Here’s how to ask for a promotion in 2021, according to an expert (and it’s actually not that scary)

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The one thing that probably felt impossible in 2020 (besides getting married and going to a rave) was a promotion.

But, with a new year, a vaccine rolling out and **prays** a hopefully ‘pandemic-lite’ 2021, could this be your year.

GLAMOUR sat down with Niamh O’Keeffe, leadership advisor and author, with over 25 years career experience in leadership advisory services – including strategy consulting, executive search and leadership coaching. She has just written a book called, handily, How to Get Promoted.

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niamh okeefe l

We thought, if anyone. could help, it would be her…

What made you decide to write the book?

I have over 10 years of experience as a leadership advisor, supporting corporate clients on what it takes to get promoted. My observations led me to realise that promotions don’t always work in the way that people assume. Getting promoted is not just about working hard and doing a good job. I discovered the insights on what really matters, and I am pleased to be able to codify the approach in this book for the benefit of everyone

Asking for a promotion is anxiety-inducing because of the fear of rejection. But we should not be afraid to be told ‘no’, or ‘not yet’. We should reframe any potential ‘rejection’ as a learning opportunity and ask or constructive feedback on what it might take to change to secure the role in the future. It is better to ask and find out what others think of us, than waste time not knowing and not being able to work on any areas that are causing decision-makers to doubt us.

Map out the key list of role promotion influencers and decision-makers, and identify who is the ultimate decision-maker. Remember it may not be your current boss. It could be your bosses’ boss. The ultimate decision-maker is either the most senior person involved, or is the person who has most at stake in terms of the future candidate success in the role. Then build a great relationship with this person.

Showcase your current work, impress them with your future plans and potential. Perhaps you could ask that person to be your formal or informal career mentor – which gives them a more vested interest in your future success. All this – on top of the obvious, which is to work hard and achieve great results!

Do you have a Bully Boss? Here’s how to handle it…

How should we approach our boss? What is the best way to ask?

Be specific about your promotion request i.e. the role level, title and timeframe. Just asking for a generic promotion without a specific new role definition and step up in responsibilities is too vague. It sounds like you just want advancement for its own sake, without seeing the bigger picture of how this promotion fits in with your career path and how it aligns with your boss and organisation’s needs too.

Be ready to state your case on why the promotion matters to you, why you are the best person for the job, and – crucially – why it would benefit your boss and company.
Timing is very important. Ask the decision-maker at a time when you think they are most receptive to the request. Good timing might be when your team or department hits its annual target, or just after a major personal triumph.

What about next steps- what to do if we don’t get the promotion/if there is a negotiation? What is your advice?

If your company refuses to promote you this time, ask for constructive feedback and consider whether you are likely to get the promotion next time. Take your cue from what they say. Obviously if they are very direct to say that you will never be promoted here, then you need to make plans to leave and join a company which would value you and open up future paths to promotion. If the situation is more ambiguous, it is up to you to work out what is really being said. Perhaps 12 months more experience is exactly what you need to nail the promotion next time.

However, as a general rule of thumb, if you have been declined for a promotion in two annual rounds, and your peers have started to move ahead faster than you, then I suggest that the company is sending you a signal that they are no longer committed to supporting your promotion success.

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If there is some wiggle room for a negotiation in term of a better ‘consolation’ outcome for not getting promoted, here are the levers you can trade up for; a new role title, more role responsibility, a better pay & reward package, a better role location, reassurance on future prospects.

Never threaten to resign if you don’t get promoted, unless you are willing to follow it through. Even if you are promoted in the short-term because you threatened to leave, it may backfire as a strategy in the long-term because when the dust settles again, people will question your loyalty to them and the company.

Do you think women struggle with asking for what they want in the workplace, why is that, if so?

I don’t think women struggle anymore with asking for what they want in the workplace. The issue remains with whether they will be properly accommodated to be given what they want – for example, in the case of women wanting to spend more time with their young children, this might include more flexibility on the working day or week, better maternity arrangements and more creative return to work programmes after maternity or career breaks.

To be fair, there has been progress in the corporate environment to change their approach to accommodate the needs of women. My advice to women is to keep asking for promotion alongside of also continuing to define your own preferred way of working, rather than trying to fit into a male system.

What would be your top piece of advice for someone trying to get a promotion?

For would-be managers; Invest in your people management skills. If you aspire to get promoted to a more senior leadership role; Ignore politics at your peril.

Still WFH for the foreseeable? These are the warning signs you’re heading for burnout right now (and how to fix it)

It will not be hard for the people who realise that the world of work has changed, and they need to change too. What matters most in today’s pandemic-reset work environment are the skills of resilience, adaptability and creativity. During the first lockdown, I noticed how alarmingly quickly so many professional people became demotivated and disconnected from their role, organisation and career.

It reminded me of Charles Darwin’s quote on survival of the fittest “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change”. If you want to get promoted when times are tough, you need to face into the challenges and be visible at leading from the front (even if that is now a remote-working front!).

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