40 Best Ways to Get a Promotion After Age 40
It's never too late to become the boss.
For those who find themselves close to that 40-year-old mark, forget looking in the rearview mirror and start looking out that giant windshield in front of you towards your future. It’s time to take charge of what you want—especially at work—and figuring out (and getting) your earning potential. That’s why we’re giving you 40 of the best ways to get a promotion by the time you hit that fifth decade of life, understanding the importance of taking charge and earning what you deserve. And if you’re looking to climb the ladder so quickly you get a nosebleed, This Is the Fastest Way to Get Promoted.
Research The Position You Want
If you’ve got your eye on a certain salary increase, make sure you bring comparable figures to the table when you meet with your boss or manager. Look, nobody enjoys comparing themselves to others, but, in this case, make sure you set a realistic expectation given your experience, knowledge and goals. And for more sage career advice, This Is Exactly How to Ask for a Raise.
Organize A Presentation
It’s one thing to approach your boss and ask for a promotion when you’re 40 years old; it’s another to take some time to organize a presentation and deliver the request in an email for him or her to look at. First impressions are everything in life, and if you can get their attention with a quick PowerPoint showing what you’re asking for, you’re increasing your odds for getting what you’re requesting.
Show Past Results
How have you either saved the company money, or increased revenue or production (or all of the above)? In a number-driven world, those are the two questions you need to ask yourself before even thinking about approaching your boss about a promotion. Dig into the cold hard numbers and give factual statistics. That will make it more difficult to deny a request.
Dress For Success
Yep, if you want to be the man, you’ve got to dress like the man—or something like that. Your clothes can go a long way in getting you the promotion you desire. That doesn’t mean always wearing suits and ties to the office in a business casual environment, but it does mean looking the part as you prepare to formally request a promotion. Hey, fake it till you make it, right? And fellas, if you need some help in that department, check out these 17 Amazing Style Upgrades for Men.
You know that old saying referring to relationships that says, “you can’t make someone else happy till you’re happy with yourself?” Well, the same thing (sort of) applies when it comes to your career, too. Ask yourself if you’re truly happy with what your career path is, and access what you can do to either improve it or learn new skills. You should understand your strengths and weaknesses by now. And for more ways to nab a sweet title bump, here are 20 Ways Emotional Intelligence Can Help You Get a Promotion.
Learn New Skills
Speaking of improving new skills, with all the resources available these days and the constant flow of information at our fingertips, you’d be foolish not to take advantage of them for a promotion request. Maybe it’s taking online classes to hone your communication skills, or reading best-selling books about management to better prepare you for leading a team. Whatever the method, you should always be learning in all ways.
Become A Leader
Here’s the thing about good leaders: it’s not a thing people can fake. If you try, your colleagues or team will see right through it and won’t be motivated to do the work. That said, become comfortable with leading projects and understand that part of leading is failing, too, so prepare yourself for how to react to those situations, take responsibility, learn from your mistakes, and inspire others for the next task.
Focus On Digital
If you haven’t already noticed by now, the world is digital. There’s a reason why everyone’s always on their phones, replying to emails and jotting down notes on the subway—and it’s not because they’re playing some game. To get a promotion in your 40s, you need to understand the lingo, skills, and reasons for why this is so important for both your career and the company.
Step Out Of Your Comfort Zone
You’ve been asked to do a lot of things throughout your career to this point, but, guess what, you’re going to need to keep adapting in order to get the promotion you want. For instance, in a field like journalism, gone are the days when you could sit down and write a stream of consciousness. Nowadays, there’s SEO, there’s HTML, there are embedded videos and pictures and social media post, there’s…. yeah, you get the point. You can either be stubborn in your ways or be a little uncomfortable to prove your worth.
Know How To Tell A Story
Want to know what everyone wants these days? Content. Yeah, you know how the saying goes: “Content is king.” Well, you know what, content is only king when it’s fit for a king, and that usually means understanding how to tell a good story. Want to know why ads like Nike’s Colin Kaepernick angle went viral? It told a story about an issue that hit emotions with people. When you’re over 40, you should have lots of experiences to draw on to help these stories take shape, come to life, and execute in a creative way.
Know, Understand, Do
Those are three words that everyone who’s 40 years old should know by now, but it’s how they’re incorporated into business that’s even more important. Sure, you know you need to become a manager to get the promotion you want, you may even understand how to be a better manager, but it’s when you actually do the things necessary to complete that task when you actually prove to your boss that you’re worthy of your promotional request.
Dig Into Data
Whether it’s Salesforce or Google Analytics, data should act as your best friend in every field of work. You may not be a math whiz, but you should have a novice basis of how to read data and utilize it to your advantage. There’s a reason why so many big brands want to see engagement, and it’s because they want to use that data to formulate their next business decision.
