Does the thought of asking for a promotion set your heart racing? You’re not alone. Many women, from all walks of life and career stages, experience a rush of anxiety when faced with the prospect of advocating for their career advancement. This reaction isn’t a sign of weakness – in fact, it’s a totally human reaction to what undeniably feels like a crucial, high-pressure situation! And let’s be honest, who doesn’t feel a little jittery when the stakes are sky-high?
A recent study from MIT Sloan has revealed that female employees are less likely to be promoted than their male counterparts, despite outperforming them and being less likely to quit.(1) The study, titled “‘Potential’ and the Gender Promotion Gap”, found that on average, women received higher performance ratings than male employees, but received 8.3% lower ratings for potential than men. The result was that female employees on average were 14% less likely to be promoted than their male colleagues.
These statistics are jarring, but not altogether surprising. I’ve coached thousands of women who have encountered this exact challenge of not knowing how to approach a promotion opportunity. As a result, they often miss out! The good news is, with the right preparation, strategy, and mindset, it’s absolutely possible to secure the promotion you deserve. So, buckle up and read on, because you’re about to learn how to leverage this seemingly intimidating task into a career-changing opportunity.
Before you stride into your boss’s office with that promotion request, it’s essential to take a good, hard look at what you bring to the table. Ask yourself – What are the feathers in your cap? How have you nudged the team or company closer to its targets? Bear in mind, we’re looking beyond the usual run-of-the-mill tasks here, beyond your standard job description.
It’s about zoning in on what makes you a unique asset to the organisation. Can you paint a vivid picture of this for your superiors? Because if you can, you’ll be well on your way to building an irresistible case for why you deserve that promotion.
As Octavia Goredema, career guru and author behind Prep, Push, Pivot: Essential Career Strategies for Underrepresented Women points out, you don’t want to hide your accomplishments until the annual review rolls around. “Make a habit of sharing your wins and turn those one-on-one meetings into stepping stones towards success”, Goredema advises. “And don’t stop there – think about other allies in your organisation who might help raise your career flag even higher.” (2)
Let’s face it, trumpeting our achievements might feel a bit uncomfortable. But, let’s tweak the way we see this. There’s no sense in delivering an outstanding performance behind closed curtains and then scratching our heads when the applause isn’t rolling in. By keeping your boss in the loop with your consistent track record, it’ll be less of a bolt from the blue when you signal that you’re all geared up for that next step up the ladder.
A critical aspect of your promotion pitch should revolve around the company’s goals. Here’s why: aligning your aspirations with the organisation’s strategy creates a narrative that resonates on a much deeper level with decision-makers. Let’s borrow a page from the Transformational Leadership playbook. It teaches us an invaluable lesson about the importance of alignment between personal aspirations and organisational ambitions. (3)
When you’re eyeing that promotion, remember it’s not just about stepping up your game for your personal gain. You need to show that your rise in rank is more than just a win for you. It’s a victory for the organisation too. That’s why getting a handle on your company’s present needs and future vision is vital.
Dive deep into understanding your organisation’s strategy. Are they planning on breaking into new markets? Maybe they’re aiming to revamp their brand? Or perhaps they’re on a mission to outdo last year’s revenue records? Whatever the organisation’s game plan, it’s essential to figure out how your new role can be a part of that puzzle.
And here’s the key – don’t keep these insights to yourself. Articulate it, make it clear to the decision-makers that promoting you isn’t just about filling a higher position. It’s about propelling the company forward. Paint them a picture where your promotion aligns perfectly with the company’s objectives. Show them that your ascent is, in fact, a step towards achieving the organisation’s grand vision.
Imagine this – you’re about to step onto a stage. The spotlight is on you, and you’re about to deliver one of the most important performances of your life. This isn’t a scene from your favourite movie. It’s the moment you approach your boss to ask for that well-deserved promotion!
Just like an award-winning performance, this crucial conversation requires preparation. You wouldn’t walk onto that stage without knowing your lines, would you? Similarly, when you walk into your boss’s office, you need to have your script ready – a solid case that shouts, “I’m ready for this promotion!”
Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”. This nugget of wisdom underscores the importance of thorough preparation. Before you initiate the talk about your promotion, make sure you’ve ‘sharpened your axe’ – that you’ve readied a persuasive case to present.
That means you’re not just asking for a promotion; you’re presenting a compelling argument about why you deserve it. It’s about meticulously gathering evidence of your accomplishments, showcasing how you’ve gone above and beyond, and demonstrating the unique value you bring.
The preparation for this conversation isn’t an overnight task – it’s an ongoing process. Start preparing today, and when the time comes to make your case, you’ll step into that spotlight with confidence, ready to deliver a knockout performance.
Finally, don’t forget to prepare for negotiation. It’s possible that your initial request may not be immediately accepted, and that’s where negotiation skills come into play. Whether it’s negotiating the terms of your promotion, or considering alternative paths to reach your ultimate career goal, negotiation is a key part of this process.
The journey to a promotion is unique for everyone, so these guidelines should be adapted to your specific context. Confidence in your skills and abilities is key, so make sure you’re ready to advocate for yourself. And above all, be patient. Career advancement often takes time, and demonstrating resilience and commitment in the face of challenges can underscore your suitability for a leadership role.
It is a process that requires careful planning, self-awareness, and strategic thinking. But with thorough preparation and an evidence-based approach, you can ensure that you’re positioning yourself in the best possible way for career advancement.
By applying these three strategies, you’re not only increasing your chances of securing a promotion, but you’re also building valuable skills that will serve you throughout your career. Because remember, your career is not just about reaching the top – it’s about the journey, the growth, and the contributions you make along the way.
So, go ahead! Seize the opportunity, ask for that promotion, and continue to be the driving force behind your brilliant career.
(1) Li, D. (2022). ‘Potential’ and the Gender Promotion Gap. Retrieved from https://danielle-li.github.io/assets/docs/PotentialAndTheGenderPromotionGap.pdf
(2) Goredema, O. (2021). Prep, Push, Pivot: Essential Career Strategies for Underrepresented Women.
(3) Bass, B. M., & Riggio, R. E. (2006). Transformational Leadership (2nd ed.). Psychology Press.