How to Get a Raise or Promotion
Learn our top five strategies for how to get a raise or promotion.
If you want to be successful in your career, it’s important that you continually seek to learn and grow and improve. And if you are doing those things, then it makes sense that you should be able to seek periodic raises and promotions. For most people, this type of career advancement helps them to feel appreciated and fairly compensated.
I’m a big proponent of spending less money and saving your money. And I actually think that the spending side of the money equation is even more important than the earning side. That’s because no matter how much money you earn, you can always outspend your income. However, there is an actual limit to the amount of money you can save—there is only so far that you can cut your expenses (even if you could somehow cut them down to zero). But your earning potential, on the other hand, is virtually limitless. (And that’s one of the reasons that blogging about personal finance and money is so fun!) So let’s talking about how to get a raise or promotion in order to increase your income!
Here are five steps you can take to earn a raise or promotion.
1. Be a top performer at work.
One of the best ways to prepare to seek a raise or promotion is to be a high performer. Work while you’re at work. Put away your smartphone, don’t browse the web, and keep the water cooler chitchat in check. If you find yourself being overly chatty at work, follow the five-minute rule: make sure that you spend no more than five minutes per hour talking or otherwise being off task.
Know what your company or department or division is focused on, and help move those efforts forward. If you’re company is working on strengthening their market share, research ways to do that. If they need to reduce costs, write up a proposal with your best (and vetted) ideas. Volunteer to be involved with new, high-profile projects. Ask your manager or supervisor what needs aren’t being met or what gaps there are, and then work to help meet or fill them.
When you give your best at work, people will notice. And you’ll be rewarded for that diligent and dedicated effort. And then, when it comes time for annual merit increases or bonuses or promotions, you’ll be on the top of the list.
2. Get more education or training.
Depending on how much you’ve been able to learn on the job and keep up with technologies and trends in your career field, you may need to obtain additional education or training to really advance in your career. If you don’t have a college degree, earning a degree can help you to significantly increase your income. But that’s true only if you go about it the right way. If you want your education to be a good return on your tuition investment, you’ve got to study a subject that will give you a set of marketable skills.
And even though you should study something that you love and not study something only for the income potential, what you really should do is find the highest point where those two things converge—where you have a high level of passion for the work and where you have excellent income potential. Because let’s be honest—you may be working for 40 years or more. And that’s about 80,000 hours (or more) you will work in your lifetime. So you will want to do something you’ll love and that will be personally fulfilling and rewarding, but you also should be looking to make a really good income. It’s really not worth it to work that hard for that long just to scrape by your whole life. If you’re going to work 40 hours per week, wouldn’t you rather earn $2,000 (or $5,000, or $10,000, or $50,000) for that 40 hours, rather than $500?
So do your research, talk to a career counselor or coach, do internships or mentorships or job shadowing or online training (or all of the above), and find that career sweet spot. As long as you, again, choose a career with good earning potential, the time and money you put into it will be well worth it.
While you’re looking at educational opportunities, if you do decide to go back for more schooling or receive vocational training, pay for it as you go. Don’t fall into the trap of getting student loans. Instead, plan to work, seek scholarships and grants, live on a tight budget, and take a little longer to graduate if needed so that you avoid being saddled with debt that could follow you for literally a decade or more. Remember that the way to build wealth is to get control of your income, so don’t let it get taken over by Sallie Mae!
Check out this article to find out how to pay for college without going into debt.
3. Ask for the promotion or raise.
If you want (and feel you deserve) a raise or promotion, you have to ask for it—it’s generally not going to happen automatically. When you know that you’re giving your best at work, you can ask for a raise or promotion with confidence. Even if you get a raise of only $1 per hour, that’s more than $2,000 per year. That’s a significant chunk of change in most households.
One effective way to seek a raise is to start working on this goal at the beginning of the year. When you set your work objectives for the new year, talk to your supervisor about your desire to advance in your career. Specifically ask what skills you need to acquire or tasks you need to accomplish to get a good raise or a promotion (formalize this discussion with written expectations on both sides, if you can), and then make sure you work on those things throughout the year so you accomplish those requirements.
Even if you’re not actively working toward your next promotion, you need to be continually actively working to advance in your career if you don’t want your salary to stagnate. To seek a raise or promotion, follow these steps.
