How to Ask For a Promotion

Asking for a promotion can be a nerve-wracking prospect. Of course, it can also be one of the most transformative events in one’s career. There are many employers that do a good job of actively promoting employees into the roles where they can best contribute. And many companies, such as most consulting firms, use an up-or-out promotion schedule. Sometimes, however, you must take a more active role in advocating for your own advancement. In these scenarios, you are faced with a choice. You can remain in the role to which you no longer believe you’re suited, or else take the initiative and ask for a promotion. We know how intimidating that sounds. In this article, we’ll help you learn how to ask for a promotion in the way most likely to get you one.

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How to Get Promoted

If you’re wondering how to get promoted, then there’s one thing we can say for sure about your current situation – you’re not being promoted! And therefore, if you want to be promoted, you’re going to have to ask for a promotion.

Every situation will have its own unique contours that will dictate how each person should ask for a promotion. But everyone will find it fruitful to consider the question of justification for promotion from two perspectives, the employee and the employer.

For the employee’s, i.e., your own perspective, ask yourself both why you want to be promoted and why you believe you “deserve” to be promoted. Do you want more compensation, more influence, more responsibility, more challenge, more recognition? None of these are wrong or right. It’s just useful to be clear about what you’re motivated by. Many people ask for a promotion when what they want is a raise, or a new challenge, or simply affirmation.

You may still feel challenged in your current role and your contributions are celebrated. But you have evidence from friends and coworkers that you are paid below the market rate. In this scenario, your “promotion” is really more about compensation level. Or, perhaps you are happy with your current level of compensation. But your company publishes clear expectations for what one must achieve and demonstrate to advance from one role to the next. And you clearly have consistently been demonstrating skills and capabilities beyond your current role. In this case, your justification for promotion is capabilities based.

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Employer Perspective

Once you have a clear sense of why you want to – and believe you should – get promoted, the next step in asking for a promotion is to consider your employer’s perspective. Why is it in the company’s interest to promote you? On some level, you are asking management to offer you a greater share of money, influence, and other resources over which they have control. Can you be of more use to the company in a different role? Perhaps, by successfully overseeing more people/operations, you’ll increase the share of resources for everyone. Or else, you may want management to recognize that if they don’t offer you advancement, another firm will. Perhaps it’s as simple as communicating that although a change in role or title may be necessary, the issue here is really compensation. You aren’t being fairly valued right now.

Again, none of this is meant to discourage you from asking for a promotion. Rather, it’s meant to empower you to ask for the promotion. You’ll have a better shot at convincing your boss to give you what you want if you can communicate why it’s in both your interests. The more specific you can be about the value you will create in your new role, the more compelling your case is likely to be.

Recommendation Letter for Promotion

If there is currently an opening within your organization for which you’d like to be considered, you may be invited to solicit a recommendation letter for promotion. Particularly in large companies, you can’t presume that the people in charge of hiring are familiar with you and your background. The recommendation letter is an opportunity for you to rely on the credibility of someone the hiring managers respect. People who can speak to your specific experience (current and former managers/co-workers within your organization) are good candidates for a recommendation letter.

If you are invited to submit a recommendation letter, be sure to choose someone who has a degree of influence. The sweet spot is someone who has credibility and influence, but who also has worked with you and understands your skill-set.

Cover Letter for Promotion

Just because you’re applying for an internal position doesn’t mean you get to skip the cover letter. The cover letter for promotion is similar to a cover letter for a new position at a different organization. The larger your company is, the truer this is likely to be. You should use it as an opportunity to introduce yourself and explain how your experience within the company has prepared you to carry out the company values as you step into this new role. It is also okay to reference experiences or educational achievements outside the company that demonstrate your abilities. For example, previous work experience, a recently obtained MBA, or other advanced degree or certification.

Letter of Interest for Promotion

Sometimes your company isn’t necessarily going through a formal hiring process, but you’d still like to let management know that you want to be considered for a promotion. This promotion may come in the near future when an opening becomes available, or as the need arises. In this case, you’ll need to write a letter of interest for promotion. This is more formal than a cover letter, but less formal than simply sending an email. Formally address the management, with an attitude of gratitude, not entitlement. Let them know you appreciate the opportunity you’ve had to learn your current role. Explain how you’ve excelled at this role and are interested in new challenges and responsibilities. Tell a story about how the experience you’ve had, within the company or elsewhere, has prepared you to take on new challenges.

A few notes about the letter of interest for promotion. Few companies have formal policies around a letter of interest for promotion. So, you’ll need to do some networking and research to understand if this is accepted. Ask your manager, your manager’s manager, or an HR representative before firing off a letter of interest for promotion. If no one has heard of a formal letter like this, consider sending an email to the appropriate parties. The point is to get the right people thinking about you and your potential for advancement.

Thank You for Promotion

After you’ve followed all these steps and snagged that new job, be sure to write an appropriate thank you for the promotion. You will want to express gratitude to the people who have hired you, and your new management. You will also want to express gratitude to your old management, and even your past coworkers. None of us got here alone. Furthermore, your new promotion probably isn’t to CEO. You may need to go through this process again in a few years and some of the same people may be involved. Make sure they know you appreciate their support.

Promotion Policy

One thing you should make sure to keep in mind while asking for a promotion is any particular promotion policy your company may have. Some companies have very rigid structures to when and how frequently promotions may take place, and the formal procedures involved. The last thing you want to do is inadvertently violate company policy while asking them to give you more money and responsibility. But these rigid structures can also play to your advantage. You may review the promotion policy and criteria and realize you are a perfect fit and highly deserving of a promotion.

Average Raise Percentage for a Promotion

Hopefully, the additional money isn’t the only reason you’re asking for a promotion. But advances in corporate hierarchy usually do come with extra compensation. If you’re wondering about the average raise percentage for a promotion, the national figure in the United States is 3%. However, you should really think of that as a ballpark figure: every company and every promotion are different. The average raise percentage for a promotion in management consulting is generally much higher.

Putting It All Together: How to Ask Your Boss for a Promotion

Okay, let’s synthesize all the things we’ve learned about how to ask your boss for a promotion. The first thing to do is to take an appraisal of the situation. First, look at the formal procedures involved. Does your company promote employees according to a regular schedule and clear criteria? If so, know the criteria and schedule. Be sure that your background and experiences fit well into that structure (or at least, be sure that you can market your situation to make this appear to be the case!) Sometimes it’s up to you to ask for a promotion. In other situations, all you can do is to best position yourself for a promotion through your performance.

Once you’ve determined how to ask your boss for a promotion, remember to consider both your and your boss’s perspectives. What will a promotion actually mean for you? How has your performance thus far demonstrated that a promotion is justified and appropriate?


At the end of the day, asking for a promotion is a psychological challenge. The promotion policy at your firm should dictate your approach to the process. But you are often interrupting the normal flow of operations to ask to get promoted: more responsibility, more influence, more compensation, etc. However, the challenge of asking for a promotion is part of the cost of admission for the new benefits and opportunities your new position will offer you. Make sure that your justification for promotion is clear, use a recommendation letter for promotion and/or a cover letter if applicable, and have confidence in the value you bring to the organization. Good luck!

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Filed Under: consulting recruiting, Consulting skills, Corporate Training