Show Your Budget Skills
Again, you don’t need to be a finance or accounting genius, but, given the fact you’re 40 years old, you’ve probably budgeted on both a personal and professional level by now. Bring some cold hard numbers to your boss or manager while presenting the idea of a promotion, showing how you directly impacted the bottom line.
Practice Public Speaking
Most people are afraid to stand in front of a room and talk. We get that—it can be intimidating being the lone voice in a room. However, if you’re looking for a promotion, you need to prove your chops, and part of this means speaking in front of colleagues or even strangers to give a presentation. Master the art of this—for both big and small groups—and your boss will see you’ve got the potential for a promotion.
Master Social Media
Much like the aforementioned part about learning how to be digital, social media is another skill that everyone over 40 needs to master in order to get a promotion. This doesn’t mean just posting blurry pictures of your family vacation, either, but rather how to analyze insights and how to structure a post or story that will inspire engagement. It will be tricky and frustrating, but it’s necessary to expand your knowledge.
By being a strategic planner, you’ll show your boss or manager that you’re responsible, organized, and can juggle multiple projects at once. It’s understanding how to work efficiently without stressing or burning yourself out, which is an important trait for someone, presumably, looking for a management position to possess.
There are so many good books out there that can help a person become better overall. These don’t all need to be business related, but can also serve as inspirational or simply of a topic of interest you have. (Great fiction works, too.) Reading is also a good way to decompress from work, while still keeping your mind active, which can help inspire ideas in your career. For ideas on where to start, consider harking back to the 40 Books You Hated in High School That You’ll Love Now.
Show An Entrepreneurial Spirit
How many times do you talk to a hiring manager and they say they’re looking for someone who has an “entrepreneurial spirit” about them? If we had to guess, we’d say “probably all of the time.” Well, that’s because jobs these days are looking for Swiss-Army knives who can wear different hats and handle success and failure as even-keeled as possible. That may sound clichéd, but if you’re not willing to roll up your sleeves and do multiple tasks, you’re probably not getting that level-up you want.
It may sound silly at 40 years old, but there will always be office politics and drama, no matter what your age. Do your best to avoid taking part and, more so, act as the one to shut it down, understanding that that type of atmosphere is bad for company culture and resolve. It’s those little things that can go a long way in helping you get that promotion.
Yes, you’ve had years of experience and can consider yourself an expert in a number of different things in your career field. That still doesn’t mean you know how to write the book on everything. Staying humble and helping others become better at their job is an important trait in getting a promotion, too. It shows leadership and a focus on selflessness, which is what bosses want to see from their employees.
Stand Up For Your Work
This can mean one of two things. First, it can mean defending your idea and the work you put into a project, regardless of result. Second, it can mean taking pride in everything you do, but being cautious about coming across as too pushy. Nobody is perfect, so understand how to take constructive criticism and use it to your advantage, while still trying to find common ground on the work or idea you’ve already developed.
Challenge Your Boss
You’re both adults, so don’t be afraid to speak your mind if you find some holes in what your boss or manager is saying. In fact, it’s often encouraged in order to get a promotion, as it shows initiative and a passion that you’re invested in the project. Plus, just because he or she has the fancy title doesn’t mean every decision is going to be the right decision every time.
Don’t Present Problems—Fix Them
No boss wants to hear about a problem that’s going on. He or she wants to know what the solution to the problem was. (Notice the past tense there.) It’s human nature to talk about a problem first, then try to solve it, but that’s just not the proper way to show your boss it’s time for a promotion. Rather than try to make yourself look good, just put the kibosh on the issue yourself and, even if your boss doesn’t hear about it, take pride in knowing it’s no longer a problem.
Separate Personal From Professional
You like your coworkers and enjoy the company culture, but being promoted means knowing the difference between being someone’s friend and being someone’s colleague. Look, you should always have respect for the people you work with, but if someone continues to bring down the company for whatever reason, it’s on you to tell them this is strictly professional and nothing personal. That can be tricky for a lot of people, but at 40 years old it should be more about production and less about feelings being (momentarily) hurt.
No boss wants to repeat him or herself more than once, so taking notes when they say something should probably be a habit you get into. Our minds are filled with information and distractions and tasks all day, everyday, so it’s impossible to retain it all without a little reminder from a trusty notepad every once in a while.
Ask Questions (Even If You Think You Know The Answer)
Don’t just assume that you know what your boss wants because it’s a similar task to a former project, so ask questions and make sure it’s done right the first time. Similar to the above about not wanting to repeat themselves, a boss wants work presented to them as close to complete as possible the first time, and asking questions to clarify direction is important in showing you know how to communicate properly before just diving in without the right plan.
Always Be Present
This means having a presence in meetings, but it also means showing up to office parties and other casual situations where the entire company is a little more, well, themselves. As mentioned above, you should always respect your coworkers, and part of earning that mutual respect is by genuinely getting to know them as people, and not just, “Jane who works in accounting.”
