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Professional Development: Getting Promoted

We recently asked our readers "What motivates you to go back to school?" More than 45% of you responded that you wanted to advance your careers. While more education can open doorways to new career paths, perhaps the most important door it opens is the door to a promotion!

But promotions usually don't just fall into your lap (unless you're really lucky). You usually have to take the initiative and ask for it. While asking may put you in the running for a promotion, to be a real contender you'll need to present a solid and well-thought case to your employer.

We've put together a list of things you'll want to do before you ask for the big promotion and tips on how to present your case:

· Start looking the part! Study the people who work at the level of the job you're looking for. Do they dress more impressively than you're required to? If so, start dressing to their level.

· Fill the skills gap! For example, if you're applying for a promotion to management, take the initiative and register for a college course in management, online or during your weeknights. This will show your employer that you're motivated and thinking ahead.

· Know what you're getting into! Get a copy of the job description for the position you're seeking. Study it inside and out. Make sure you can speak to how your unique experience can help you meet each responsibility listed in the description.

· Share your accomplishments! Most of us hate to toot our own horn, but the interview for a promotion is the best time to do so. The person interviewing you might be your old boss, or it might be someone who doesn't know you at all. Either way, be prepared with a list of your accomplishments from your current position.

· Keep your expectations real! While you're sure to get a financial boost with your promotion, don't expect the money to come raining down on you. Ask your HR department for a basic salary range for the new position, and do online research to ensure that it's in line with what other companies are offering for similar positions.

· Never think you're entitled to it! The length of time you've worked for someone does not entitle you to a promotion. Never say "I've been here five years and feel like I should get the promotion." Rather, explain how your long-term service has prepared you to take the next step.

Getting the big promotion can change your life in many positive ways, from greater career satisfaction and income to increased responsibility and respect. When you follow the tips above, you'll be showing your employer that you're a "keeper," and from that point, the future is wide open.