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How soon is too soon when asking for a promotion?

By Thea Watson, Marketing Director of Hays UK & I and UK Board member

Even if you’re relatively new to your role, you may feel like you are ready to take on more responsibility. But is it too soon to ask for a promotion?

The answer to this isn’t black and white, because there isn’t a set time frame before you can ask for a promotion. After all, promotions should link to your performance, not length of tenure, and every new starter will perform differently.

The answer to this question requires you to carefully assess whether you are ready for a promotion. So how can you make this judgement call?

Assess your recent performance

Before you ask for a promotion, check you truly are ready. After all, there may be areas of your current position which you are yet to master. Revisit your job description and check you are fully competent in each area. You should also reflect on any feedback your boss gave you in your annual review and any other more regular check-ins that you have.

Next, ask yourself if you are mentally prepared. You only joined relatively recently, and settling into a new environment can take a while — are you really ready for more change? Consider the extra responsibility, the changes in work routine, and the people you will need to interact with on a daily basis, such as more senior stakeholders. Are you comfortable with this?

At this point, you may feel out of your depth, and that you are still getting to grips with your new role. This is fine, and you simply need more time to find your feet. On the other hand, you may feel up to the challenge, because right now you aren’t being pushed to your full potential. If so then get ready to ask for what you want.

Communicate your ambitions

As you’ve been with the company a while, you will have hopefully built up a good relationship with your boss, one in which you feel comfortable sharing your future career ambitions and aspirations. Therefore I would advise meeting with your boss one-on-one to clearly communicate your ambitions, but remember to be both tactful and professional, after all you don’t want your manager to think you’re presumptuous, entitled or already disengaged with your current role. State that you have fully enjoyed getting to grips with your job, but that you feel that you are now ready for the next challenge. Give your reasons, and ask them for their thoughts and feedback.

Your organisation should have a clear career progression policy in place. This outlines what you’ll need to achieve to be considered promotion-ready. Your boss will likely identify skills gaps you need to overcome in order to qualify for promotion. Stretch opportunities are a good way to develop these skills on-the-job, so volunteer for relevant tasks or projects.

Finally, set some timeframes, a date to review your progress so far, and keep your boss looped in with your development in the meantime. Ideally you’ll walk out of this discussion feeling motivated and ready for the next step.

Step up to the plate

Now it’s time to put your money where your mouth is. Firstly, your days are about to become a lot busier as you begin taking on stretch opportunities on top of your existing responsibilities. Effective time management and organisation is key if you want to avoid falling behind; from setting a clear deadline for every task, to planning the next day’s to-do list the night before.

Secondly, remember to maintain your work/life balance when working towards this promotion. Yes you have goals to achieve, but you won’t get there if you run yourself into the ground, and it is essential for everyone, regardless of seniority, to switch off and recharge their batteries. Try to leave the office on time, don’t check work emails late into the night, and ensure you have plenty of downtime in the evenings and weekends.

Lastly, record your progress. As you start working towards goals, track these and any measurable results, and have regular one-on-ones with your boss to relay this information, asking for their support or feedback where necessary. A mentor can be of great value when trying to reach that next level of your career. This should be somebody other than your boss, someone credible and senior to you, who can objectively advise you as you strive towards success.

You shouldn’t lose heart if you are met with a “no” when it comes to asking for that promotion. Use this as an opportunity to further self-improve, and get some feedback which pinpoints exactly why you weren’t successful this time round.

Remember, a promotion is based on merit not tenure, and just because you’re new to the company, doesn’t mean that you can’t ask for a promotion. By matching your ambition with a realistic view of what you must achieve, you’ll set yourself up with a stronger chance of reaching your career aspirations.

If you are looking for support with your employment needs please contact your local office.

About this author

Thea is responsible for the UK & I marketing team as well as driving the strategic direction of the marketing function, looking closely at opportunities for growth, positioning in the marketplace and sales support. She was appointed to the Hays UK & I Board in July 2017, following joining the UK business in the summer of 2016.

Prior to her current role she was the Vice President of Marketing for the Hays Americas business, joining the business in 2012. Under her management she built the marketing function from general support to a strategic driver of sales, establishing a central marketing unit supporting Canada, US and four Latin American countries.

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