Do you believe in your heart of hearts that you deserve a promotion? Moving up the ranks of your organization requires a whole lot more than just putting in time. Years served is no longer a prerequisite for being promoted—in fact, excelling at your job doesn't even guarantee a promotion. The people in charge of promoting employees are often basing their decisions on employees' personality, attitude and social skills. They also are much more likely to give a promotion to employees who ask, not those who wait or expect one.

Qualities Needed

Here is a checklist of the top 10 most sought-after qualities that leaders are looking for when considering a potential promotion. How many do you possess?

  1. Optimistic. You are enthusiastic about your work, see potential in everything you do and believe that you and your team can succeed.
  2. Adept. You are skilled at what you do, but more than that, you are always eager to pick up a new skill. You know how to get things done; planning and brainstorming are worthwhile, but execution is critical to success.
  3. Humble. You may be skilled, but you aren't a know-it-all, and you take accountability for your mistakes. You are open to criticism and are always looking for ways to learn and improve.
  4. Team-oriented. You do whatever it takes to meet team goals, often putting aside your own goals and needs to ensure that the team meets its objectives. You go the extra mile whenever you need to.
  5. Generous. You volunteer your time, your advice and your skills. You freely offer to take on tasks, train a new employee and lend a hand to others because you want to help the team—not because you are forced to or because you think your actions will earn you gold stars.
  6. Adaptable. You can shift priorities, accept change and manage new initiatives without breaking a sweat or complaining. The business world is constantly changing, and you have to be able to keep up and stay positive while doing so.
  7. Essential. You are an important cog in the machine of the company, and your efforts directly contribute to the company’s revenue, stability and growth. Your department, subordinates, bosses and/or clients practically couldn’t survive without you.
  8. Authentic. You are genuine and honest. You sincerely praise others around you; you always tell the truth, and you present your true self. You aren't a brownnoser, saying and doing only what you think your boss wants; you are willing to speak out about ways you think the company could be doing better.
  9. Articulate. You can communicate effectively whether you are presenting to a group, speaking to a customer or chatting with a coworker. Additionally, you can communicate effectively in writing.
  10. Perseverance. Life is hard. Work can be tough and will inevitably involve some late nights and stressful days. You take the challenges in stride, maintaining your cool and managing the pressure to ensure the job gets done.

If you can honestly say you possess at least eight of those skills (all 10 is better!), you are likely promotional material. Just remember that a promotion doesn't just mean a higher salary. With promotions come much more responsibilities and duties, so know what you are getting into before you request one.

How to Ask for the Promotion

What do you do if you have all that potential and want to advance, but your boss hasn't offered you a promotion? Muster up the courage and ask for that promotion, following this advice:

  • Prepare to prove your worth. You need to describe all the good you've done for the organization and to provide specifics about your successes, so draft some notes to take with you. Don't limit your value to sales data and quota metrics. Share stories about how you mentored a new employee, overcame a huge problem or went above and beyond to see a project completed.
  • Schedule a meeting. Don't just drop in on a manager and demand a promotion. Schedule the meeting at least a week ahead, explaining that you want to talk about your career. It's often easiest to hold the discussion at a formal evaluation because salary discussions usually occur at that time, but it may be a good idea to plant the seed before your evaluation so that your boss has time to think about it.
  • Be direct. During the meeting, you can spend a little time with basic small talk, but you should also be respectful of your boss’ time. Get right to the point and say, "I would like to state my case for a promotion. I think I deserve it, and here is why…" Then detail why you are a great fit for an opening that currently exists or a new title or role you believe will enhance your contributions to the company.
  • Answer "WIIFM?" for your boss. Your boss inevitably wants to know “What’s in it for me?” when he or she considers promoting you. Talk about how your skills align with the organization's goals and vision and how they can be even better utilized at a higher level. Example: "I know that you want to focus on social customer service next year. I have extensive background in social media, and if you let me manage our social media presence, I can take us to the next level."
  • Refrain from comparing or complaining. If your boss is interviewing other people for a position you want, don't complain about it (e.g. "I noticed that you’re interviewing other people for the position; I’m surprised you would do that when you know I worked hard for this job"). You'll just annoy him or her and cut short the time you have to focus on your strengths. Spend your time positioning yourself as the best person for the job without throwing stones or comparing yourself to others.
  • Don't overpromise. The last thing you want to do is exaggerate your skills or what you can do for the organization. If you don't meet the high expectations you set for yourself, you could find yourself unemployed.
  • Show tenacity. If the boss shows doubt in your ability to the handle the job, don't back down too quickly. Have confidence in yourself and explain that you will continue to do all you can to prove you are capable. Ultimately, if your promotion request is declined, ask your boss "What skills do I need to gain in order to be considered next time?" to prove that you are determined to advance within the organization.