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Our company has a new IT manager and it is suddenly the time for promotions. He is still new to the company and he doesn't have much knowledge about the employees.

My project manager spoke about my situation with the IT manager and he (the IT manager) decided to have a 1 to 1 meeting with me.

One of the questions I was told to prepare an answer for is "Why do you deserve a promotion"?

I'm looking for points on how I should structure my answer and what exactly would an IT manager be interested in hearing.

I'm currently working as a Software developer and applying for a senior position.

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So, do you deserve a promotion? And if so, why? No need to over-think this - just be honest! –  Joe Strazzere Dec 4 '13 at 15:37
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@JoeStrazzere well I'm looking for points on how I should structure my answer. Of course I'll be honest, but what should I point out exactly? –  Songo Dec 4 '13 at 15:40
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Rather than trying to reply with exactly what the new IT Manager wants to hear, why don't you simply point out the reasons why you think you should be promoted? This might help: jobs.aol.com/articles/2011/09/30/… –  Joe Strazzere Dec 4 '13 at 15:43
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What would you say to yourself that would convince you to give yourself a promotion? –  Joel Etherton Dec 4 '13 at 18:21
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List all things you have improved in the company. Focus on money, i.e: "The tool I built saved 1,5 h/week for 200 people, saving us X $" –  Fredrik Dec 5 '13 at 9:02
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9 Answers

up vote 24 down vote accepted

Have you actually done anything promotion-worthy?

  • Introduced initiatives to improve the organization, such as researching new tools to help do your job better/cheaper/faster? Better still if you do this with your own motivation, without being requested to do this by management.
  • Taken extra time to mentor/assist more junior colleagues, or put extra effort into team-building activities?
  • Have you been working on educating yourself and developing your skills so that the organization will benefit from them?
  • Do you feel that you could help the organization better if you were in a senior position, maybe with your excellent system design/architecture skills, or your great ability to manage other developers and manage projects? Skills that aren't always in use in more junior positions.
  • Are you so skilled and valuable that other companies are trying to lure you away and a promotion is what will get you to stay (not a great reason but it might count)?
  • Put in extra effort to ensure that tasks are finished when there are hard deadlines? Not that excessive overtime is a good way to get a promotion, but it's one way for an individual to demonstrate that they are willing to put in an extra effort when needed (and I really don't think overtime should be done at all unless it's a hard deadline and the need to do overtime has already been discussed with management). It can distinguish someone from their peers who simply walk out the door at 5 PM even when major deadlines are looming.

...Or do you just punch the clock from 9 to 5, and you are looking for more money?

You have to give this person a reason to give you a promotion. Think of it this way: if this manager has to justify the promotion of you instead of someone else to their manager, what would you want them to say? What benefit does the company gain by giving you more money and more responsibility (assuming the promotion comes with more of both, which is the usual case, but not always)? Is it worth it to them?

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This implies that only people who do overtime deserve promotions, and that seems wrong. I've worked in too many places where the management culture was to get people working unreasonable hours by dangling promotions in front of them down the road. This inevitably leads to team-wide burnouts. But if every manager got there by putting in unreasonable hours themselves then it becomes a vicious cycle. –  MrFox Dec 4 '13 at 18:58
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@MrFox: I didn't mean to imply that excessive overtime is a good way to get a promotion, but it's one way for an individual to demonstrate that they are willing to put in an extra effort when needed (and I really don't think overtime should be done at all unless it's a hard deadline). It can distinguish someone from their peers who simply walk out the door at 5 PM. –  FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Dec 4 '13 at 19:44
    
Perhaps you should make that view more explicit in your answer then. I know that it's not just me that read it wrong because of the upvotes on my comment. FWIW I think this is the best answer, aside from that concern that I have with it. –  MrFox Dec 4 '13 at 20:39
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@MrFox: Fair enough, I've tried to clarify that in the answer. –  FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Dec 4 '13 at 20:54
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Are you so skilled and valuable that other companies are trying to lure you away and a promotion is what will get you to stay (not a great reason but it might count)? Be careful with this. Saying that promotion means everything for you does not seem good argument to me. I'd advice not to impress it like you are going to quit if you won't be promoted, show that you are devoted to your current job and do your best for it. –  F0G Dec 5 '13 at 7:32
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Without knowing your manager personally it is hard to tell what he wants to hear.

