Is it time to ask for a raise or promotion? Is it past time? If you’re dreading (or avoiding) those conversations, you’re certainly not alone. But the conversation itself might not be as important as you think it is.
Most people focus on the actual negotiation. They are hoping to discover some magic words or secret tactics to make things work out in their favor. I do have some practical tips, which I’ll share below, but in my view, negotiating compensation is much less about what you say or do during that particular conversation, and much more about getting yourself to a place where you can enter into negotiation feeling confident, capable, and balanced. That’s where the real work is.
And that’s why you need a mentor.
Effective mentoring or coaching can change your life in so many ways. It can help you earn more money and increase your job satisfaction. It can double your chances of getting a promotion. More importantly, it can help you see your life in new ways and help you center yourself in God’s plan and in His provision. Great mentoring can help you get to a place where you are ready for anything, including asking your boss for a raise, a promotion, or even simply changes to your current job.
Sylvia wanted more from her job, but she wasn’t sure how to go about getting there. She was determined to position herself for a promotion (and a raise), but because she was working for the Federal Government during a budget crunch, she knew she would have to go far above and beyond in order to even be considered for a bonus, let alone a promotion. The problem was that Sylvia felt stretched to her limits. She was good at her job and confident in her abilities, but her life felt scattered. If she already had too much on her plate, how was she supposed to excel enough to advance?
To help make sense of her life, Sylvia sought out a mentor through 4word’s Mentor Program. We matched Sylvia with a mentor who not only shared her background and her priorities, but could also help her regain her footing and prepare to take the next step forward. Sylvia’s thinking was narrowly focused on her goal of advancing her career, but she was missing the big picture. Her mentor was able to help her step back and revisit the basics: understanding how her personal history impacted her current choices and perceptions, rejuvenating her day-to-day relationship with God, and learning to accept who God created her to be. Sylvia wrote to me, “It was amazing to discover how much potential God has placed in me, and to start dissipating the idea that I was not ‘ready’ to grow.”
From there, Sylvia was ready to step forward with confidence. She and her mentor talked through the specifics of her job, identifying what was working for her strengths and personality and what wasn’t. They discussed how Sylvia could approach her boss and what she needed to be prepared to address. And they prayed together.
Ultimately, Sylvia’s conversation with her boss went very well. When I asked her what advice she would give to someone preparing for a similar type of discussion, Sylvia said, “I recommend getting a mentor!”
That’s my advice too!
I recommend consulting your mentor (or getting one!) any time you’re contemplating big changes in work or in life. Once you’re ready, here’s what you should know about handling the “promotion conversation” itself:
1. Communicate in person. Email can be alluring in a situation like this, where you might be nervous about saying the wrong thing, or afraid of possible rejection. Nevertheless, you should always have these negotiations face-to-face, or at least over the phone if face-to-face isn’t feasible. While it may be easier to request something over email, it is also easier to say no over email. Real negotiation requires an open give and take between people, something you just can’t accomplish the same way when you’re typing words back and forth. Even if the answer ultimately is “no,” your boss will have a better impression of you if you address the situation in person, and that sets you up well for the future.
2. Do your homework and get the facts straight. If you’re negotiating your salary with a new company, have W-2s for the last three years so you know exactly what your total compensation has been and be sure to state the facts correctly. Some companies will ask to see copies of your W-2s, and you don’t want to—intentionally or unintentionally—have misrepresented yourself. If you’re seeking a raise from your current company, have a written copy of your goals and your related performance for the last three years.
Prepare a list of every significant contribution or accomplishment you’ve made to the team. You don’t necessarily want to go over every item on the list, but it’s a valuable asset, and something to refer to as needed. The goal is to discuss your contributions in a straight-forward and unemotional way.
Research market compensation for the role you have or want by checking out similar positions at other companies through online resources. If the salary you’re seeking is out of line with the market, consider revising your goals, or be sure you have a solid reason why the company should be paying you more. You don’t have to volunteer that you’re asking for something over-market, but know where you stand going in and be well-prepared to answer any questions that come up.
3. Get your timing right. Don’t schedule a meeting for late on a Friday afternoon (when your boss is most likely focused on the weekend) or early Monday morning (when work tends to be busiest). Instead, consider your boss’s schedule and try to identify the best time for them to be able to focus on what you have to say. If you can, ask after you have just finished a challenging project or accomplished something significant for the company, while your contribution is still fresh in your boss’s mind. Don’t ask for a raise in the middle of a performance review. Although that is a great time to ask for feedback on your work and guidance on your goals, it’s also an easy time for your boss to say no since budgets are typically already determined by then. Most managers are really busy during reviews, so you want to build your case when it’s most opportune for both parties. Be proactive and talk to your boss while budgets are still being developed (usually starting in the summer).
4. Stay focused. Keep the conversation tightly focused on your professional contributions and goals. If your spouse just lost his job or your kids’ school tuition just doubled, it has nothing to do with whether or not you deserve a raise. Similarly, it doesn’t matter that your coworker Jennifer or James makes more than you do in a comparable position. These facts may legitimately be weighing on you personally, but it’s not appropriate to make them part of your negotiation.
5. Don’t be discouraged. Even if you deserve a raise, this may not be the right time for the company. It really is okay if your request gets denied. If you’ve handled the situation professionally and honorably, you’ll leave your boss with a favorable impression, and you’re much more likely to be successful the next time you ask.
If you get passed over several times for promotions or raises, or you get the sense that there is no path forward for you at your company, then it may be time to start looking for a new job. There’s no sense in staying somewhere where you can’t grow, and no shame in looking for a place where you can.
You’ve sought input from your mentor and prepared yourself with the necessary tools. Now you’re ready to get in there and ask for that promotion with confidence!
Do you feel called to be a mentor? Are you looking for a mentor? The 4word Mentor Program is currently accepting applications for the upcoming summer session. Visit the Mentor Program website today and submit your online application by April 22, 2016!