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Yippee! Promotions & Raises, Part 1 Mark Swartz, M.B.A. M.Ed.

About the Author

Mark Swartz, MBA, M.Ed., is Canada's Career Activist. His insights reach millions yearly as the Career Advisor, as author of the best seller "Get Wired, You're Hired," also as a professional speaker and coach on career/work issues. A former Toronto Star careers columnist, Mark's advice is forthright and practical. For Canada's biggest directory of free career articles, and for personalized coaching, please visit

Preparing Yourself for "the Big Ask"

Things that make our palms clammy and hearts go ka-thump:
  • Speaking in public.
  • Awakening in a pit of writhing snakes.
  • Speaking in public from a pit of writhing, big-fanged snakes.
  • Asking for a raise or promotion.
Why is requesting your due so terrifying to so many people? I mean, hey, you know you deserve more money and a better title. Think of all those nights you were last one there to flick off the lights in your office. And that time you pretended the client didn't make offensively sexist comments in front of his management team.

Plus you happen to be dedicated, loyal and pretty darned good at what you do. Yet you still get the shakes as you picture yourself grovelling like young Oliver Twist begging for a bowl of gruel. What gives?

Power, Power, Who Has the Power? Putting in for more bucks, a bigger office, an increase in staff to manage, a boost in title, places you in the cross-hairs of your boss. You're shooting a harpoon across his bow: no more toiling in silence without additional reward.

Unless you have guaranteed raises or title elevations written in your job contract (yeah, as if), you are now officially the object of scrutiny. You've given your boss a chance to examine your performance, your future potential, your worth to the firm, and--though he'd never tell you this to your face--whether he likes you and wants you around for much longer.

Scary stuff, even for those who believe in themselves. I remember putting up with a five-month delay in getting my promised raise because my boss kept claiming he was too busy for the paperwork-- even after the day he took our admin assistant out for an afternoon at Canada's Wonderland amusement park.

Creating Your Personal Advertisement There is, as it turns out, something of an art to requesting a raise or promotion. It goes in three basic stages:

1) Preparing.
2) Positioning.
3) Proposing.

We'll cover the first two in this article, leaving Point 3 for the next installment.

1) Preparing. You can start by determining your employer's policies re: raises and promotions. Are there norms for these kinds of things where you work? Does the Human Resources department have standard procedures in these matters?

Once you know what's acceptable, you'll need to gather evidence of your achievements. Start by making a list of all your accomplishments at work over the last year or so. Be sure to quantify the results you've achieved wherever possible (e.g., dollars of revenue you may have generated, savings you've produced as a result of your efforts). The goal is to show that you are worthy of getting what you're asking for.

Next, round up examples of your work that clearly show how valuable you are. These are analagous to proof points your creative team includes in the copy they create for a client. Do you have a printout showing how you maximized a client's reach and frequency better than she expected? Or maybe a spreadsheet showing better media buy efficiencies from your handiwork?

Don't forget testimonials. If you can put together some quotes from clients, colleagues, suppliers or others praising your abilities, you'll have some powerful mojo on your side.

No commercial is complete without a solid storyline. Think about how you'll string together the above elements so you can talk about yourself confidently. Remember, you're making a pitch to a specific audience here, in this case your supervisor. How can you build a definitive case for yourself most effectively?

2) Positioning. Now it's time to pose yourself in your best light. But first, switch from focusing on yourself and turn the spotlight on your boss. Some questions to ask yourself as you prepare:
  • Which of your achievements and projects will your boss think are most important?
  • Can you tie your request into relevant business rationales? For instance, when asking for a raise, you might indicate that you'll be able to afford a reliable car that ensures you can work earlier or later, not having to rely on public transit. Or that a promotion will give you more management experience, which benefits the company because it will have more bench.
  • What wording and tonality works best with your boss? Should you take a straight, direct approach? Or will you need to start gently, easing in to your pitch with a lot of buttering up and verbal foreplay?
One other thing you can do in advance is anticipate objections to your request your boss might have, then come up with really good answers that counter those concerns. This way you won't get all flustered when that first 'Yes, but what about the time you ' is thrown your way like a hand-grenade with its pin released.

What I'm advocating here, of course, is to take a strategic approach to getting what you want. Barging in and demanding a raise, or threatening to quit unless you're promoted to Senior Manager, may work--for the moment. But why risk your job when you can come at this professionally, and persuasively?

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