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The First Jobber: When Is The Right Time to Ask For A Promotion Or A Raise?

by Kausern Hieu, Country Manager of Nuffnang Malaysia. |

The First Jobber series is designed to help fresh graduates make that transition from student to employee. There are a lot of mistakes you can make and a lot of time wasted if you don’t know what to look out for. Personally, I wasted a lot of my precious time trying to figure all these out by myself after I graduated.

Hence, as an employer now, I wish to share some tips and actionable steps with you with the hope of helping you secure the job that you want and subsequently for you to adjust well into your first job.


Deciding when is the right time to ask your boss for a raise or a promotion is indeed a stressful situation especially when you’re unclear of the company’s performance review cycle. Thoughts such as, “What happens if they say no? Will my boss judge me?” will definitely run through your mind.

That being said, if you think you deserve it, it never hurts to ask. The key is to know when is the right time and how to present your case to the necessary stakeholders. Here’s a guide:


1. During your company’s cycle for raises and promotions.

If you’ve not been briefed by your HR Manager on this during your orientation, be bold to seek clarity with him/her. Avoid asking your colleagues as they may not be certain themselves and you wouldn’t want them to raise an eyebrow.

Then, arrange to sit down with your boss and HR to work out what it takes to move to the next level or get a raise or both (Note: Do not assume that by securing a promotion, your salary will automatically be adjusted, even though this is usually the case. Increments and promotion policies do differ from company to company).

During such discussions, set clear goals and measurements for success with your superior. Do initiate a progress check-in mid-way with your boss to evaluate how you are doing towards your goals. So, when the annual review arrives, you can lay out your case on how you’ve exceeded expectations and thus, have met the requirements for promotion.

2. When you know you’ve exceeded expectations before your review.

Have you been receiving consistent feedback from your manager that you’ve been crushing it at your work or you’re being acknowledged as an overachiever lately?

To ensure it’s just not all in your head, the easiest way to know if you’ve been nailing it is to self-evaluate if you’ve been meeting the expectations of the added responsibilities that was tasked to you. If you do not want to be reactive and wait for more task to be added onto your plate, be proactive then! Ask your boss how you can take on more within your current role.

Also, if you can demonstrate you have some of the skills required for the next level, it’s also a good indication you’re ready to ask for a promotion. If you don’t have what it takes yet, be proactive then to acquire the necessary skills (public speaking, content creation, selling etc) so that you can later show your potential to your superior that you’re qualified for that next position.


If it’s not time for your annual review yet but you believe you have what it takes to level up (accompanied with a salary bump) and you’ve done your due diligence, here are some steps to guide you.

1. Make a list of your key achievements.

Before you schedule that one-on-one with your boss, write down all your accomplishments, especially those added responsibilities. Then, connect how your achievements have added to your company’s goals, especially in these areas; revenue, cost savings, productivity, market positioning, product innovation. You will definitely feel more confident to approach your manager after you’ve prepared this list.

You may also want to consider preparing another list detailing why you’re ready to take on a more senior role. For example, if you’re eyeing to be a team leader, give concrete examples of how you’ve successfully managed small groups of people outside of your office commitments.

It’s also important to note that your manager may not have the final say in giving you a raise and a promotion. It’s because your request is an unscheduled request and the top management would have already budgeted for increments to happen during the company’s scheduled performance review.

So, with your list, you’ll be able to arm your direct boss to take this conversation to the top management. The more evidence you can give your boss, the more you’re helping him/her to make the case for your promotion.

2. Apply wisdom when to bring it up.

When you decide to ask for a salary increase or a promotion outside of your annual review cycle, there’s no “perfect” timing to do so. However, some moments are definitely better than others. Here are some of these moments:

  • When you’ve been tasked to take on a broader scope of work but not being paid for it.

  • When you find out that you’re underpaid eventhough you’ve been consistently meeting the job requirements and your manager’s expectations.

  • When you’ve successfully land major clients and consistently close some big-ticket deals.

  • When you notice there are movements within the organization eg. A colleague leaving or moving up the ranks. This presents a good opportunity for you to check-in with your boss.

  • When the company is doing well and have been hitting its targets.

3. Don’t make it all about you.

When you do speak to your boss, your conversation should revolve around how your promotion is best for the company’s business. Here’s an example: “I really enjoy working here. We have good products and I like the company’s culture. I feel I could contribute more to the company’s revenue in a higher-level position. I would like to present to you how I can make this happen.” Then, back up your request with your list of accomplishments and skills on how all these could translate into your desired role.

Another example: “Boss, as you know, I’ve managed to help our company save xx% in the recent project. I believe I could help us save even more if I had the opportunity to be in a higher-level position as I’ll be able to work with more suppliers to negotiate for deeper savings.”

Important note: When you request to meet with your manager to discuss such matters, you have to set the agenda and make it clear to him/her what you would like to discuss about. Your boss wouldn’t appreciate it if he/she is caught off guard. By giving superiors advance notice, they will have time to reflect on your performance.

4. Reframe the experience when you don’t get it.

If you get the promotion and a salary boost, great! But what if you don’t? Firstly, you need to reframe the experience from a “no” to a “not yet”.

Perhaps there were valid reasons you didn’t get what you want. Maybe you overestimated yourself and there were still some areas of growth you need to address?

Regardless, do not act impulsively or emotionally on the spot in front of your boss. Of course, you have every right to feel disappointed. However, if you can manage your emotions, have courage to seek feedback from your superior the reason for not getting what you requested. If you need to cool down first, go take that breather and revisit this conversation with your boss later.

Once you have gotten the feedback on the steps you can take to consider for a promotion and a raise in the future, ask your boss when you can revisit this conversation again.

Note: Do not make threats. Meaning, you drop subtle hints to your boss to inform him that you are going to start looking elsewhere. It will only leave a bad taste in his/her mouth and it could ruin your chances of being promoted or getting that raise in the future.

In conclusion, asking for a promotion coupled with a raise isn’t easy. However, if you can keep the conversation focused on how you’ve helped the company achieve its goals and demonstrate your potential in adding further value to the company, you’ll be in a good place to level up. Just don’t answer your boss that you deserve an increment and a promotion because “I’ve been here for a while” when he/she asks you, “Why do you deserve a promotion/raise?”

If you have any further queries about this topic, feel free to leave a comment or write to crunch@nuffnang.com

Next article from The First Jobber series: When To Leave Your First Job

Previous articles:

Should I Apply to Work in A Big Company or a Small Company?

What to Put On Your Resume if You Have No Job Experience

How to Standout in An Interview for New Graduates

I Got My First Job. Now What?

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