How to negotiate a promotion: 5 expert tips for furthering your career

By Lina Arshad

We all want to progress in our professional careers, and with the working world evolving so quickly—particularly for the cloud tech industry—we’re seeing more and more vacancies opening that need filling. One of the simplest, and cost-effective ways for businesses to do so is by promoting internally, but this means employees need to be willing to demonstrate their interest in the position, as well as their ability to fit the job role—something that might not be as straightforward.  

However, with our newest Nigel Frank Careers and Hiring Guide: Microsoft 365 and Azure Edition 2021-2022 revealing that 30% of Microsoft 365 and Azure professionals admit to never negotiating a salary increase—and one of the top reasons being that they were uncomfortable of doing so—it’s crucial that professionals in the ecosystem are confident in asking for career development opportunities, including promotions.  

So, if you’re considering asking your employer for a promotion, but you’re uncertain how to, you’re in luck. In this guide, we will be sharing some of our top promotion negotiation tactics to make sure you can move up the ranks. We will discuss: 

  • What to consider before a negotiation 
  • Our top 5 tips for negotiating a promotion 
  • How to ask for a promotion over email 
  • How to ask for a promotion in an appraisal 

What to consider before a negotiation 

Although you’re likely to have thought about your decision to ask for a negotiation for a while, it’s important that you consider some elements before you reach out to your employer. These will be helpful in making sure you approach the subject correctly and with the right information to make the negotiation a success.  

Do your homework about the new role 

If you’ve got your eye on a promotion, it’s likely you know exactly which position you’re wanting to fill. That being said, it’s still important that during the chat with your manager you demonstrate what you know about that role, how it differs from your current one, and you’re armed with concrete examples to prove you’re the right person for the job. 

For example, if you’re applying for a more senior position that requires leadership experience, you’ll want to mention any instances where you’ve led a team or a project to success and how you overcame any obstacles and dealt with differences in opinion. Similarly, if you’re moving from a more generic role into a specialist role, you’ll want to back up your knowledge in this area by outlining any certifications or courses you’ve undertaken to give you the tools you need to take on the job.  

Choose the right time 

There’s never a “perfect” time to ask for a promotion, but there are certain circumstances where it’s better—and more appropriate than others. Asking when some of your colleagues may have been made redundant or lost their jobs will seem insensitive, and the job losses may be indicative that the company isn’t in the financial position to be upping wages—which almost all candidates hope comes along with job promotions.  

One of the best times to ask about a promotion is during appraisals or your performance reviews. These annual/bi-annual meetings are specifically designed to allow you and your manager to discuss your progress and accomplishments. By starting by outlining your involvement in any successful projects, you can then progress to talk about what you’ve learnt from these and how these skills will equip you in a more senior role going forward.  

Be patient 

In most cases, it’s unlikely that your manager will be able to promote you on the spot, even if they agree that you can take on a more senior role. In some cases, your manager will need to speak with their own boss or the owners of the company about progressing you up the company, and whether there is a need for someone in the role you’re hoping for. Similarly, your manager might want to see further proof that you’re fit for the role or build you up to it by giving you responsibilities you would have to handle on a bigger scale if you did get promoted.  

This will take patience, and you’ll need to trust that your manager is making the best choices possible to help you develop your career in the long run and to succeed in your new role when the time is right. If you notice others getting promoted over you, it may be time to speak to your boss again and ask whether they’ll put you up for positions in your remit that come available. And, if you don’t seem to be on your boss’ shortlist, you can then consider whether you’ll be better off progressing outside of the company.  

Our top 5 tips for negotiating a promotion 

Asking for a promotion will look different for everyone, depending on the organization’s current position and the staff member’s reasoning for asking. However, there are some things that can help you to cover all the right bases when negotiating a promotion.  

Informally express your interest initially 

Before springing your desire for a promotion to your manager out of the blue, it’ll be a good idea to try mention it informally. Not only will it give you an opportunity to ask what you can be doing between now and your next performance review to tick the right boxes needed for the role, but it’ll also give them a heads up to get the wheels in motion and consider you properly for the position.  

