Should I ask for a promotion?
July 13, 2007 9:40 AM   Subscribe

My boss may be promoting me. Or not. Or he may be waiting for me to ask for it. What should I do?

Background: I've been with this company for almost ten years - four in my current position. I am the only person who does my job, and while I am easily replaceable, I honestly do not believe that the boss would ever find someone who does it as well as I do for as little pay.

One of my direct supervisors is leaving his position in September. The last time one of my supervisors left (about a year ago), I flat out asked my boss if I could be promoted. He told me he would think about it, and ended up not mentioning it again and hiring from outside the company.

This time around, another exiting supervisor has recommended me to the boss, and has confided in me that he believes there will be no public advertisement of the job and that I am going to be promoted. I already possess much of the skill and knowledge necessary to the position, and the boss knows this. While the boss has seemed somewhat uncharacteristically friendly toward me lately, he has not given even one hint that would definitely indicate a pending promotion.

My question is this: Would it be a mistake to flat-out ask him for the promotion this time? I've never been in a supervisory position, so I don't know how a supervisor would react. He may be planning to promote me, or not, or perhaps he is just considering it. If I should ask, then when would be a good time, and how might I best go about it?

(Announcement of the supervisor leaving came almost two weeks ago. I would think that a promotion would have to come in time for me to be trained by the outgoing supervisor, which is why every passing day makes me more anxious and doubtful.)

I've searched and not found something close to my situation, and I'm interested in individual experience and anecdotes from people who have either been in my position, or in my boss's position. I also trust MeFites more than Google. Please, lend me your wisdom!
posted by gaiamark to Work & Money (22 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I personally would talk with your supervisor again. It lets him know that you are still very interested int he position, and that you are serious about it. it also allows you to discuss proir to a decision any doubts that they might have in hiring you. You mention you brought it up before and he listened and then hired someone from outside the company. I would try and determine what skills that outside person possessed that your boss percieved that you did not and plan a conversation around these and additional skills that you can bring to this position.
If you do not discuss it with your boss before hand, its all up to his vantage point as to who is the best for the job. Make it easier for him to choose you. Good luck!
posted by brinkzilla at 9:59 AM on July 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

A closed mouth don't get fed.

I don't think it would hurt you to approach the subject casually. Paraphrased: "Hey, seems like you need someone to fill this position. I'd love to give it a shot." Worst thing he can say is no. Best case, he appreciates your interest and motivation to accept a new challenge.
posted by gnutron at 10:00 AM on July 13, 2007 [1 favorite]

Telling a supervisor that you'd be interested in a higher-up position in the company is a lot like asking a potential mate out for dinner. You may be rejected, and things might be awkward for a week, but as long as you show your interest in a reasonable way, you'll rarely come away from it in a worse position than you were in previously.

Bosses aren't generally offended by polite interest in advancing in an organization -- as long as you're not looking at replacing *them*, or are annoyingly aggressive or persistent. In fact, many bosses expect interest in greater responsibility, and are surprised when employees don't seem motivated to advance in the organization.

If I were in your shoes, I'd talk to the boss, and let him know you're interested in a role with greater responsibility. Leave it at that. See what happens. You may not get it this time, but with the seed planted, something may also happen a ways down the road.
posted by I EAT TAPAS at 10:08 AM on July 13, 2007

Express your interest to your immediate supervisor. If they still post the position externally, apply for it through the normal channels.
posted by cosmicbandito at 10:12 AM on July 13, 2007

Response by poster: I EAT TAPAS, that's useful information, but I'm absolutely certain he knows that I want to move up. I did ask him last time a position was available, and the exiting supervisor recommended me.

I'm liking Brinkzilla's response, but I should clarify. I do not believe that the person he hired last time possessed any greater skills than I did. And he knew nothing of the company, while I was already very familiar with policies and procedures.

However, I suspect age may have been a factor (I'm 24, and I've been told I look younger). The person he hired last time is in his forties. The exiting supervisor this time is my same age, but actually looks much older. I'm not sure if that changes anything.
posted by gaiamark at 10:16 AM on July 13, 2007

You need to ask him what his plans are for the position. Depending on the size and structure of the organization, there are likely political factors both for and against your promotion and he may be stalling; he may even convince himself that you don't want it if you don't bring it and he's got HR shoving someone else at him.

