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Good Question: How can I ask for a promotion without appearing “entitled”?

Q: “I’m in my mid-twenties and I’m aware of the reputation my generation has—we’re seen as impatient for promotions, unwilling to “pay our dues” and generally afflicted with a sense of entitlement.

Believe me when I say this doesn’t define me or the people I know. I don’t expect to be handed something for nothing; I’m prepared to work hard. I’ve been at my current job for a year and I’ve taken on extra projects so I’d have the chance to show that I can do more.

I want a promotion and I think I’m ready, but I haven’t been with the company long and I’m afraid that if I ask for what I want, I’ll reinforce the stereotype and cost myself a job. How can I ask for a promotion and prove to my boss that I am ambitious and worthy of advancement without coming across as entitled?”

Michele Romanow


She’s known for promoting talent—even young, new talent—and she’s a millennial, too.

You’re right about the reputation our generation has, but I think that’s something you should embrace. To have someone who is over eager in your office is a good thing…we have to stop apologizing for that. The opposite of that is not caring.

Ok, my view is going to be really, really simple and it’s this: you only get what you ask for. We’re a smaller company, we have 50 employees, and things are happening so fast all the time that you’re not quite realizing everything that everyone is doing. As much as you think people are noticing what you’re doing all the time, how much is on your plate, it’s your job to really promote those facts. Some organizations have structures in place for those conversations to happen naturally, but sometimes you have to make them yourself.

Ask for time to speak with your boss and go in with a list. You need to say “these have been my contributions, this is where I made a difference” and then let that naturally lead into a conversation about promotion. Having the guts to say those words will lead to a conversation about promotion.

Besides bringing that list, you need to constantly be asking your boss “what is most important to you, what’s your focus now?”

People who are constantly focused on the priorities of the company get promoted.

What’s a long time to wait for a promotion? Depends on the environment. If you’re in a mature company with many layers of process and hierarchy, a year might not be a long time. But I have promoted people who haven’t been here that long. Especially in an entrepreneurial environment, there’s no need to make people wait. They should be promoted—and quickly.

If your worst piece of feedback in a performance review is that you were too eager to contribute, and too eager to be promoted as a result of those contributions, that’s not a bad thing.


Marie-Josée Gagnon
President and founder, CASACOM

This branding expert knows how to make sure you’re seen in the right light.

The key to work place progression in delivering results, no matter what your level. If you deliver what you are expected to (and more) at each stage, you will progress.

You are right that your generation has a reputation and you have to be careful of it. You have to counter it with hard facts. As an employer, I would never say to someone “you’re too young for a certain position.” But I would say to someone “you’re not good enough for a promotion.”

I was in a similar position to you once. I was working as the press secretary for a political leader when I was 22-years-old. I was surrounded by men and working like crazy, and loved the job. But the salary was really low and I wanted a raise. I wanted to make sure that my compensation was fair. Asking for a raise and asking for a promotion are similar.

1. You have to say “I am passionate about this business, I want to contribute, and I want to stay here.”

Be in touch with your organization’s reality by becoming a key employee. What’s that? Among other things, it’s someone who

• doesn’t need to be managed closely;

• does what they say they will do and takes blame when it’s theirs;

• has a passion for the company and for what the leader does.

2. Prove your case

In a point form list, I showed that I deserved that raise with hard facts that proved the quality of my work and my impact on decisions we took. You should have a folder in your in-box that says “victory” or “good job” or “accomplishments,” and when you get communication that supports your work, you put that in the folder. You should also be keeping your own notes on your successes, contributions, and wins for your department. They form the basis of your “proof ” at reviews and when you want to ask for something, such as a raise or promotion.

3. Ask for what you want… Then shut up and wait.

I was asking for twice as much money as I wanted. In this case, you’re asking for a new title or role. So ask for it and then leave the weight on the shoulder of the other person. It’s a negotiation trick and it’s a selling trick, as well.

Someone asks you how much something costs. You say the amount and then you shut up. You don’t say, “and this is the reason why that’s the price,” you don’t say “and I can do this or that extra in order to justify the price.” Just name your price and then be quiet.

If you’re really good at your job, and you threaten to leave, your employer will give you what you want. Why? It’s hard to keep a great employee and have that person grow internally. Most want to leave and do their growing somewhere else.


Kathy Haley

President, Union Pearson Express

With time spent at Royal Bank of Canada, Canada Post Corp. and Allianz Group AG, this seasoned executive knows what big organizations need from their people—and how to prove you’ve got it.

First, it’s great you’re taking on extra projects to show your skills and capabilities, as well as your commitment to your job. You wouldn’t be assigned extra responsibilities if your boss didn’t think you could deliver and it suggests your talents are already being noticed.

As you have been with the company for a year, it’s the ideal time to talk to your boss about your performance and what you have accomplished over the past 12 months. This can either be through a formal review process—which most companies have today—or simply using your one-year anniversary with the company as a prompt to ask your boss for a conversation. This will help you understand how you have been performing against their goals and expectations, as well as what processes and structures are in place to support your career advancements and potential promotions.

Before you go into this meeting, arm yourself with a few key questions including:

“What’s the biggest challenge facing the business?”

“What’s your vision of success for our team?”

“How can I personally contribute to the company’s goals?”

“How can I advance in my career?”

If you aren’t getting the answers you need from your boss, consider reaching out to another leader you trust in the organization or to your HR department. Once you have this insight, you are in a much better position to discuss your career track in the company and the opportunities for promotion.

It’s easier to achieve career advancement when you understand your role in the organization, perform in an exemplary manner, and can articulate your career aspirations. Time and time again, this recipe has proven to logically lead to the next step on the corporate ladder.

Looking for more information about creating a confident yet humble presence? The Women of Influence Advancement Centre runs highly-targets one-day courses including “Be Bold, Not Abrasive.” Click here to see our list of upcoming courses.