A LOT HAS BEEN WRITTEN ABOUT HOW TO ASK FOR A RAISE. BUT WHAT'S THE BEST WAY TO LAND A PROMOTION? HERE ARE SOME KEY WAYS TO MOVE UP THE LADDER.
You already know how important it is to set clear salary expectations with your employer, and to ask for a formal raise without fear. Given that unequal pay is still a major issue across industries, part of being an empowered professional woman is proactively protecting your financial integrity.
But an increased salary isn’t the only measure of growth. In fact, to be as marketable as possible to future employers, you should be able to demonstrate a history of consistent promotion to higher titles with increased responsibility, including management (whether of people, profits, or both). This was a lesson I learned early on in my career from an inspirational mentor, and in the course of ten years, I have moved from an entry-level marketing coordinator at a small media company to a director at a major New York agency.
Are you also seeking upward mobility? Try these 5 techniques to ensure that you will have the confidence—and the credentials—to get the promotion you’re looking for.
1. NEVER ASSUME YOUR WORK IS SELLING ITSELF
It’s no surprise that professional women sometimes hesitate to self-promote. In fact, with institutionalized bias, our careers can actually cause us to become demotivated and shy away from actively marketing our worth. Sometimes, we even mistakenly assume that others will notice (and reward) our hard work without prompting.
The problem with this? Without speaking about what we’ve achieved and accomplished to help our companies grow, our contributions aren’t visible. And without visibility, we can miss key opportunities to have others acknowledge all we have to offer (one of the keys to being promoted based your current role).
After all, even if we assume the best from the leaders of our organizations, we have to remember that they are busy people, being pulled in countless directions. In that kind of noise, you have to stand out—and that means you have to speak up. Don't be afraid to tout your abilities, particularly when you have gone above and beyond the requirements and expectations of your role.
2. KEEP TRACK OF ALL OF YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS
When we do something that has a positive impact on our coworkers or our company, we tend to assume that we'll remember to mention that achievement “when the time comes.” But how many times have you sat down to write a self-assessment or detail reasons why you deserve recognition only to find yourself struggling to create a comprehensive list?
In order to be consistently promoted, you need to be proactive about documenting what you achieve, when and how it happened, and why it mattered. Here are some ways you can do that:
- Start a “job well done” journal (electronic or paper)
- Save any complimentary emails from your coworkers, boss, or clients in a "bragging" folder in your email account
- Create fake LinkedIn-style recommendations that you think a colleague or supervisor might write about you after you did something exceptional at work
- Insist on an ongoing review process that isn’t just annual so you can not only get feedback in real time, but have a regular opportunity to provide your supervisor with documentation of your success
3. MENTOR & EMPOWER JUNIOR STAFF
A lot of younger professionals make the mistake of focusing too much on “managing up” (supporting more senior colleagues and/or supervisors). While this is an important part of demonstrating your accountability, it’s actually only one way to prove you deserve a promotion. Remember that your supervisor is looking for evidence that you will not only be able to handle management responsibilities but that you have also mastered the requirements of your role.
To really prove you're fit for a new role, it’s crucial that you pay attention to the needs of colleagues who are more junior than you, whether that’s taking a few extra minutes to walk them through a complex task or asking them if they’d like training on an aspect of your job. Be careful not to use this as an excuse to delegate work, though—after all, a true manager wants to help others grow, which means being willing to handle any and all tasks, no matter how glamorous.
4. BE READY TO TAKE ON VACATED ROLES
We are all familiar with the concept of “wearing many hats.” In fact, as millennials who joined the workforce in a recession, doing several jobs or playing multiple roles was how we got our professional start. While this was bad news for work-life balance, it did give us the chance to learn a lot very quickly, and even take on roles that were historically reserved for more experienced colleagues.
As the economy has improved, though, companies are back to hiring people into clearly defined roles and keeping positions filled. But when someone above you leaves for another company or position, you're left with a great opportunity. Her exit creates a gap, and it's one you should be prepared to fill. Even though HR can bring on a new person, they save time and money by promoting internally, giving the role to someone who’s already trained for it.
Without stepping on the toes of your supervisor or other senior colleagues, observe them closely, offer lots of support, and embrace training opportunities. That way, when they move on, you can make a strong case that you are fully prepared to fill their shoes.
5. ALWAYS BELIEVE YOU DESERVE IT
While it may sound cheesy or cliché, a confident attitude is crucial to convincing management that you can live up to the increased expectations of a promotion. This doesn’t mean you can’t have doubts; in fact, the anxious anticipation of what the “next level” will bring is a normal response to professional change.
But be on the lookout for “imposter syndrome,” an overwhelming fear that you are somehow faking your success (and therefore don’t deserve it). It affects women quite frequently, and is an unfair way of keeping yourself from the success you deserve. Plus, it signals to external audiences (like your supervisors or human resources) that you have doubts, which can be easily misinterpreted for you not being a good fit.
Work hard on trusting yourself. It’s really ok to “fake it until you make it.” Eventually, your beliefs will catch up with your actions.
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What is your experience with promotions and title changes? Do you have any suggestions for how to approach “the ask” with confidence?