Ask him what is going to happen with the position, and tell him that you wanted to be sure he knew you were interested in the position, and hope for the best.

If they do post it, don't despair, and don't get huffy about it. As cosmic bandito said, apply for it as if you were external. Often a posting and full process is required for HR to feel that exposure has been minimized, even if there is a strong internal candidate. Just because it gets posted doesn't mean that your boss doesn't want to hire you.
posted by ulotrichous at 10:22 AM on July 13, 2007

This weekend make up a resume and a nice cover letter asking to be considered, highlighting why you'd be good for the position. Give this to your boss. He'll know you are serious, and he'll have a formal sort of notice that you are seeking this out, and he'll have something to give to his higher ups or HR.

Since you've already talked to him about the position, this is a neutral and natural way of furthering the process. It will prod him into doing or saying something, at least. Also, if the position is formally opened up to other applicants, you'll be set to apply right away instead of scrambling to get a resume together at the last minute.
posted by voidcontext at 10:25 AM on July 13, 2007

I'm sure my boss knows I'd like a raise. Doesn't mean he'll give it to me unless I have the confidence and assertiveness to ask for it.

Go talk to your boss.
posted by olinerd at 10:30 AM on July 13, 2007 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: This is all great advice so far and I'm weighing it. Thanks everyone.

ulotrichous, there is no HR. It is a relatively small division (about 300 people total) of a larger organization. All applications for this sort of job go directly to the boss, although HIS boss may have some preference as to hiring procedures.
posted by gaiamark at 10:42 AM on July 13, 2007

Response by poster: Or rather, the HR of the larger organization does not factor in, in this case.
posted by gaiamark at 10:43 AM on July 13, 2007

The only person looking out for your career is yourself. If you want something, you need to make it known. If you don't, you will continue to be paid a little as possible and given as much work as possible.
posted by Diddly at 10:51 AM on July 13, 2007


The trick is to show the skills or alleviate the "perceived lack of" skills that the other guy posses, so as you mentioned that might just be age, then you need to go to him with a reason why being a 24 year old is a good thing. Sell him on your youth, your fresh view of things, etc.

It's overcoming what he might be looking at, however false it might be. He might be thinking this young guy doesn't even have the assretiveness that comes with age to directly ask me about his career path.

Doing it after he hires the next guy doesn't give you the opportunity to defend your strengths.
posted by brinkzilla at 11:39 AM on July 13, 2007

I've been in your superisor's shoes. If the employee doesn't put their foot forward, sometimes the supervisor will take that as a sign that the employee doesnt have the necessary confidence, ambition, or desire for more responsibilities. It can't hurt to let your boss know that you want the job and that you know you are qualified. If you can come up with good reasons why you should get the job, you may help add to his aresenal of justifications for hiring you when and if the higher-ups question his decision. Also, your boss may be on the fence about it, and your gumption/justifications just may seal the deal for him.

Also, if they anounce the opening and begin a candidate search before you approach your boss, be sure you apply for the job. If you don't apply, you can't complain that you were never considered. If you do apply and are qualified, and they hire someone else, they will have to justify their decision. Your appication will make that harder for them.
posted by mds35 at 11:43 AM on July 13, 2007

I would have dismissed the possibility that your age is a factor, until you said you are 24. And that means you started working there when you were around 14. That's pretty unusual.

There may be a good chance that your boss doesn't expect you to hang around too much longer, since most people treat jobs they started in their teens as temporary work. You may want to talk to your boss about what your overall goals are--what you plan to do with your life, where you see your job in your future, etc. If your boss expects you to jump boat like most people your age would do, he probably doesn't feel inclined to give you a more important job.
posted by Ms. Saint at 11:43 AM on July 13, 2007

Also, be sure to spell-check your resume.

