Should I Ask For A Promotion?

Before you put yourself on your boss’s calendar, be sure to conduct some due diligence. Here are the questions to ask and research, to determine if it is the right time to ask for an internal promotion.

  1. Do you understand the criteria for the job or the next level? If you don’t, ask about the criteria before you ask for the job. Once you understand the criteria, do some soul searching and get feedback on whether you meet a great majority of the criteria.
  2. Over the longer term, have you been a significant contributor to your business’s success? Has your contribution been sustained over time? If the answer is yes to both questions, the timing may be right.
  3. This may seem an obvious point, but has your most recent performance been well above par across the board? You may have just landed a big deal, or integrated a large acquisition, but when the management/board evaluate you for the next level, they will evaluate your performance on all the aspects and responsibilities of your role. Look at your performance across the scope of your responsibility, if you come up short because you have done a poor or mediocre job in some areas, now is not the time to ask.
  4. Have you proven that you can take on broader responsibility and more influence within the organization? If you have successfully taken on interim responsibilities and have demonstrated a broader level of influence required at the next level, write down the feedback that you have received and the circumstances when you have demonstrated preparedness. If you have not had the opportunity to do so, ask for these types of stretch assignments demonstrate your capabilities. And if you failed when you were asked to take on more, be mindful next time you are put to the test. These are the moments when it is essential to prevail.
  5. Is your business cranking? Even if you are not responsible for the whole business and your area is performing exceptionally well, consider whether the optics will work for the company and your management/board. And if the company is struggling, the budget may not be there for your raise and your replacement.
  6. Is your boss/board empowered? They will need to go to his or her boss/investors, and if they are in the doghouse, they may not want to ask based upon their own results. If you are highly visible beyond their level, they may succeed in having your request granted, but they also may be too sheepish to do so.
  7. Finally, what is the state of your relationships with the decision makers and stakeholders? Are you on solid footing with valued employees who would report to you? Is the chemistry what it should be with your management and influential board members? If no, improve your communications and stabilize your relationships before you ask for a promotion.

If the answer to some of the questions is “No,” you are likely to get a “not now” from your management. Your career will be better off, if you go to your management/manager, let them know of your longer-term ambitions and that you understand the timing is not right for your promotion. Your emotional intelligence and self-knowledge will be recognized and appreciated and may shorten the cycle time for your eventual promotion. This discussion will also give you an opportunity to construct a development plan with your manager to get to the next level sooner rather than later.


Founded in 2001, Waterman Hurst is a professional services company that provides strategic job and board search services to leaders. We serve CEOs, C-Suite executives, Next Level Executives, and Advancing Leaders who want to transform their careers. We are the first company to provide B2C high end, high touch comprehensive job and board search services exclusively to leadership clients – we provide expertise in branding, strategy, coaching and serve as agents for top talent.

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