How to Make Your Case for a Promotion

Do you want your boss to advocate for you when it’s time for management to decide on promotions (and raises)? Do you want your employer to reward your contributions? Take these four steps to prepare for your next performance review–and make a case for your promotion.

1. Know your company’s policies.
Does your company have a merit promotion plan? If so, be sure you’re familiar with your responsibilities as an employee under that policy. If your company doesn’t have a human resources professional for you to work with, or if the information simply isn’t trickling down the pipeline, you’re going to have to navigate any existing policies on your own. (If you tossed your employee manual in the ol’ circular file after you were hired, track down an up-to-date version.) You’ll have a difficult time showing you deserve a promotion if you aren’t conscientious enough to know the fine points existing promotion policies.

2. Establish clear expectations.
If you aren’t totally clear about your responsibilities in your current job, you’ll have a difficult time showing exactly how you met or exceeded those expectations come review time. If your job description has changed, ask your supervisor or HR representative for an updated copy that accurately describes your role. You can then choose to pursue additional responsibilities, projects, or career training to show initiative and demonstrate that you’re exceeding expectations.

3. Create a value proposition.
Employers reward results–so you’ll need to figure out and quantify exactly how your job helps the company succeed. Say your company’s primary goal is selling a certain product, but you’re not in sales–you’re in purchasing. What are you doing that directly contributes to that primary goal, and how do you impact the company’s bottom line? You’ll also have to link up your individual objectives (for instance, finding the best resources for your company at the lowest prices) with corporate priorities (for instance, trimming operating costs without making it more difficult for salespeople to work effectively). Combining clear expectations with objectives allows you to create a value proposition that answers the question “What have you done that adds value to the company?”

4. Develop an easy system for documentation.
Come review time, wouldn’t it be great if you had all the documentation you needed completely organized? The following system takes only a few minutes to set up and less than a minute to document each time you do something brilliant or even rise above your own mistakes. By next year, you’ll have a collection of one-sentence summaries for each expectation or objective, with backup documentation and dates.

Step one: In your email program, create a folder and name it something like “Performance Documentation.”

Step two: Create a folder within that Performance Documentation folder for each expectation or objective that you’ll need to meet.

Step three: Each time there’s an email that clearly demonstrates how you’ve exceeded an expectation or done a superior job on something, forward that email, change the subject line to a quick one-sentence summary, send it to yourself, and place it in the correct folder.

Step four: If your shining moment happens outside of email, take a minute to send yourself an email with a quick summary as the subject line and three bullet points, including what you did and what the outcomes were.

Your performance is within your control, so when it comes to managing it, is that something you’d really want to leave up to someone else? It’s up to you to advocate for yourself and help your employer see how much you’re really worth.

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