But I think that he expects you to tell him about your accomplishments which go beyond what is expected of your old position and would be fitting for someone in the new position.

Think about extraordinary achievements you accomplished in the past year and additional responsibilities you took. These should be things which set you apart from other candidates for the position. Focus on what advantage these had for the company, not how much of a personal sacrifice they were for you.

"I worked 1000 hours of overtime to finish project X on time. My wife divorced me, I had three heart attacks and my bowling club kicked me out, but I am happy to do this for the company." - so what, you want a medal?

"When I took over project X it was far behind schedule, and most people expected it to fail. But I manged to rescue it and completed it on time. This saved our company a quadrillion dollars" - Great job, you might be suitable for something greater.

Be careful though to not overstate your accomplishments. Stay honest and realistic. "I fixed the soda machine by kicking it really hard. This increased the motivation of everyone on the floor, rescued morale and has saved our company from impeding bankrupcy. So everything anyone accomplished afterwards is practically because of me." ...uuuhm... I think it would be the best for all of us when you would continue your great work in your current position.

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And what he most definitely doesn't want to hear is, "Because I need the higher salary." –  HLGEM Dec 4 '13 at 16:38
    
"I think it would be the best for all of us when you would continue your great work in your current position." Especially if your current position is officially titled soda machine repair-man employment-securer. –  Michael Kjörling Dec 5 '13 at 14:25
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Demonstrate that you're already producing at a higher level (i.e., you're effectively dressing for the job you want) and that the promotion would only raise your bar that much further.

When I was asked the equivalent question, I made the case of:

  1. I was already doing the work of three people. I was very specific: I was hired as a developer. I took over the leadership of one team after person A left. I took a de facto leadership role over another team when person B abandoned them in place. 3 roles for the price of one!

  2. The promotion would enable me to seek even greater challenges. Sometimes the titles are important: if you're recognized at a certain level, the people on the other side of the table will be more likely to accept direction or listen to your opinions. You'll be able to bite off bigger projects because you're recognized as a bigger dog.

  3. The promotion would be concrete evidence that my efforts are recognized. It was important to remind the organization that they want to encourage the extra effort in advance. Promoting me would be a clear case of "see how he worked hard? That earned him a promotion. Do the same and you could receive the same."

  4. The salary bump would be appreciated and, at the same time, more than offset by the additional value that I was already producing. Even after the (quite modest) salary bump, I would still be much cheaper than paying two additional FTEs.

Those specifics might or might not help in your situation but I think they make the case: you should be embarassed the you haven't promoted me already!

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I think #3 is a great point. If a person truly has provided exceptional value, then, I think everyone would agree that it's in everyone's interest to "officially" recognize it. –  Joseph Gabriel Dec 5 '13 at 18:44
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There are some general points I think you should follow when dealing with a manager:

  1. Be brief, but concise. No long winding technical filled speeches. Think bullet points.
  2. Support all claims with evidence. Numbers are good (completed x% of tasks on time) or feedback from a user.
  3. Understand what the manager thinks is important. I know this person is new, but if his manager complains that his team's work is sloppy, it may be more important to take your time.