Be prepared by doing your research. Before you ask for a raise or promotion, you need to be prepared for the discussion. Do your research to find out if your salary for the work you do is on par for your area, career field, and amount of education and experience. If you discover that your salary is lower than average in your area for the job that you perform, then you are in a strong position to seek a raise. However, even if your compensation is commensurate with others who have your same amount of education and experience, you can still seek a raise if you have shown that you are a star performer. If you’ve shown your value by being a top-notch employee, your employer will want to keep you and should be happy to keep you happy in order to hang on to your talent. This is particularly true for those working in the for-profit sector. If you discover that that isn’t the case—that your employer is stingy and doesn’t want to pay you what you feel you are worth—then it’s probably time to look for an employer who will.
On that same note, if you are working for the government or for a non-profit organization, you may want to consider exploring options in the private sector, where salaries and bonuses are generally higher than in the other two sectors.
In all such cases, if you decide to look for employment elsewhere, don’t just look for the highest-paying opportunities. Rather, look for companies who have a reputation for really valuing their employees. That is the kind of place where you want to be and where you can best make a long-lasting contribution.
List your accomplishments and the reasons you feel you deserve a raise or promotion. As you prepare for the discussion to seek your raise or promotion, spend some significant time preparing. This is a big deal! It’s likely one of the most important meetings you’ll have all year, so treat it that way! And make sure that your boss knows what’s on the agenda for the discussion, so that you don’t take them totally unawares. You’ll have better results if they know what’s on your mind so they have an idea of what to expect.
Prepare a hard-copy document that shows in an easy-to-read, bulleted list your noteworthy achievements over the last year or since you were hired or received your last significant raise or promotion. If you report is half a page or more, use headings and bolding and italics (judiciously) to emphasize the most important information. In most cases, your report should be one page or less; keep the information concise and to the point.
Make sure to show how you have helped your company make money or reduce costs. In your summary highlighting how you have benefited the company, include concrete numbers as much as possible. If you don’t have the numbers right now, do the research needed to get them. Even if you have to estimate, as long as you base your estimates on realistic data, that will work if that’s the best you can do. So, for example, include that you have helped to cut costs by 23 percent or increase revenue by 15 percent. Or note that you have completed 4 top projects an average of two weeks before the deadline and at an average cost of 8 percent under budget (or list the specific information for each). The more solid, specific information you can share, the better.
Choose the right time to make your request. Before you request a raise, be sure you’re aware of the current climate within your company. Have you had layoffs recently? Or have you been able to hire more people? Is upper management working to cut expenses, or is HR spending pretty freely? If there are signs that times are tight, be patient. You’re more likely to have success if you wait till the situation improves.
4. Build strong relationships.
You may have heard the saying that it’s not what you know but who you know that matters most. And I think in many cases there is a lot of truth to that. Building your influence within your organization can help you significantly to keep your career (and salary) moving in the right direction. This doesn’t mean that you have to be a suck-up, but you should work to intentionally—and authentically—build good, strong relationships with people of influence within your organization. One of the best ways you can do this is to ask your manager and influential coworkers what needs exist within your organization, and then actively seek opportunities to help meet those needs. Take the opportunity when it arises (or rather, make the opportunity) to work on high-profile projects, and as mentioned above, be a top performer. And really work to serve and to help other people to succeed, as well. Then with time your name will become known by the right people in the right places.
Take the opportunity to have lunch with influential colleagues in your company and to meet with them in other settings, as well. Make sure that you get some face time with your supervisor or manager from time to time and that they know the contribution you are making to the company. One of my favorite books on this subject is Never Eat Alone, by Keith Ferrazzi. In the book he talks about the importance of seeking opportunities to spend time with colleagues and influencers and to also strengthen relationships by doing things like remembering people’s birthdays and then calling them to give them best wishes on that day. Another one of my all-time favorite books that can help you build and strengthen relationships with others is the classic How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.
5. Consider another option: Move to a different company or sector.
This isn’t one of the four primary tips for earning a raise or promotion, but it is another important point to consider when you are looking to increase your income. In some situations, the best way to earn more income may be to switch companies or even sectors. For example, I work (for my day job) as an editor for a nonprofit organization. And I love what I do—it’s one of the best jobs I could have. Honestly. But though I really enjoy it, I realized about a year and a half ago that the potential for income growth there isn’t great.
