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Time your career moves to perfection

By Matthew Knight for CNN
Do you know when's the right time to ask for a raise or secure a promotion?
Do you know when's the right time to ask for a raise or secure a promotion?
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • January is the best month to secure a promotion, according to new survey
  • Looking to land a new position? Start planning six months in advance
  • Approach your boss about a raise after completing a successful project
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(CNN) -- Like so many things in life, planning successful career moves can come down to timing.

But if you're asking for a pay rise the day after a company-wide pay freeze is announced or sending out your résumé with your Christmas cards, chances are your timing might be a little off.

So, when exactly is the best time to ...

Get a promotion

Globally, January is the best month to secure a promotion, according to a recent data analysis by business networking site LinkedIn. But it isn't the only window of opportunity.

LinkedIn found that July and September are also popular times for business professionals to move up the corporate ladder.

Furthermore, Marcus Alexander from Appleby Associates, a career consultancy, says promotions are generally tied to people's own journey within an organization, or are linked to the business year.

Top tip: Find out when your company's financial year starts and ends (e.g. April 1 to March 31 or January 1 to December 31) and make sure you prepare for opportunities which might get built into the budget, Alexander says.

Land a new job

Common sense should tell you that the holidays and summer months, when many hiring managers are likely to be on vacation, are not the best times to land a new position.

Instead, use these times to start plotting your next move. Alexander says you need to start thinking about your next move six months before you actively start your search.

"Unless you're going out there knowing exactly what you are looking for and how you need to present yourself you're going to find it very tough, especially in this market," he said.

Top tip: Don't just rely on ad and recruiters. A high proportion of positions don't get advertised, Alexander says. Identify companies you want to work for and develop your networks to give you other ways to get in there.

Ask for a raise

The best time to ask for a raise is when you've completed a major project or pulled off a good sale.
--Marie McIntyre, career coach

According to career coach Marie McIntyre, you need to know how your pay fits into your company's pay plan. You also need to be aware of the value of your job in the marketplace, she says.

"The best time to ask for a raise is when you've completed a major project or pulled off a good sale -- something that you can point to show that your value has increased," McIntyre said.

Top tip: Approach your boss with confidence and don't beg. Be sure in your own mind that you deserve the raise, says McIntyre.

"If the answer is 'no,' that's fine, but ask when a good time would be to ask about it again," she said.

Go it alone

Starting a new venture when countless businesses are going bust may seem like a bad idea. But many entrepreneurs see the upside in downturns.

"Fortunes are made out of recessions," Virgin boss Richard Branson told the UK newspaper The Times in 2009. "A lot of entrepreneurs get going in the economic depths because the barriers to entry are lower," he was quoted as saying.

But be careful, says McIntyre. The best time to go it alone, she says, is when you are financially ready to do it.

Top tip: Assess your skills as well as your finances. Be sure there is a market for your product and make sure you're going to enjoy it, McIntyre says.

Do you have a question about how to advance your career? Post it in the comment section below or e-mail us.