Tips to advance your career — and salary

walking about stairs advancing career

There are right and wrong ways to ask for a promotion or raise. Here’s how to do it professionally.

Asking for a raise or a promotion at work can be nerve-wracking, especially if you’ve never done it before. But just like jumping off a diving board for the first time, once you’ve made the leap and are safely in the water, it can be thrilling, rewarding, and a big confidence boost.

Of course, that’s not to say you should march into your boss’s office and demand a raise or promotion, especially without supporting information about why you deserve it. Here are four steps to help you get ready for a conversation to present your case and, hopefully, achieve your desired outcome:

1. Reflect

Take a look at any reviews or performance feedback from the past year and make sure you’re not only meeting your goals, but exceeding them. If your boss doesn’t view you as an all-star performer, you’re going to have a hard time convincing him or her that you are. If it turns out you’re not hitting every requirement that’s being asked of you, it may not be the best time to have the conversation. Instead, sow the seeds for a future discussion by talking to your boss about an action plan that can help you achieve not only the existing goals the company has for you, but also goals you have for yourself.

“People sometimes fulfill their job requirements and periodically come up for air to say, ‘I’m ready for an expanded role,’ ” says Donna Sweidan, executive career coach and founder of Careerfolk, LLC. “In reality, career advancement involves keeping a watchful eye on your short- and long-term goals and making strategic moves to align yourself with those goals.”

Career advancement involves keeping a watchful eye on your short- and long-term goals and making strategic moves to align yourself with those goals.

2. Prepare

If you’re asking for a raise, you need to have justification for why you deserve it. Form a mental “brag sheet” for yourself — a list of specific examples when you brought in more revenue for the company, solved a problem, trained new employees, or received glowing praise from a client. Couple this with salary research; sites like Glassdoor and LinkedIn can provide insight, but you could also consider contacting a recruiter to find out what the industry standard is for your experience level in your city. Have a realistic number in mind when you ask for the pay increase — even if you’re not asked to reveal it.

Your justification for a promotion (and raise) should go beyond what you’ve done and also focus on a strong plan of how you can increase your responsibility. “Start with your own responsibilities and assess if there is anything you can suggest that adds value, eliminates time-consuming redundant tasks, or increases productivity,” says Sweidan. If you have colleagues who hold the position you want to advance to, determine how you can take on tasks to mirror their level of responsibility.

3. Time it right

Make sure to schedule a meeting to discuss your request: Don’t just pop into your boss’s office unannounced. Similarly, you may want to wait until you wrap up a big project or assignment, so you’re even better-positioned to make your case. Another opportune time to ask about career advancement and increased pay is during your annual review, especially if it’s going well (if it’s not, you may want to reconsider if you’re justified to ask).

4. Remain professional

Remember, this is the work world: Make sure you’re cool, calm, and collected when you make your case. Expect your boss to have to get back to you with a definitive answer, and continue to work hard to show you’re deserving of what you’ve asked for. Make sure you’re not coming off as defensive, show that you value your current position, and don’t give any ultimatums — like if you don’t get a raise, you may leave.

If you don’t get the raise or promotion you asked for, keep your head up. You planted the thought in your supervisor’s mind. When you’re denied, it can be hard to continue the conversation immediately, but it can be immensely helpful to engage in a frank discussion on what you can be doing differently to poise yourself for a move forward in the future.

Related articles