The Dos and Don’ts of Asking for a Promotion

Awkward Girl, Feminism, Tech Industry, Workplace

Guys, I did it! I had a “mature, working girl” moment: I asked for a promotion! Well, I actually didn’t really ask… this is what really happened when I met with my manager and why I wish it did not happen.

Me: “So before we finish, I was told to make sure you received an email about the process for recommending a college-hire for a promotion.”

Manager: “Oh, I didn’t know that you wanted a promotion, you have never brought it up before.”

Me: “Oh, well… I think they sent that email because…”

Manager: “If you want a promotion, we should have been talking about this and you should have come to me with your career profile and how you compare to the next level…”

Me: “but I don’t really know…”

Manager: “So the next time we meet, we can start talking about this again. But make sure you have that all figured out…”

Me: “Oh. Okay. See you next time.”

Please learn from my mistake. Never utter the words “promotion,” “raise,” or “bonus” without being prepared to back it up. Even if you aren’t even thinking about asking for one, always be ready. My employer has career profiles for every level that lists out core competencies. If I was doing it right, I should have reviewed my current level and how I compare to the next level every month. If you do want a promotion, start conversations early and go to your manager saying “I want to start working towards the next level, let’s begin talking about how I can get there.”

My fellow How to Pee in the Woods writer, Lauren, has a similarly mortifying story.

I work on a small team at a small company. When I started there were three people doing my job. They both left, so I was stuck doing the job of three workers. When it became clear that my company was not planning to hire replacements for my team members, my family and friends all encouraged me (read: nagged endlessly) to ask for a raise. After all, I was doing three times the work I had signed on for.

So I sat down with my manager and said it would be great if I could be compensated for all the extra work I was doing. I thought it was pretty self explanatory.

Manager: “So… You want a raise. Does that mean you want a promotion?”

Me: “Not necessarily. I just think since I am doing a lot more work now than I was when I signed on, it would be nice to see my salary reflect that.”

Manager: “We don’t have the resources to give you a raise right now. We can talk about this again next year when review time comes around.”

Now, maybe I could have been more specific about my accomplishments. I’m sure I could have gone about it better. But a female friend of mine at a different company did the same thing, only she was prepared with a list of things she had accomplished. She got the same answer: Not right now. Maybe during review time.

All this to say, be prepared to brag about your accomplishments, and be prepared for rejection.

Side note: The above friend and I both have boyfriends who asked for a raise (not during their yearly review), and both of their requests were granted. As women, it’s typically harder for us to ask for what we deserve, and I’m hoping it was just our lack of confidence and preparedness that led to our rejection and not something worse (*cough* institutionalized sexism). At any rate, all we can do is offer our stories and advice to other women in the workforce and hope we all learn something. -L

Every employer is different, but the key here is to be prepared to brag, and remember: if you don’t ask, you’ll never get what you want.

For a more step-by-step guide, check out PayScale’s guide to salary negotiation which also works for asking for a raise and a promotion.

Please learn from our mistakes and go get that promotion or raise! — J

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