Asking for a promotion can be overwhelming and intimidating, especially when it’s your first experience. Understanding the timing, what to present to your supervisor, and creating a plan if it doesn’t pan out is essential. Without this, you might be leaving both money and opportunities on the table. As a millennial, and newer in the workforce, demonstrating your success within the company and guiding the conversation to highlight your professionalism can go a long way.
Human resource professionals, Samantha Wallace, Market Leader of the Technology Practice at Korn Ferry Futurestep and Nadine Leonard, Managing Director and Executive Planning Director at Heartbeat share their expertise on speaking with your supervisor about advancing your career.
Carpenter: When should millennials ask for a promotion?
Leonard: We look for people who want to maximize their contribution and then give them the runway and resources to make it happen. If that means a promotion after six weeks, then we do it! Look at your fellow co-workers who have recently received a promotion — is there a common denominator? What kind of qualities and talents are celebrated? Once you are embodying those traits and translating them into your work, then you can start thinking about making the ask.
Wallace: There are no hard and fast rules, but the conversation should shift from time based to value based. It’s not a “I’ve been here two years, so I should be promoted” conversation. It’s more of a “Here are my contributions to date, and how can I contribute even further to make me ready for the next role?”
Carpenter: How should millennials bring up a promotion to their supervisors?
Leonard: Before you ask for the promotion, make sure you’re on the same page with your manager about what it takes to actually get promoted. At Heartbeat, we have career path models for each discipline that detail how expectations shift with each job title. If your company doesn’t provide that level of transparency, then you should seek it out. By asking the straightforward question, “What are the things that I need to do to move to the next level?”, you can kick start an honest conversation about your manager’s expectations vs. your current realities. Once you’re armed with this knowledge, you should start closing the gap and then proactively schedule a follow-up conversation to discuss your desire to climb to the next rung of the ladder.
Wallace: It is never a good idea to walk into a boss’s office and demand a promotion. That would catch the manager off guard and could make him or her defensive. A better approach is to schedule a meeting with the boss to review their accomplishments and ask for a “roadmap” of what they should do/accomplish to make it to the next level.
Carpenter: How can millennials express their value to their organization?
Leonard: You shouldn’t have to verbally express your value — you should be demonstrating it daily through your work in a way that is palpable and unmistakable. If you’re at a company where it’s not noticed and you can’t make it noticed, then you should look for somewhere where the skills and talents you offer are a better fit.
Wallace: Often, employees assume that their good work will be recognized and the promotions will happen. That is not necessarily the case. It’s important that the millennial employee make their aspirations known and work with their bosses to set clear expectations on what is needed to make it to the next level.
Carpenter: If millennials are turned down for a promotion, what should they do?
Leonard: Make sure you have a clear understanding of why you were turned down. If your manager called out some performance gaps, create an action plan on how you’re going to proactively close them and share it back with your manager. And then MANAGE the plan and — I value employees who take an interest in their own development.
Wallace: It is natural to be disappointed or even angry if the promotion doesn’t pan out, but it is also not a good thing to be promoted into a role for which they are not ready. Approach this as an opportunity to learn. What do they need to do to be ready for a promotion? Make known that they are ready to go the extra mile to make it to the next level.
Carpenter: What are some avoidable mistakes when asking for a promotion?
Leonard: Millennials have to debunk their own stereotype — you have to be aware that there is a perceived reputation of entitlement, and your manager might be subconsciously looking for that kind of behavior. So, when you’re having these conversations, choose your words and tone carefully. Your mindset should be less, “I deserve this…” and more “I want have a bigger impact on the team/company.” A request for higher expectations is what EVERY manager wants to hear.
Wallace: Expecting a promotion because they think they’ve earned it is never a good idea. The millennial should have an understanding of their boss’s assessment of their performance. The millennial should be able to clearly articulate how they have made contributions to the organization and be clear about their desire to advance in the organization. The millennial should focus on their impact relative to their peers, and not the time they have been in a role. They should see working toward a promotion as a way to learn and further their skill sets.
She provides training, consulting, and speaking services to organizations all over the world. She has an MEd in Social and Comparative Analysis in Education from the University of Pittsburgh and is a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach. Her work helps to bridge communication gaps across generations, job functions, and geographies, and she has worked with organizations ranging from non-profits to multi-billion-dollar enterprises. She has delivered a TEDx talk on authentic workplace communication, and has been featured in media outlets including Forbes, ABC, FOX, and CBS. Her book, Humanize Your Workplace (Career Press), is set to release next year.
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