Q: How do I ask for a promotion at work?

3 min

We all have had a time in our life where we wanted something, but didn’t ask for it, due to fear. The worst part is knowing that the answer probably would’ve been yes if we had just had the courage to ask. The dreaded uncomfortable scenario of requesting a promotion doesn’t need to be that way. Do you research, practice, and simply ask!

Dear Ellie,

I would like a promotion at work; however, I am not sure how to go about it.

I have been putting in extra time, and I am not sure that my extra efforts are appreciated.

~ Hesitant Helen in Helena

Lauren, today’s Dear Ellie columnist, breaks it down for us:

Dear Promotion Time,

Isn’t advocating for yourself so much more challenging than for a colleague or friend? You are not alone; women everywhere have trouble asking for a raise. According to The Business Journal, a “study found that women were less likely than men to receive the raises they requested, and about one in three women did nothing after their raise request was denied. Only 10 percent continued negotiating or asked for less.” I’m here to help with a few suggestions and break down my recommendations into four steps: research, set the stage, showtime, and follow up. Hopefully, each step will give you tools to become more confident to make your ask.


Let’s start with you. What is your why? Why do you want a promotion? Why is working for this company important to you? Now, your what. What is holding you back from advocating for yourself – What kind of promotion do you want – What is a fair salary or title – What would you do if they said no? Open a doc or take out a pen and paper and start brainstorming. Then, put your answers away for a day and revise. Often a little time will lend new perspectives. Tidy up your list into a few concise statements that you would be comfortable sharing. We will call this your elevator pitch.

What’s important to your manager and your company? A few years ago, I was working for an art and design college in a creative role. My manager cared about analytics, metrics, and data. To move the dial in any conversation with him, I figured out that I needed to translate my needs into a language, aka data, that he would understand; otherwise, my points would fall flat. Interpret your elevator pitch into your manager’s language. If you don’t know your manager’s priorities, ask before beginning your translation.

Set the Stage

Research, check. Let’s set the stage for the show. Practice sharing your new translated elevator pitch with people you trust who will give you honest feedback. It might be uncomfortable, but practice will make you feel more confident in your delivery to your manager.

Take control. Instead of waiting for your annual review, politely request a touch base meeting with your manager.

Create a backup plan. The key to negotiating is knowing what you want and where you have some wiggle room. For example, if your manager wants to give you a new title without raise, having a general idea of the typical pay scale for the title will help you negotiate to a price point to your comfort level.


Think of this as your Oscars. Give your most personable delivery. No matter what the outcome, be professional and calm. If the conversation goes the way you want, congrats; you have successfully been your advocate.

If the conversation doesn’t go the way you planned, please congratulate yourself; you dared to be your own advocate. Take some time and reflect. Are you comfortable with the outcome? If your manager thanked you for your extra work but highlighted areas that need improvement, do a reality check. Do you see their point? Schedule a follow-up and ask for help creating a pathway to promotion. Now, if your manager is not interested in helping you achieve your dreams, you may have some tough choices to make. In my mind, your conversation was a win. You will have an answer on how to move forward with either outcome.

Follow Up

Being your own advocate is one of the most important things you can do for yourself, but it takes consistent work. Many of us think education stops after school, but I think it’s imperative to continue learning throughout your life. Check out this list of inspirational books and get reading or listening. I love supporting female authors and hearing different perspectives outside my small world. Staying sharp and educated will make you feel more confident and in control.

Keep swimming; you’ve got this!

Hugs + Lashes,

Ellie + Lauren

Lauren Baxter

Lauren splits her time as an artist, writer, self-professed health and wellness junkie, and community builder. She is is most passionate about helping divorcees thrive and believe that great partnerships are still possible.


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