I’ve always worked hard and been a good, responsible, diligent, and even passionate employee, but a couple of years ago I wanted to work toward a promotion (which I felt I was ready for, and which given the—admittedly somewhat vague—guidelines we have for job levels I felt I deserved). So I worked extra hard all year, really working to expand my skills even more than normal and to accomplish my work in the best way. And I worked a lot of overtime (which I didn’t get paid for, because I’m on salary). And I did that not just because I wanted a promotion but because I really wanted to show my value. And guess what happened?
My manager agreed that I had earned a promotion, and he made the request to upper management for me to be promoted. I was told that our team was currently too top heavy (too many senior-level editors), and there was no room at this time for advancement. So I tried to take that all in stride and be a good sport, and I figured I would at least get a good raise. But that didn’t happen either. You want to know the difference in the percentage of merit increase I received that year from the year before (and now the year after)? It was .5 percent.
Now, I’m not mad at my company because they are a nonprofit and they have to be fiscally responsible and they don’t make a huge amount of money like for-profit companies sometimes do. And I’m grateful for the opportunity we have to receive annual merit increases at all—I know that’s not the case in many companies. And I’m grateful to be able to love what I do and have a job that I love. Really, I am. But that experience taught me a valuable lesson: sometimes hard work and dedication and just really giving and doing your best and being passionate about your work aren’t enough. You also have to go where the opportunities are. So though I don’t intend to leave my company for a full-time, corporate job elsewhere, I am pouring all of that passion and energy and extra effort into this blog.
And I’m doing that because personal finance is something I have been passionate about for over 10 years, and when I learned that blogging could actually be profitable (who knew?! Check out these incredible blogger income reports), I decided I’m going to give it my all and see where it takes me. But it’s not just about the potential for earning a great income—it’s about being able to help people change their lives, which is an opportunity that is so amazing! And being able to create something with your own two hands in order to do that. And it’s also about the flexibility it offers to work when and how I want and the opportunity to work from home so that I can be with my three beautiful young children. For all of those reasons and many more, I’m hoping and working and praying to make this blog a success.
So if you’re in a situation where you feel stuck at your current job, then your best bet may be to look for opportunities elsewhere. And particularly if you are in a situation where you feel you are underpaid or underappreciated, it’s probably time to make a career move. Be careful, though, that this is in fact the reality and that you’re not just looking continually to greener pastures.
Would Blogging Be a Good Fit for You?
Are you looking for a possible change in career? Are you burned out or tired of the corporate grind or looking for a new (and awesome!) career path? Do you like to discover and try new things? Are you looking to learn and grow in new ways or looking for a new challenge?
Would you love to have more control over your earning potential and be able to make an incredible income? Do you enjoy writing or communicating with others? Have you ever thought about becoming a blogger to earn some extra income from home or even perhaps as a full-time, work-from-anywhere career? (I know bloggers who make between $10,000 and $100,000+ a month from their blogs.)
Would you like complete autonomy in your work and a more flexible work schedule? Do you long to work from home in order to be with your children or be able to help take care of your parents? Would you love to teach others about something you are completely passionate about? Do you enjoy helping others to make positive changes in their lives and really succeed? If so, then blogging could be a great career for you!
If you are interested in learning about making money as a blogger, read this article to find out how to start a profitable blog.
When you feel that it’s time to ask for a raise or promotion, make sure you’re giving your best and that you have documented your contributions to your company to show you deserve it (and that the climate and timing are right), and then go for it! After all, the worst thing that can happen is that you are told that a raise or promotion isn’t available right now, but then you can talk about when it might be realistic or what you can do to make a raise or promotion become a reality—what specific, concrete steps you can take in the next six months to a year to make it happen. As long as you make your request with a humble but confident spirit, the discussion can only help your career, no matter the immediate outcome. And if you discover the timing isn’t right, keep fighting and working and moving in that direction.
For more information on how to increase your income, read this article.
Have you had success asking for a raise or promotion? Do you have more suggestions for how to make a raise or promotion a reality? I would love to hear your insights! Leave a comment below to share your wisdom!
Invitation to Share
Was there something in this article that inspired you to change something about your money? Are there ideas or tips that you feel could help others? Would you please take a minute to share this article via email or social media? I would love your help to share these principles of financial well-being. Thank you!
Join our closed Families for Financial Freedom Facebook group to get support and share ideas for how we can all improve our financial well-being by earning more, spending less, saving more, and investing more and reach our financial goals. You can do this! And we are here to help.