For getting a promotion:

  1. Know the criteria for getting a promotion - no one here can tell you what that is.
  2. Understand the current environment. If times are tough, many people may not be getting promotions, so make sure you can strongly back up your claim. You may want to wait for a better time.
  3. Keep track of the work you do especially the extra things.
  4. If rejected, ask how you can improve, how will this be measured and when can you be up for reevaluation.
  5. Be prepared to negotiate (sallary or other benefits) and decide what you're going to do if you get turned-down. How you handle this rejection could impact how the manager looks at you next time you ask for another promotion.
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Point 4 is particularly imporatant, if you get turned turn, you must find out what you need to do to get the promotion the next time. –  HLGEM Dec 4 '13 at 17:22
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You need to succinctly express:

  • the additional value you will add in a more senior role
  • that you have the qualities (behavioural and technical competencies) for the more senior role or a clear path to achieving these
  • that you are motivated to personally develop into a more senior role
  • that you are exceeding the performance expectation for your current role

The problem with an internal promotion is that the company has to be convinced of the value in promoting you above that of just retaining you. Being good at your job isn't necessarily mean you're the right person to be promoted, especially in a role such as a developer where the skill set for a management role can be significantly different.

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You want an answer that first shows you understand the added responsibilities that come with the promotion. Then you want to show concrete examples of things you have done that show you can perform those added responnsibilities. For instance, seniors are expected to mentor juniors in most places, so if you can show instances of where you have helped others understand something complex, this is evidence that you can do the work at that level.

You will want to show what you have accomplished from a technical aspect (are you doing tasks that are generally assigned to people at the higher level?) and, more importantly, how your accomplishments have helped the business.

Anytime you present your case to management for promotion, you have to remember that they want to reward the people who are actually having a positive impact on the bottom line first. So if you can show you made design suggestions that saved development time or that you created part of the application that solved a persistent user problem or saved them time or money or how your contribution helped turn around a bad customer relationship into a good one (my last promotion was for doing this) or how you came into a project that was behind and looking to fail and got it out on time and right or things like this, then most managers wil be more interested in promoting you. You need to be thinking of ways you can accomplish these sorts of things all the time, not just when there is an opening to get promoted to.

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I don't think you can ever go too far wrong following the "rule of three" - the principle that things that come in threes are inherently more effective.

The three key areas to focus on here would be, I think:

  • Ways in which you have excelled at duties which are within the realm of your current job title - as a software developer, this would presumably be work done ahead of schedule; significant pieces of functionality implemented in a clean and effective fashion; tricky bugs found and squashed, etc.
  • Things you have already handled which would be considered to be more within the realm of the position you aspire to be promoted to - as a senior software developer, this would presumably involve architectural design, evaluation of new technology, mentoring and assisting other developers, etc.
  • And finally, have some ideas ready to talk about that you think you could pursue to the betterment of the company if you were in a senior role. Processes, technologies, etc., anything that you are prepared to advocate in a manner that makes it clear that you're suggesting them because they would be good for the company, not just because they're things that you want to do yourself.

I think those three general areas could be adapted to pretty much any job and potential promotion. If you can put forward some concise example of all three, it would serve you well.

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I was recently promoted to a Senior developer. My approach was simple. Make clear all of things I have done for the company and make them sound as awesome as possible. Keep in mind you are not dealing with programmers, so put it in language that they can understand and be impressed by.

I.e. instead of

"Wrote 3 vb scripts"
"Created a user statistics page for the XYZ site"

Write

"Replaced a previously manual process of distributing newsletters, to a fully customizable automated solution, which sends out newsletters on a weekly basis, saving the company hours of labor each week"
"Increased the security of our network by ensuring that access rights are automatically revoked for employees that are terminated within 7 days of their termination." 
"Enhanced the user experience of our XYZ site by allowing users to now view their work history in a single page rather than having to send an email to our team, or download zip files."

I would encourage you to write them down and make the list as long as possible, then print it out and bring it to your meeting. Even if you don't intend to read all of them, having a long list will give the impression that you've done an incredible amount for the company (which presumably you have) and you can leave that list with you uppers for their consideration after the meeting is over.

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Many years ago, I got the answer from my manager: you should be capable for it and have done beyond the expectation for current position.

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