of) what you've done in the past few months for the business.
Speak in terms of Return on Investment (ROI).
What return has the business gotten by investing in you?
Don't hold back—go show them the numbers!
Be specific about what you're asking for. Tell your boss exactly which position you have in mind.
Then use the facts and evidence you gathered over the past few months of overachieving to back up the reasons you deserve to be promoted.
If you want to be given a specific job title, make sure you mention it as well.
Crush the negotiations by going straight for the ask
Ask for the promotion in no uncertain terms.
At this point, it's not going to be a surprise.
You've already alerted the bosses of your intentions and desires.
Make it a no-brainer to promote you.
Get your timing right.Most companies have cycles that include a scheduled annual review each year.
Make your negotiations coincide with your annual review so that you're in line with the company's cycles.
Asking for a raise or promotion out of the blue can make you look unprofessional.
Typically, the annual review is part of a larger process where the company is considering its budget, its manpower needs, and strategies for the upcoming year, so the timing is perfect.
Follow this script to nail your promotion
Here's a script you can follow when you're ready to ask your boss for a promotion.
Practice with a friend or in front of a video camera to get it perfect.
Keep your tone professional and full of positive energy.
Maintain relaxed but confident posture and body language, and be concise and avoid rambling.
Adapt this script into your own words so you're comfortable saying it, and make sure you add or tweak the details to suit your situation:
Thanks again for sitting down with me to discuss the future direction of my work here.
I was really happy after we chatted several months ago and both agreed I have a bright future with the company.
Over the past few months, I feel like I've really hit my stride, and I'm sure you've noticed some of the outcomes my work has been generating.
After revising the spreadsheet I was working with, I was able to identify a spike in the cost of a key material used in our products.
When I located a new supplier, our production costs decreased by 10%.
I really think my effort on that project is something I could apply to other areas of our operations.
With a promotion to supervisor, I could oversee the whole department and find similar cost savings.
A small investment in my new position would lead to huge savings and increased profits for our organization.
Don't wait around for the promotion you deserve
Promotions don't come to you, you go to them. Rather than continuing to wait passively for a promotion to fall into your lap, you could be making moves right now to make it happen in the next six months.
By taking an active role in setting yourself up for promotion, you'll not only get on your boss' radar, you'll also get on his or her good side, and you'll increase your chances of landing a bigger job—with better pay—more quickly.
Follow the steps I've outlined above and you'll be able to prove you are an asset to the company, not an expense.
Make that happen and the organization will do everything it can, not just to keep you, but to keep you growing and commensurately compensated.
Do you have any tips or stories about getting a promotion at work?
Any success stories (or work-place nightmares) you'd like to share?
What's the best tip you can give someone who's gunning for promotion?
Let us know in the comments below!