You feel you’ve done a great job.
But nobody notices it.
You feel you’ve given it your all.
But nobody notices it.
You feel you deserve recognition.
But nobody notices you.
You see others getting promoted.
But nobody notices you.
You’re hesitant to put yourself out there, to go to your boss or advisor, and to ask for recognition. You feel that he/she should get it, without your needing to ask for it. Also, what if you did ask, and then felt humiliated if the answer is No? Wouldn’t that be even worse than your current situation? What if that destroys your relationship with your boss?
You might read umpteen articles that say that you won’t get anything if you don’t ask for it. These articles will preach self-worth and assertiveness.
They are right. You may not get promoted if you don’t ask for it.
But, it’s important to know when to ask for it. And how.
I’ve sat on the other side of the table when people have asked me for salary increases and promotions. I want you to know what’s going on in the other person’s mind.
The most important thing is to make the person on the other side of the table want to give you a promotion. Even better, to have them want it for you more than you want it for yourself.
Let me tell you what I find off-putting as the person on the other side of the table, listening to the opening statements of an ask for more salary or a better title.
“I work 60 hours every week.”
“I work more than my friends do at other companies.”
“I started at a lower salary than most of my friends did.”
“My rent is higher now, so I need my salary to be higher.”
“I saw John got promoted, and he joined the same time as I did.”
Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash
These might be all true, and things your boss should know. Only thing is, you’re starting with a negative stance. All of these openings either seek to gain sympathy, or to guilt-trip the person on the other side of the table. I promise you, you’re not going to hear, “Wow, you work 60 hours every week! You deserve a promotion!” Chances are, the person on the other side of the table may work even more hours than you do, or they wouldn’t be on the other side of the table. Chances are, the person on the other side of the table may have started their career with a far lower salary than yours.
Let me suggest something different.
What if you could make your promotion a given? What if you put yourself in the position that your boss wants to promote you because you’ve made yourself indispensable?
Here’s the first secret: Pre-ask for your promotion by asking for a promotion of your responsibilities without asking for a promotion of your salary and title. This is a forceful reminder that you care about the work first, and the title later. It will also make you stand out because most people will go for the salary and title first, and then talk about added responsibilities after. Which essentially just shows that they have reduced their value to a transaction instead of something more meaningful.
“I want to grow within our organization. I want to do more than what I am doing right now. I already ace my current responsibilities, but I have a lot more to give, and I am unfraid of hard work. I want to grow out of my comfort zone. I am ambitious for myself and for our organization. I want you to entrust me with more than I am doing right now because I am only scratching the surface of my capacity and my potential for us. Instead of your hiring yet another person, what additional role can I take on?”
I hear this, and I think, “Wow. Where have you been all my life?”
Here’s the second secret: Have this conversation 6–12 months before you want to be promoted. You’ve now changed the dynamic of your ask from a transactional discussion (“I want you to do something for me before I do something for you.”) into a value-oriented one (“I have dreams, and I’m willing to work toward them.”) that sets you apart.
You and the other person are now on the same side of the table. You resonate with each other. You are both ambitious. You are both unfraid of hard work. You are both willing to take on more. You are both willing to give more. You are now both positive-minded people. You’re focused on the mastery of your craft, and you place a huger premium on that above title and salary. You get each other. This works because of who we are. Deep within us, we look up to those who have mastered their craft. We admire work ethic, mastery, and ambition. We admire those who love what they do, are great at it, and who have dreams of being great at even more. Deep within us, we admire the person and not the title.
Now, there are two ways this conversation can go.
It’s perfectly possible that your boss says that there are no new responsibilities at this time to give you, provides you with feedback about your performance, suggests improvements, and ends with a polite No. Your response should remain classy and positive, “I appreciate all of the feedback, I hope to correct it, and I will come back to you with my ambitions again when I have addressed your feedback.”
The other way this can go — your boss sees a kindred spirit in you and sees that the two of you can make a bigger difference together. I say this because this has happened to me. I’ve had people walk in and say those words, without asking for anything other than the opportunity to do more. I’ve embraced them like a long-lost child. I’ve given them more responsibilities, taken them under my wing, and literally fought tooth and nail to get them more visibility, more salary, more exposure, and more responsbility. I’ve asked more of them, and I’ve given more back. I don’t think of them as being on my team any more. I am on their team.
These people walked in with the right attitude. They had the swagger of someone who has work ethic, and who knows it. They gave before they took. They didn’t compare themselves with others, and they only wanted to be a better version of themselves. They focused solely on their own potential, and aligned it with the organization’s potential.
So, show up, be ambitious, work hard, ask for more responsibility, ask for more (work) before you ask for more (salary/title/other). Show that you’re not content to stay in your lane, that you’ve already mastered your current lane. Show that you want to drive in a bigger lane, and that you don’t mind the work that it takes. Show, in your words, actions, and attitude, that you’ve mastered your current role and you’re going to master an even bigger role.
And when you get that added responsibility, walk the talk. Make yourself more indispensable. And that is what it’s all about. When someone makes themselves indispensable, I’ve handed out salary increases and promotions without their ever needing to ask for them. They were past price, anyway, to me. It was more about the sheer joy of just being able to work with them and to conquer things together.
So, in any job you undertake, seek to make yourself indispensable. The rest will come. It’s a given.