So, start with a more informal conversation—potentially around a successful piece of work you’ve done or a problem you’ve had to solve—and enquire about the next level and what steps you’d need to follow to get there. Now that your manager knows you’re interested in progressing down a certain line, they will have you at the back of their mind once these positions come available. 

Refer to any certifications gained, or courses taken 

Although more employers are valuing soft skills—like good time management, communication, and collaborative skills—a lot of emphasis is still being placed on certifications and career development learning. In fact, our Nigel Frank Careers and Hiring Guide 2021-2022: Microsoft 365 & Azure Edition revealed that three quarters of Microsoft professionals (75%) believe that certifications make you stand out in a competitive environment with reasons including that certifications are trusted by employers as they demonstrate a certain level of understanding and a commitment to learning.  

Similarly, courses that develop your knowledge or skillset in any way or build on your tech product abilities is a great thing—and will be seen as a real asset to your company. Branching out away from your specialism may seem scary, but when you can wear many different hats, you can expect your boss to be impressed and more willing to promote you—especially if you’ve gone away and learnt a skill your new job role would require that you were missing from your current skillset.  

Don’t let your current title limit you 

Of course, you’ll need to consider your current job title and skillset to some extent, as applying something completely outside of your remit when it requires experience probably won’t see success. But, focusing on it too much can limit how you perceive your abilities—and therefore, what positions you’re likely to put yourself forward for, or outwardly express an interest in.  

Titles naturally change with progression, so if you’re an administrator, don’t shy away from developer or architect roles or anything else that takes your fancy—especially if you’ve put the work in to be qualified enough for the position.  

Show interest in training and development  

You might feel you don’t tick all the boxes for a new position, but if you feel you are advanced enough in most aspects, highlighting these in your promotion negotiation should be easy as you’ll have plenty to talk about. For any skills you haven’t yet acquired or acquired to the level the job requires you to, showing interest in the training opportunities will show how dedicated you are to succeed in the role.  

As well as asking your boss what kind of training they can offer you to assist you in the new role, conduct your own research about certifications or courses you can take, or any good resources—like blogs, webinars and conferences—where you can further your own learning. Thiswill show initiative and that you have conducted your own research into the role; skills that are great to continuously develop during your career journey.  

Angle your negotiation around the benefits for the business 

A promotion will boost your own career, but it needs to be fair game for a business to consider handing you a position that will likely cost them more money. In other words, they need to be told upfront what is in it for them and back up your explanation with data and evidence for an extra convincing pitch.  

For example, if you’re looking to move from a Developer role to a Solutions Architect role, giving a specific example of when you responded to the business’ requirements and transformed them into a problem-solving solution will be the perfect way to lead into describing how this experience will benefit you, particularly with an Architect’s role in deploying cloud environments.  

How to ask for a promotion over email 

Before you go in with any negotiations, your best bet for preparing your negotiation is to sit and write it down, making sure you’re covering all the points you’ll need to make. So, by asking for a promotion over email, you can kill two birds with one stone.  

Below, we have put together a guideline template that you can use to approach your manager about the subject—whether you’ve previously had a brief conversation about a promotion, or this’ll be the first time reaching out. Just remember to replace the bold text in the brackets with the necessary information before hitting send! 

Email template if you’ve not discussed a promotion before 

Email template if you've not discussed a promotion before
Email subject line: Promotion discussion

Email body:

Hi, [MANAGER’S NAME]

I hope you’re well. I wanted to reach out to discuss an opportunity for a promotion to [JOB TITLE].

I’ve been working extremely hard towards progressing in my career, and down this route particularly, and I think I’m ready to move forward into this new, more advanced role. Here are some of my best accomplishments in my current role from the past few months:

[LIST OF ACCOMPLISHMENTS/EXAMPLES OF SUCCESSES]

As well as meeting the goals I set myself, I have had a lot of great feedback from clients and colleagues. [INCLUDE EVIDENCE OF THESE E.G. EMAILS/APPRAISALS/GROUP PROJECT REVIEWS]

I believe the things I’ve achieved, and the successful projects I’ve been involved with show that I’m ready to progress within the business and am in a great position to be given more responsibility.

