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5 questions to ask yourself before you ask for a raise or promotion

Consider these things to increase your chances of getting a positive outcome.

5 questions to ask yourself before you ask for a raise or promotion
[Photo: Stephan Henning/Unsplash]

You’ve been in your role for a while now, giving 110% to every assignment your manager hands out. You’ve volunteered for what seems like every project under the sun, and you’ve heard nothing but positive feedback every time.

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You’ve been patiently waiting to see if your boss will give you a raise, or encouragement to step up to a new role. Yet they haven’t said anything of the sort. As a result, you decide it’s time to be proactive and take matters into your own hands. You’re going to advocate for yourself and ask for a raise or promotion.

Before you schedule that meeting with your boss, ask yourself these questions so that you have the best chance of success.

1. Have I been performing at a level beyond what’s expected of my role?

Some companies give raises and promotions based on tenure, but in most workplaces, you’ll probably need to show that you’ve gone above and beyond your job description–especially if you want to step up to the next level.

As design researcher Ximena Vengochea previously wrote for Fast Company, you should ideally have been performing at the level above your role for about six months. This way, when you go to your manager, you can demonstrate that you’re more than ready to take on additional responsibilities, and have already delivered the results that merit a raise.

2. Have I documented my achievements and figured out how to present them in the best way?

Unfortunately, your results at work doesn’t always speak for themselves. When your supervisor (and her boss) have multiple employees to manage and their own deliverables to worry about, they won’t always notice the amazing work that you’ve done.

Which is why it’s crucial that you document your achievements as you go along. As Jane Bianchi wrote in a previous article, you can demonstrate the significance of your results by giving them quantifiable facts, such as saving the company x amount of money, or increasing sales or revenue by x percentage. When you’re not sure what that measurement might be, think about what constitutes “success” in your role. If you’re struggling with this question, now might be the time to have this discussion with your boss and plan for your promotion later down the line.

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Even when you have quantifiable results, you need to think about how to present them in the most effective way. As speaking coach Anett Grant previously wrote for Fast Company, “In today’s business world, your company is looking at your performance and your potential. So in addition to articulating what you’ve done, you need to think about how your performance benefits the company as a whole, and how it reflects on what you can deliver.”

3. Do I have sponsors and mentors who can advocate for me?

Yes, your supervisor’s belief in your abilities can go a long way. But he or she will probably need the approval of their boss, human resources, the CEO, and sometimes the board. The more endorsements you have from people outside of your immediate team, the easier it will be to convince senior leadership that you’re worth the raise or title change, writes Grant.

You’ll be in an even better position when you have a mentor or sponsor in addition to your boss. A mentor, author and consultant Kim Powell previously told Fast Company, is someone who can give you advice and is a sounding board. They are someone you can share your struggles with, and brainstorm solutions on how to tackle work’s thorniest problems. A sponsor, on the other hand, can actively take actions on your behalf–like a member of the C-suite who has the ear of the CEO.

4. Am I prepared to take on the additional responsibilities that might come with this raise or promotion?

A promotion will inevitably come with additional responsibilities. So do some raises, even when your title remains the same. Think about whether the increase in salary merits those additional duties, and whether or not they align to your long-term career goals and personal priorities in life at the time.

Career coach Carlota Zimmerman previously told Glassdoor that human beings are not encouraged to question “gifts” and rewards. Our society also glorifies the career-climbing, always “hustling” individual, sometimes at the sacrifice of their happiness.

For a long time, author and entrepreneur Morra Arrons-Mele subscribed to this narrative of “achievement addiction” until she realized that she was putting her mental health (and sanity) at risk. Rather than climb the corporate ladder, Arrons-Mele decided to strike out on her own and build a business that complemented her style of working. She wrote, “I was living out someone else’s climb-up-the-ladder, and I was fighting a losing battle. I realized that who I was and what I was doing were completely mismatched–and that if I was ever going to be happy, I would need to become less conventionally ‘successful.'”

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5. What are my plans for the future should I get this raise or promotion?

Finally, if you do decide that, yes, you are ready for the extra responsibilities that a promotion brings, you need to look ahead and figure out what you will bring to the company after your promotion. As designer Ted Leonhardt previously wrote in Fast Company, telling your boss how you plan to bring more value to the company gives them a compelling reason to invest in you.

When you document and present your achievements, you’re giving them a foundational reason for why they should listen to your request. When you outline your strategy, you’re making those reasons more compelling and are giving them less and less reason to say no.

Leonhardt wrote, “Even if this particular strategy isn’t what your boss wants to run with, you’re showing that you’ve thought hard about ways to bring more value to the company going forward, which will make you worth more to the company, too.”

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About the author

Anisa is the assistant editor for Fast Company's Work Life section. She covers everything from productivity to the future of work

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