Getting a promotion is no stroke of luck. It’s not likely your manager will magically say, “well I’ve been thinking you deserve a title and pay bump,” and poof, give you a promotion. Promotions are the culmination of hard work, self-advocacy, the right timing, and strategic conversation.
Want a Promotion? Here are 5 Ways to Win.
For you to get the upgrade you want, it’s important to know your value, understand where your organization falls in the context of pay, regularly log your accomplishments, and have productive conversations with your supervisor. If you’re looking to land your next promotion, be ready to pitch yourself by following the five strategies.
Tip #1: Do Your Market Research
It’s key to know the dollar value of the work you’re currently doing or of the role you’d like to move up to. Use websites like salary.com, payscale.com, or other compensation survey data in your industry to understand how someone of your skills, accomplishments, and caliber is paid at market rate. These sites are the most objective, as they use employer-reported data and more accurately quantify salary versus benefits. Glassdoor can also be useful, but keep in mind it may be less accurate as it is self-reported data. For non-profits, review their organizational profile and IRS Form 990 on www.guidestar.org to understand how much they pay their top employees and essential personnel.
You want to know what kind of pay the market can bear for someone with your skill set. What’s the median pay? What’s the maximum pay? Once you have this data, compare it to your current pay. See if there’s a disparity between the median and your pay, or if your pay is standard to market rate. Even if your pay is on par with the market, that should not stop you from asking for a raise—regardless of what your salary is, you should be aware of where you fall on the spectrum.
Tip #2: Encourage and Model Salary Transparency in Your Office
In general, you should know if your organization leads the market in pay, if it falls in the middle, or if it trails. However, this information is impossible to analyze if you only know your own salary. That’s why it’s important to discuss salary with your coworkers.
However, before you talk about salary with coworkers, confirm in your employee agreement/handbook that your employer will not retaliate against you for talking about salary with coworkers. Yes, that does sound crazy, but some employers have policies that allow them to punish employees for discussing pay.
Talk productively about salary with your coworkers in a way that doesn’t spread gossip or start drama. Matter-of-factly state what you make and ask your peers to share their salaries as well to get a sense of how salary works across the organization. A lot of people may not want to share that number, but when you encourage and model transparency by sharing your own earnings, you’ll make others want to share. Note that if management gets wind of your conversations, they may want to talk to you. This can be a great conversation to have and should not be anything to fear, but be aware that leadership or HR may step in.
When you know what others at your organization make, you gain a deeper understanding of whether the organization leads or lags in pay across employees, or if there’s a pay disparity among employees. You’ll be able to see the range of salaries for your position, and perhaps a tier up or down. This will show you if you likely have room to push for higher pay, or if you don’t.
Tip #3: Log Your Accomplishments — Even the Little Things!
While talking about your skills is necessary when requesting a promotion, highlighting your accomplishments is far more important. Make a list of everything you’ve accomplished for the organization from the duration of time you’ve worked at the company, within the past year, or in the time that’s passed since your last performance evaluation. For some, a lot of time may pass between reviews; so if you haven’t had one in a while, create a situation where you can have a conversation about your accomplishments.
When I say accomplishments, I mean the things you’ve done (or helped do) that have allowed the company to advance or have had meaningful improvement within the organization. Translate those tasks into figures that your company uses to quantify benefits, such as dollars, employee efficiency or labor hours reduced per task, increased customer satisfaction, launch of a major deliverable, marketing or sales qualified leads, etc. Be clear what your role was for each task and note how critical your contributions were to the project. Then, connect those projects and your work to how they helped advance the mission of the company. This is about highlighting the direct benefit and value you provide to the organization as a whole.
Tip #4: Start Conversations Early
Work with your manager to schedule a time to talk about your accomplishments and desired promotion a few months before your performance review. You can frame this discussion in the context of your evaluation as a check-in—ideally you’ll talk 4-5 months prior to your evaluation. Use this time to get an understanding of your position from the employer’s perspective and let them know you’re working toward a promotion. Talk about the value you’re bringing to the organization, and share your reasoning as to why you feel you’ve earned a promotion, raise, title change, or a combination. Then, ask your boss what they think.
It’s important to start early because these conversations take time, and you’ll probably need to have more than one. If your boss does not think you’re ready yet, ask what that you should be focused on within the coming months to show you’re worthy once your performance review comes around. If your boss agrees that you are due for a promotion, it’s still unlikely that the change will be implemented right away. It’s likely your manager will have to advocate on your behalf to the people who are in charge of promotions, which could take a few months. There might be specific documentation required to prove your performance or delivery on key metrics/KPIs.
All of this is necessary so that when performance evaluation time rolls around, you’ve prepared for your promotion and/or raise to be automatic. If you need to show certain performance indicators logged, you’ve done it. If you were told you needed to improve in certain areas, you’ve had time to demonstrate progress. Additionally, if reviews happen at the same time for other employees on your team, you won’t be competing with them to get attention for a promotion. You’ll have already started your conversations so you’re not talking about initial steps of a promotion at the same time others are.
According to a survey completed by Glassdoor, only half of reported employees have ever discussed salary during a performance evaluation. In general, many people aren’t asking for a promotion. Use this opportunity to advocate for yourself and go after that promotion.
Tip #5: Keep Emotion Out of Your Conversation
For you to make the case for a promotion or raise, your pitch needs to be on point. Your justification for getting a raise cannot be “well, my peer makes more and we’re in the same role, so I deserve to be paid the same.” Yes, equal pay is important, but the conversation is about your individual value, not comparative value. Your justification needs to be directly tied to the value you deliver to the organization. Then explain you want to be adequately compensated (salary and overall benefits) in accordance with your performance.
The whole purpose of the internal and external research is to understand where you fall pay-wise in your company/industry and see how much leverage you have to request higher pay. It is not for you to discuss your coworkers’ earnings in the meeting.
I understand it’s challenging to keep this conversation emotion-free. After all, livelihood and equal pay are emotional prospects. However, it doesn’t matter what your coworkers make in the context of this conversation. Your mortgage payments and student debt don’t matter either. Bringing this up won’t help your objective nor advance the conversation. Stick to discussing how the contributions you make directly translate to advancing and improving your company’s performance.
Follow these strategies, see results. As you check tasks off this list, you should be able to build a clear pitch for yourself and execute a plan to land a promotion.