And regardless of what happened last time, you need to let your boss know you want this job now and wahy you should get it.
posted by mds35 at 11:46 AM on July 13, 2007

Response by poster: Awesome responses. I will speak to my boss on Monday. I'm going to consider everything that's been/will be written and decide exactly what to say. After that, I'll think about the possibility of presenting an actual resume if or when the job becomes posted.

I will keep checking the thread, and come back Monday evening to post the result and highlight the most useful responses.
posted by gaiamark at 12:49 PM on July 13, 2007

Go in prepared as if for an interview. Have a list of your accomplishments and skills, along with your updated resume. You're asking for a promotion, and even though the boss knows your work, this is a good time to remind him of your many fine qualities.
posted by theora55 at 1:54 PM on July 13, 2007

Also--and this goes for any job interview--be sure you look the part. Did the last guy in this position wear suits/ties, etc? You might want to, too, then. If you already look the part, your boss can better visualize you there.

I got this advice when applying for jobs waiting tables at restaurants. I would wear white shirts and khakis or black pants depending on the restaurant. You're not waiting tables, I'll bet, but the advice still applies.
posted by mds35 at 4:24 PM on July 13, 2007

This will depend a little bit on your industry and the standard culture in your office. Personally, I've never heard of an organization where getting a promotion/ new position wasn't the result of a campaign of some sort on the part of the candidate, but maybe they exist. You need to say you want the increased responsibility and make a convincing argument that you can do the job.

The trick to not seeming like you are 24 is to have the deserved confidence of someone older. You have the amount of experience of someone older, so it isn't like you are faking it or anything. Confident people speak up when they are the solution to a problem they see someone having. Your company has a problem [a position to fill] you are the solution.

If you do not get the position this time around, I think you need to speak with the person who does the hiring and find out what they want to see from you in order to get increased responsibility. Make it clear that the company is your preferred future. If they are interested in keeping you around long-term, they'll give you some feedback and maybe outline a reasonable plan for your career path. If they are vague and make weird excuses or don't want to talk about it, I'd take this as a red flag and start looking elsewhere.
posted by Mozzie at 5:52 PM on July 13, 2007

Best answer: Lots of good advice here. Do talk to your boss about it, and in a manner that positions him to want to take action.

As noted above, prepare accordingly. Compile a printed list of your accomplishments and reasons why you'd be effective in the supervising position. Review the responsibilities as they differ from yours, and prepare answers on why you'd be a good fit for them. (I'd skip a resume at this stage, as it would look like you're on the market.)

When you go to your boss, make it a conversation, not a request. Avoid "flat out" asking, and instead, start a dialogue: "I was wondering what your plans are regarding the opening in our department. I've been here a long time, and I have a strong skillset and dedication to the company that are a good fit for that job. I was wondering if we could talk about whether it's an opportunity that is available to me." Do dress up a bit; it commands more respect.

As a manager, I always appreciate staff who seek increased responsibility. While not all requests are granted, the interest garners goodwill. Four years is a good stretch in one job. If your boss is good with personnel, he will appreciate your drive and look for ways to advance your career, because that will keep you happy and productive.

Be aware that uncountable X factors exist in situations like these. The open position may have a qualification that you lack or are not aware you need (a certification, higher degree, etc.). Or your boss may like the fact that you do your job well and inexpensively, and it could be easier for him to fill the supervisor role from outside than to replace you at your skill level and salary. But none of that should preclude you from making yourself available, and your desire for growth is a positive. Good luck.
posted by werty at 4:37 AM on July 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I asked this morning. I ended up asking to talk with him for a moment. I stated my interest in the position and that I am willing to do whatever it takes to make certain he is confident in my ability to perform in it.

He feigned surprise, and we briefly outlined some of my skills that would be directly applicable to the job. He said that he remembered me asking him about the position before (the last time the job was available).

In the end he said that some training would be necessary and that he would "definitely consider me," which I consider to be a positive. I do not believe he is allowed to make a definite decision until the position has been posted internally. We'll see what happens in the next few months!

Thanks everybody, for your great responses :]
posted by gaiamark at 4:34 AM on July 16, 2007

Awesome. Good luck, bro!
posted by mds35 at 6:20 AM on July 16, 2007

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