7 Tips From Top Marketers on How to Strategically Ask for a Promotion

Take your career to the next level—without making it all about you

Lay the groundwork for your promotion with frequent check-ins and a network of advocates.
Lay the groundwork for your promotion with frequent check-ins and a network of advocates.
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As part of Adweek’s First Things First newsletter (sign up here), we’ve been soliciting tips from our readers on a variety of topics about your careers and workplaces.

Sometimes promotions just land your lap. Your accomplishments speak for themselves and your company recognizes them. Other times, you need to be prepared to toot your own horn. While that can be intimidating, marketing execs from agencies and brands like Heat, Foursquare and RPA shared some ideas on how to make advocating for yourself a bit less daunting.

Track your accomplishments

Start with your self-assessment, according to Jessica Kassel, head of talent, Heat. She suggested outlining a number of items: your accomplishments, handling your current responsibilities and how you’re stretching into new ones, as well as your areas of improvement. “If you can outline this in a very concrete form, it will show a level of self-awareness and due diligence that can be the foundation of the conversation surrounding your promotion,” Kassel said.

Build a “brag book”

Similarly to tracking your accomplishments, Elyse Estrada, vp, education and experience, Foursquare, takes that initiative one step further. “I used to have a folder in my inbox called “brag book” where I would put emails that I was really proud to send or communications from clients or colleagues giving me specific praise on something I did. I would then use it to write my self-review at the end of the year or browse through it when I had a tough day. If you have built up evidence of you going above and beyond or showing a mastery of a subject or skill, it makes it hard to argue that you aren’t deserving.”

And don’t be afraid to brag. “Sometimes it feels awkward to “toot your own horn,” but if your boss has a large team, you’ll want to support them in staying abreast of your accomplishments,” said Laura Small, vp and director of people, RPA.

"Most importantly remember that asking can never hurt, and a 'no' can lead to a productive conversation about what you need to do in order to get that next step."
Stephanie Wiseman, vp business development, Y Media Labs

Establish frequent meetings with your manager

This is a simple one: Consistent check-ins allow for better communication between a manager and an employee, giving the manager a better understanding of an employee’s accomplishments. “Monthly one-to-ones ensure that an employee’s personal and professional goals are set, tracked, and measured to show the progress and contribution they have made to their team and their overall self-growth,” said Mackenzie Pion, studio manager and culture coordinator, digital branding agency Fine.

“Build a strong feedback loop with your manager and make sure they always have a clear view of your roadmap and how you are progressing,” added Sara Varni, CMO, Twilio. “Don’t be afraid to ask you manager what it takes to get to the next level and what you are missing in order to get there.”

Outline your value to the organization

Being able to show your impact on a company’s bottom line is one of the most effective ways to advocate for yourself. After all, money talks. “Come prepared to discuss the contributions you have made to the business and the brand, specifically how the results delivered have impacted change or helped the business move forward, and then just go for it.” Zola Kane, senior director of integrated marketing, Essentia Water.

Marc Strachan, chairman, Adcolor, added you should be forward thinking as well, “express your POV on new ideas that can potentially continue to grow the business.”

Build a network of advocates

Before you even say a word to your manager about a promotion, let others do the work for you. “Spend time with other people of influence in your organization telling them what your goals and achievements are, so that they can help socialize the value you are bringing to the company,” Christy Cross, svp, director of business development, 22Squared. “If you’re close with those people, be bold and ask them to be an advocate for you to your boss. This way, your boss is already thinking about your promotion before you even make the ask.”

Put yourself in your manager’s shoes

Show your employer that you’ve thought through your manager’s potential questions and the implications of your request for a promotion. “If you asking for the promotion is the first time your boss is considering it, it’s likely to be met with questions,” Cross said.

“Will they need a plan for backfilling your role? Do they know your recent accomplishments and why you can take on this next role?” posed Stephanie Wiseman, vp business development, Y Media Labs. “Ensure you come with all that information prepared. Most importantly remember that asking can never hurt, and a ‘no’ can lead to a productive conversation about what you need to do in order to get that next step.”

Don’t use financial troubles to fuel your request

“I generally tell people not to frame a request for an increase or promotion around financial hardship,” Small said. “And if you are going in with a counteroffer, you should be completely comfortable with the fact that your employer may decline to match it!”

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