How to Negotiate a Promotion or a Pay Rise

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By Dr. Catherine Armstrong

This article is designed to provide some guidance to those who want to develop the confidence and skills so they can negotiate with their boss to achieve a career progressing move. This will not apply to everyone, as many people in the public sector, including academia, are tied in to particular pay scales and promotion patterns and no amount of discussing with their line manager will make a difference to that. Other people are employed on fixed contracts, which carry a particular salary and can not be extended, simply because there is no longer funding for the position, or perhaps another person is returning to work to resume the role. However, many workers do have the opportunity to create their own promotion, or talk themselves into a pay rise and this is how to do it!

Take the long term view

It often takes weeks, if not months, of strategic planning to carve out an opportunity for yourself, so make sure you think of this as a long term project.

Start off by keeping a career journal. The idea is to make a log over the period of one month, for example, showing the areas in which you are working and in which you feel you are making a real difference to the company or organisation. Record the ideas you have had for improvement to a project or system, even if they don't get implemented. Write down any efforts you have made to improve your knowledge and skills base to help you do your job better, even if it just involved doing some extra research on the internet. This will impress the right people when it is time to make your pitch.

At the same time begin sounding out colleagues in your team or office who may be able to give supporting testimonials on your performance and contribution. This doesn't mean trying to falsely be nice to everyone, but constructively make a point of working with everyone and try to contribute positively to their working life.

Bear in mind that your company or organisation may not be in a position to give you a pay rise or promotion at the time. Their decision will be based on many factors other than your suitability for a promotion so try to find out in advance if the financial situation is favourable. If it is then go right ahead and dedicate yourself to proving why you should be on the next step of the career ladder.

Target the right person

Do your research carefully; it may be the case that your immediate boss, your line manager or head of department is not in a position to award you a promotion or pay rise. Obviously you will need to keep your immediate superior informed of your plans anyway, but make sure you know who holds the power in your office to take the decision you need. It may be that you have to wait a long time to get access to this person with their busy schedule, another reason why you have to plan ahead.

Once you have found the right person to approach, try to make yourself known to them. Again, this is not simply a matter of ‘sucking up', of making him or her lots of cups of tea! Rather the idea is to show them over time that you are an indispensable part of the team.

Go that extra mile

Although making yourself indispensable is half the battle, you have to show that you are willing to do that little bit extra, especially if you work in a competitive industry or organisation where a lot of your colleagues will also be campaigning for a promotion or pay rise. This is where keeping your career journal will come in; you will see for yourself the areas where you contribute to the team and you will be able to formulate your ‘pitch' as to why you should be promoted. However, as far as it goes, this simply shows that you can do your current job well, which is great, but you want to show that you can go one step further and move up to the next pay grade or job title.

Firstly you need to know what job/pay rise you want to aim for. If there is a particular opening available, make sure that you understand what the company or organisation will be looking for in that role. If you know you can do that job now, then start gathering examples of similar tasks performed or projects completed. If you know that in order to do the job you would need some more training or knowledge then start getting those skills that you need. This may involve doing a short course at a local college or perhaps attending a training workshop internally. Your employer may be willing to pay for educational opportunities so make sure they know that you want to take these opportunities and why. It is important that they realise you are developing your career in order to progress in your current job, otherwise they might think you have your eye on a position elsewhere.

Don't be secretive!

Being secretive about your actions may actually engender more tension with colleagues than if you are honest with them. It is a good idea to be ‘open' to maintain office harmony, but there will be some practical benefits to you as well. You will be able to get advice from colleagues who may have gone through the same thing themselves and the more people who know that you are committed to progressing in that career the better. If you are worried about the competition (i.e. people hearing you are going for a promotion and deciding ‘I'll try that too'), don't be! Your case should be heard on its merits, and the quality of your pitch and your work history will be taken into account.

The Pitch

Prepare for this as you would a job interview. First know who you are talking to and what they will be looking for. Make sure you have researched your opportunities and have already discovered what to aim for, not only in terms of your career but what would be best for your company or organisation. Then prepare carefully; think about how to sell yourself. Emphasise the good things you have done for the company already (taken from your career journal) and how you see yourself fitting into the next position or salary band. Be able to show what you have done to make yourself ready for this next step. Make clear your dedication to the company and explain where you see yourself in 1, 2 or 5 years time, and how you can help them develop too. If you have done your research carefully then you should get a positive reply!

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