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Using your leverage as an employee to get a raise or promotion.

In the last article, I spoke about the generalities of using your skill, talents and value as an employee for greater leverage with your employer on advancement within your workplace. In this article, let us look at a very specific use of that leverage: Asking for a raise or a promotion:

First step: Confidence

The very first thing you need to have before you step into the bosses' office is confidence. To some, the very thought of "having confidence" is enough to make them give up in dejection (ironically enough: Due to a lack of confidence) - But it's a lot easier than you may think:

  1. How valuable are YOU, specifically, to your firm ? This involves more than a little critical self-honesty: If you were to disappear tomorrow, how big of an impact would that have on your firm ? Think back on the last time you used a sick day or took a vacation: When you came back, was there work piled up, waiting for you to do it, because you are either the only one who could do it, or were the best person capable of doing it ? Did you coworkers express how much easier it is when you're around, or how much more work there is when you're not ?
    That, right there, is a good reason for confidence: You are valuable to the company; If your coworkers know this, then your boss should, as well (And if they don't, it might be time for a change of jobs, anyway)
  2. What's the employment market like for you, specifically ? You can find out about this first by looking at the employment sites out there to get an idea of what's out there; You can also get in touch with employment agencies (head hunters) and ASK them what your prospects are like. Believe me, if they think you are a salable asset (they'll make a commission from placing you), they'll be the first to encourage you to put yourself out there.
    That is the second big step in achieving confidence: Knowing that your current job isn't the only one that's out there.
  3. Do you know if others in your firm have received raises in salary ? Can you honestly say that your work is equal or surpasses theirs ? Better yet, can you prove this on paper, with increases sales numbers, greater efficiency in processing whatever it is you process, or in the numbers of clients or products served ? While I won't say "numbers don't lie", they do make a very convincing argument.

Remember that there is one, overriding factor behind an employer giving you a raise: It has nothing do with "fairness" or "being a nice gal" - It's about the business: You give an employee a raise because you value their contribution to the enterprise and, most importantly, you want to keep them there, because they're making the business money/success.

Perhaps the hardest thing to come to grasp with about confidence in asking for a raise/promotion is the willingness to do something about it if the answer is no. You have to ask yourself: "What am I willing to do if the answer is no ?" Of course, you also want to find out why the answer is no, before doing anything drastic: There may be a valid reason: Perhaps there are some employment standards/metrics/quotas that you haven't met. Perhaps the business is in a tighter financial spot than you realized.

But: When you do know the answer, it is again time for that critical self-honesty: If your employer tells you that you haven't met certain standards, if you can honestly say that you disagree and they are making up an excuse for not giving a raise, then it is time to consider employment elsewhere. If the business is in a tight spot and raises aren't possible right now, are you willing to wait until things improve ? Are you willing to take something in lieu of a raise, such as an extra week of paid vacation, or improvement of your medical benefits ?

If the answer is no and you do decide that it's worth your while to look elsewhere for employment, it certainly doesn't mean storming off after telling your boss where to go and how to get there: It's time to give that recruiter a call back and start checking out some interviews. If the position you are seeking isn't "bottom of the totem pole", many employers will be willing to meet with you outside of normal business hours. If you are at the early stages of a career, planning interviews around vacation or even sick-days is your next best option.

Ideally, short of abuse or intolerable working conditions, you do not want to be leaving your current employment until the next one is secured.

Getting the "Yes"

Assuming your work is top-notch, that your firm is profitable and your boss is reasonable, how exactly do you improve your chances of getting that yes ?

Arm yourself!

What I mean is: Arm yourself with the proof of your value to the company: Generate the numbers that show your contribution: How many sales have you made since your last review ? How has efficiency in your department improved, directly attributable to you ? Which new processes have you helped to institute in the business that has directly improved profitability and/or efficiency ? What content have you written for the company's website that is tremendously popular ?

Keep in mind that there is one and only one reason to employ someone in a business: To make them money. You don't have to be in sales for this to be true: If you're a warehouse worker, you are absolutely making the company money by helping to ship products that have been sold to the customer, or put products received onto the shelves to be sold to the customers. If you're an accountant, you take care of the books for the business, ensuring bills are both paid and collected, meaning someone else in the company isn't taking time away from their duties to do it, themselves.

At the end of the day, a business must be making money from you, else it makes no sense to employ you in the first place; If you can identify how much you are helping the company earn, so much the better: If you're being paid $50,000 a year, but you're responsible for $30,000 a year in sales or efficiencies, there's a problem...

That, too, relates to the other thing about asking for a raise:

Be reasonable.

Asking for a 25% raise in your salary is, in the vast majority of cases, extremely unreasonable. If you are a stellar worker, asking for a 10% raise might not be so unreasonable, although you may not see that amount every year (There is an upper limit to which one persons' contribution to a business can be, in, again, the vast majority of cases)

5% in the private sector is a fairly average, common-sense raise. It rewards you for your work, it should encourage you to do even more (remember; You need to make the company money, in order to justify your salary). In tight times, a raise that matches the inflation rate may be what everyones' getting, just to ensure your buying power isn't reduced.

To sum up:

  • Be honest with yourself: are you worth more than you are being paid right now ? If not, rather than asking for a raise, ask your boss how you CAN be worth more.
  • Arm yourself with concrete proof of your contribution to the company's success: Sales numbers, efficiency improvments, policy changes.
  • Know what else is out there in your field: Know, ahead of time, that there are bigger and better things out there, if this isn't working out for you
  • Be willing to do something if the answer is no: That is either asking for a list of criteria to meet in order to justify a raise, or the willingness to seek new employment.

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