I’d love to schedule a meeting to discuss this further and if there’s anything additional you need from me at this point, please do let me know.

Thanks,

[NAME]

Email template if you’ve recently expressed interest in a promotion 

Email template if you've recently expressed interest in a promotion
Email subject line: Promotion discussion – follow up

Email body:

Hi, [MANAGERS NAME]

Thank you for speaking with me the other day. As I mentioned, I would like to be considered for a promotion to [JOB TITLE]. 

I’ve been working extremely hard towards progressing in my career, down this route particularly, and I think I’m ready to move forward into this new, more advanced role. Here are some of my best accomplishments in my current role from the past few months:

[LIST OF ACCOMPLISHMENTS/EXAMPLES OF SUCCESSES]

As well as meeting the goals I set myself, I have had a lot of great feedback from clients and colleagues. [INCLUDE EVIDENCE OF THESE E.G. EMAILS/APPRAISALS/GROUP PROJECT VIEWS] 

I believe the things I’ve achieved, and the successful projects I’ve been involved with show that I’m ready to progress within the business and am in a great position to be given more responsibility.

I’d love to schedule a meeting to discuss this further and if there’s anything additional you need from me at this point, please do let me know.

Thanks, 

[NAME]

How to ask for a promotion in an appraisal 

If your appraisal is on the horizon, this is the perfect opportunity to outline your successes and progress since your last one and how these tick the boxes for a promotion. Each organization will have a different way of structuring their employee appraisals, but all will give you the chance to feedback on your own performance, as well as hearing how your manager thinks you’ve been progressing.  

In fact, most appraisals will cover these 6 common topics: 

  • Analysis of projects you worked on in the past year and their success 
  • Your overall performance as part of a team and as an individual 
  • Any feedback from colleagues and external parties about your work quality 
  • Your own feedback of how you think you’ve done 
  • Areas for improvement or areas you need to branch into 
  • Performance planning for the year ahead 

You can never predict where the conversation will go before it happens, and therefore what opportunities you’ll have to ask for your promotion during your performance review. However, the best time to express your interest in gaining extra responsibilities is likely to be during your own feedback of your performance, drawing on previous areas you’ve spoken about such as analysis of projects and comments from the people you’ve worked with.  

During this time, it’s important to really sell yourself back to your employer—act as if it’s your first job interview with them all over again. This is where you’ll really thank yourself for planning ahead as you will need to highlight overall and relevant experience that makes you suitable for the new role, and specifically that you feel you have the capability and skills to take on more responsibilities. And be sure to mention how your own career goals align with those of the company, so they know you’re actually passionate and interested in the role, rather than just looking for an increased pay cheque.  

We’d recommend starting off by talking about your achievements this year, projects you were particularly proud of, and bringing some physical evidence of how well you have progressed this year. For example, taking some data or stats that show how the work you’ve done has had a positive impact, whether that’s been time saving benefits, meeting KPIs, or other analytics.

You could then go in with something similar to “As I’ve just highlighted, I believe I’ve progressed enough in my current role to advance to the next step as a/an [DESIRED ROLE] because [X, Y, Z].” Within your reasoning [the X,Y,Z steps], you should be sure to draw back on how the skills you’ve acquired from your current role will benefit you in the new role and explain your proficiencies in each of the main skills needed for it. This shows you’ve been working towards the role and have thoroughly thought out your next steps to get to where you want to be, which is sure to impress your manager.  

Asking for a promotion can feel awkward when you’re going into it blindly. So be prepared and use this handy guide to help you to express interest and raise the question when you’re ready to take your next step forward. We also have plenty of other helpful career advice guides on our Nigel Frank blog to help you get the most out of employment. Here, you’ll find tips on everything from how to negotiate flexible working hours and how to optimize your tech resume for better visibility, and how and why to become a Microsoft MVP. 

If your current job can’t offer you the promotion you want, you’ll be pleased to hear we have a great selection of Microsoft jobs available for you to browse and apply for.  

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