Have you ever considered the word “promotion”? If you're in marketing, the word probably conjures up images of product placement, special sales or other ways to get the word out to your consumer base. But if you're in the careers business, as I am, you can't help imagining a firm handshake and a fat pay raise when you hear “promotion.”
When you combine the two uses of the word, things start to get interesting. To promote oneself for a promotion is both terrifying and invigorating. All outcomes are something to worry about: What if you get it? What if you don't? What if you hear nothing for weeks? The uncertainties are enough to keep some workers from even trying.
Since our most recent recession, with so many companies downsizing or barely holding on, the thought of asking for a promotion has taken a backseat to praying your paycheck keeps coming. Not surprisingly, many companies have stopped providing raises, or have dropped to very minimal cost-of-living increases while ignoring issues of merit or performance.
Other companies are instituting raise-less promotions of title only, in an effort to acknowledge the extra duties being performed by over-worked staff.
To some degree we've been hypnotized into thinking this is appropriate because of the poor economy. And, because workers fear unemployment even more than they resent being under-appreciated, many are choosing to let the situation stand.
However, if your industry is beginning to climb out of the recession, resources are indeed being allocated to new projects, equipment and staff. Are you on the list for a raise? You won't know unless you ask.
Here are a few tips to consider while you're pondering your own work situation and the potential for something more.
1. It's essential to understand your own goals and needs. Do you want more responsibility, different responsibilities, higher status, more pay, or more vacation? Hint: The correct answer isn't “yes” – you need to decide which of these is most critical to you at this point in your career.
2. It's also important to take stock of what's already been happening in your job, particularly if you've been getting more responsibility without a promotion. If this is occurring, try to understand why. Answers that will be favorable are any that indicate an oversight or lack of process to create promotions. These are correctable. Less positive answers are those indicating a systematic and intentional misuse of employees, using the economy as an excuse.
3. Assuming that you'd like to move ahead in the company, your next step is to figure out how it's done. You'll want the “system” answer on that, as well as the street-smart answer. You might need only to present your request to a supervisor, or you might need to build a case and gather advocates in a mini-coup.
4. Consider the possibility that a promotion won't be forthcoming, for whichever reasons you unearth. Now consider the very real likelihood that you'll only achieve your goals by leaving the company. If that's the case, you'll be adding job search to your to-do list, but the outcome should more than offset the initial effort.
Final lesson? Sometimes the best way to move up the ladder is to promote yourself, in both senses of the word.