Are you creating a running group for coworkers to join? What about putting together a fundraiser that helps bring people together and good publicity for the brand? Maybe it’s just helping set an event up on the weekend, showing younger employees that you’re committed. You’ve got a ton on your plate already, but taking the time to show an investment in your company is a good way to prove to your boss you’re ready for that promotion.
Drop The Ego
Do not, under any circumstance, get a big head about what you’ve done in the past. Yes, it’s important, and, yes, you should be proud of the work you’ve done, but having an ego and taking credit for yourself is a terrible way for your boss to want to reward you with a promotion. As mentioned above, be humble and don’t be afraid to pass praise along to others instead of yourself.
Play Like A Champion
Your boss doesn’t care about how a client keeps rescheduling a meeting, or how your vacation interrupted tasks that were planned to be completed, or that you got sick and never made up the work you missed. Excuses are like belly buttons: we’ve all got them, but you need to figure out a way to avoid your boss ever seeing yours, in so many more ways than one.
Know How To Say “No” (Sometimes)
Sure, you want to make an impression on your boss, but he or she doesn’t know all that you’ve got on your plate, so don’t tell them you can deliver on a task that you just don’t have the bandwidth for. In the end, giving a half effort will come back and bite you, so it won’t be as impressive when you present the final result and have had slacked off on your other responsibilities, too.
Develop And Manage Relationships
It’s one thing to be connected on LinkedIn with people. It’s another to utilize and foster those relationships into something that can benefit your company by getting new business or additional revenue. Likewise, when someone gives you their business card, that means they’re interested in talking again, and, in order to get a promotion, it means valuing those situations and delivering a meeting, showing your boss that you’re thinking ahead for the company.
When your boss asks you why you deserve a raise, you shouldn’t have to think too hard about the answer: just think tangibly. For instance, it’s one thing to show a lot of effort and talk big about what you want to see done, it’s another to either take initiative or do the work to show what has been done. See how prettier that second part looks? It’s about showing, not telling why you’re valuable enough for a promotion.
Become A Mentor
Being a mentor is a huge responsibility that someone has to want to have, as it’s not a job requirement or a description that everyone has in his or her title. Becoming a mentor means offering a calm voice to colleagues, giving time to younger coworkers who want to pick your brain, and caring enough about the company that you want to see everyone—we mean everyone—employed by it succeed.
No one is always going to be a beaming light of positivity all of the time, but one can certainly try to be. That means practicing good mental health exercises, like breathing when overwhelmed, and, more importantly, not showing frustration to others. You may think you’re swamped and don’t have time to think, or feel like you’re being undervalued by your boss, but keep a positive mentality and things will fall into perspective.
Update Your Résumé (and Cover Letter)
You know what a common mistake is that 40-year-old-plus employees fail to do? Actually take the time to update their résumé and cover letter to focus in on their most recent work. You may have all the job security and job satisfaction in the world, but treat the opportunity of asking for a promotion as if you’re interviewing with a different company, making sure to sell yourself in the best possible light.
Likewise, make sure your cover letter matches the trends that hiring managers are looking for these days, avoiding language that might have been on the radars of HR departments if it were still the year 2000. (We’re looking at you, “Proficient in Microsoft Word.”)
Work can consume us all if we allow it. There’s always an email to reply to or a meeting to attend, but it’s the person who knows that work-life balance is important in being successful—both personally and professionally. Now, we’re not telling you to blow off a lunch meeting to go sneak in an afternoon run, but we are telling you that when you’re balanced, you’re happiest, which means you’re more productive. Bosses will look for this when you approach them about a promotion, as some really do live by the “work smarter, not harder” mantra.
At 40 years old, you may think you’re deserving of a director or vice president title at your company, but does your production warrant such a result? If you’ve never been in a pitch meeting before, or managed a team, or have tangible results to show success, you’re not qualified for such a promotion. That’s why it’s important to set a realistic expectation before approaching your boss, so you don’t feel defeated when he or she denies the request.
Decide Your Motivation
Part of asking for a promotion is, of course, a sense that you’ll be rewarded financially with the boost in title and job duties. Prior to asking your boss for a promotion, though, ask yourself if you’re interested in a promotion strictly for more money, or if you’re genuinely excited about new career development? It’s really fine either way, but it’s the employees who want promotions for the career development who come across as more successful and authentic, which should lead to a higher probability of earning one.
Listen To Your Younger Colleagues
You want to know what’s cool? When someone who’s 40 years old is actually listening to and learning from a younger coworker.
Fair or not, true or not, you’re going to be looked at as the “old person” in the office, but, just because younger employees jokingly call you “mom” or “dad” doesn’t mean you actually are. These employees want to be on your level one day, so giving them a voice to feel valued goes a long way in communicating and learning, which, in effect, can lead to a promotion by simply being relatable in various situations. And for more insight into the modern working life, Here’s Why You’re Better Off Working at Home Than in an Office.
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