Ask for What You Want“Moving up the ladder” used to accurately describe the way you navigated a company. Just several years ago, the standard formula to calculate promotions centered around how many years you’d been at the company combined and your tenure in your position.

That’s not the case any longer for 95% of the workforce. Thankfully for high performers, the formula has shifted to focus more on capability, output, potential and results, instead of just time. But with this shift, the way to get promoted has changed significantly, as well.

There isn’t a set-in-stone path up the ladder any more. And instead of being rewarded for putting the time in, you have to exercise your influence to actually be promoted. (Click here to tweet this thought.)

With so many different components driving promotion decisions, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and not know where to start. Let me give you a few tips:


1. Understand How Promotions Work

Unless you’re sitting at the table for all promotion discussions, it’s probably difficult to understand how getting promoted actually works. Here’s what I know for sure:

  • A new position at a higher level and higher pay does not get created or made available for a mediocre performer.
  • Not all high performers are seen as ready for the next step.
  • Promotions aren’t just in title — a true promotion comes with a bump in income, always.
  • There are several people who “vote” or agree on promotions.
  • There has to be a business need and justification for the promotion.


2. You Drive the Bus

It’s not the ‘90s anymore (or the ‘50s) — no one will promote you because they want to recognize all of the years you’ve put into the company. It’s not going to happen. You have to take action and make your promotion happen.

The saying, “No one cares about your career as much as you do” is accurate. Your boss and Human Resources will assume that your silence indicates contentment. Get that? If you aren’t actively seeking out new opportunities or the next level, then the important decision-makers are going to believe you’re pleased where you are.

You have to be willing to pursue a promotion to even be considered.


3. Promotions Aren’t Processed By Your Boss Only

Your boss doesn’t have that much authority and autonomy — not really. They have a very big say in whether or not you get promoted, but most of the time, they aren’t able to process your promotion on their own.

This is good news for those of you who don’t get along great with your boss, but bad news if you’ve put all of your relationship eggs in your boss’s basket. Essentially, you need to identify who is part of the promotion approval team.

At large companies, the process and team is probably somewhat transparent. You may even have a pretty Q&A document that your friendly HR team put together for you on your internal portal for employees. If not, don’t worry — it’s pretty easy to figure out.

The players are: your boss, your boss’s boss (always), someone in Human Resources (usually your key HR contact or strategic partner), key clients (internal and external), and some kind of Finance component.

At a minimum, these are your new influence circles. Each person mentioned above will have a say on your promotion. Remember that.


4. Timing Is Everything

Most promotions happen around the annual review process. That isn’t by accident. Essentially, having solid data in the form of a review to support or negate a promotion comes in handy in defending a promotional request.

This doesn’t mean you aren’t able to get promoted before or after the review period; in fact, even if they say that’s the case, there are always exceptions. But it does mean your review has a lot of weight and value in the promotion market.

You want your review to capture your performance as accurately as possible and showcase your abilities and trends. When you’re asked to write a self-assessment, keep this in mind: glowing support for your work is always helpful.


5. You Have to be Working at the Next Level

The easiest thing for you to take action on now is to start doing the work at the next level. Remember that “business need” justification noted in the first section? It’s a lot easier to justify the need to move you to the next level when you’re already fulfilling the duties at that level.

It’s going to be painful doing more work but not getting paid at the next level for a while. But it will show your boss and the promotion team your capabilities. And once they get used to you delivering at the next level, they won’t want to live without it.

How can you start taking control of your career today?

This post originally appeared on Interview Coach.

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