Practically everyone wants a promotion — that bump in rank and salary. But practically everyone does not want to have that tough conversation with their boss. So how do you resolve this conflict? It's tricky but not impossible.
Step one is to get yourself fully engaged with your job.
That may seem obvious, but engagement would actually put you in the minority of workers: More than two in three employees say they are not engaged at their jobs, a Gallup survey of the American workforce found.
An investment in and commitment to your career is a prerequisite to moving onwards and upwards. That doesn't mean you should abandon work-life balance (it's important to protect that), but it does mean ensuring you're taking your job seriously. It also means making a concerted effort to improve your company's — and your own — value through the work you do. Simply put, you probably can't just treat your gig as a basic 9-to-5 and expect a promotion.
You've also got to actually ask for that bump and/or raise. That's another suggestion that might seem painfully obvious, but a whopping 57% of people have not once tried to negotiate a raise, according to a survey by PayScale.
Stumped on how to do it? Here are five easy steps that will help you get to where you want to go.
1. Choose your projects wisely
Of course you can't always choose the projects you work on. But when you do have some leeway, you would do well to choose high-impact deliverables — preferably those which are high-visibility, too.
It's a fine balance of accepting what comes your way and not overextending yourself, ultimately hurting your performance. Just make sure as many of your projects are as high-impact as possible.
"Today, being good at your job isn't the only requisite for getting ahead in your career," Mind Tools, which provides career-enhancing resources, explains. "If key people aren't aware of you, you'll likely miss out on opportunities to improve your skills and take on interesting assignments, despite your hard work and good performance."
Being strategic about what you're working on will make senior management notice you and value your contribution. If you're a real boss and do an excellent job, you'll start to be seen as indispensable. That is one of the best ways to get a title and pay raise.
2. Work your butt off — while keeping the receipts
Go above and beyond — and keep track of every time you do something beyond what its expected of you and what your role demands. A spreadsheet would be one easy way to do it.
For example, this extra effort could be simply volunteering to take on more challenging — or less popular — tasks. Also, try and anticipate what your boss or the company might need... before they do.
"'I've actually already started on that' is music to your manager's ears — it means that instead of waiting for him or her to ask you to do something, you’ve already thought of it and taken action," career finder and guidance site the Muse suggests.
And if you think anticipating is too difficult or not possible in your line of work, straight-up ask your colleagues and managers what you can do for them or take off their plate. Even if it means staying an extra hour at work now and then, it could be worth it come negotiation time. You'll seem like a really committed employee worth investing in.
3. Find a mentor to give you feedback
Having a mentor can really pay off: An employee with a mentor at work is five times more likely to get a pay raise or a promotion than an employee without a mentor, research and consulting company Gartner found in their study of Sun Microsystems employees in 2006.
And it turns out that the person on the receiving end of guidance can win out, too. According to the study, mentors are six times more likely to be promoted than those who do not provide mentorship. Win-win!
Beyond helpful guidance and advice, the upside for a mentee is having someone more senior in the company advocating for you — which means they can give you exposure (or talk about what a great job you've been doing) in meetings with their managers.
When it comes to guidance, it's a good idea to establish a foundation with your mentor before getting to the bigger asks — so start with relatively small questions to build up your relationship. You could, for example, ask for advice on how to execute a project or deal with a problem. Get into a groove.
"Once you've gotten to know each other better, share your goals and ask them how they think you should meet them," CBS' Money Watch advises, based on an interview with career strategist Adele Sheele, PhD.
4. Do the math, quantify your contributions
Make a spreadsheet of your contributions and successfully completed projects. If you work in a role like sales — where your contributions are quantifiable — include exactly how much money you've made the company in order to literally show your value.
If your accomplishments are not as easily quantifiable? Go for qualitative accomplishments instead, which can have enormous value.
These can include working in high-pressure situations, showing initiative, taking on those tasks you either anticipated or volunteered for and performing well under difficult or challenging conditions, LinkedIn says of how to quantify accomplishments on your resume.
"Demonstrate how you were successful in these situations," LinkedIn explains. "Competing in today's job market is challenging and demands you to stand out from the rest."
Once you've compiled that list, go one step further.
"If you believe that you are inappropriately titled, put together a list of what you do and compare it to similar, more senior roles at other companies," Tahira Rehmatullah, an executive consultant to startups, said in a phone interview. "Compare responsibilities against companies that your company respects, aspires to be or competes with."
If you want to be extra aggressive, you can dig around to find out the compensation for these roles, she said, using a combination of resources such as Glassdoor, talking to people in said roles and calling up recruiters.
5. Ask for a performance review
Communication is crucial — especially with your manager. "Be more vocal about getting reviews, even when it's informal," Rehmatullah said.
"Do a monthly check in: They're more important than formal quarterly reviews, which is an antiquated system," she added. "That's not how it works anymore, so it's good to be getting feedback in real time. By doing that, the conversation [about your role] will come up in a more timely manner — if that manager is in support of you — it will come up in accordance with your achievements and successes."
Rehmatullah explained one way to make the most of check-ins with your manager — just like you'd do with a mentor — to explain to them where you want to go and then ask them how to get there.
Ask them for specific steps you need to take to get to the next level: You can even lay out a plan with them. That will make it harder for your manager to deny a title or compensation raise when you complete the demands laid out. It'll prove you've earned it.
Side note: It's not just about communicating regularly, but communicating in a style that is favorable to your boss'.
"Equally important to understanding what your manager is focused on is understanding his or her preferred method of communication and decision-making process," Jo Miller, founding editor of Be Leaderly and CEO and founder of Women’s Leadership Coaching, Inc., wrote in the Muse.
If you've already had the conversation about what you need to do to ascend the organizational ladder, present that impressive spreadsheet quantifying your contributions and possibly that second one documenting all the ways in which you've gone beyond what your role asks of you.
But a pro tip is to save one or two juicy examples to use if you get pushback from your manager ... generally good to have something up your sleeve. And remember to be grounded and humble, too: "... there's nothing so becomes a man as modest stillness and humility," as Shakespeare suggested in Henry V.
Finally, remember that it's just as important for you to lay out your weaknesses and areas where you couldn't or didn't meet expectations. Look at your calendar or "to do" list and examine what you regularly spend time on and what you avoid, Fast Company notes. Ask yourself why you're avoiding certain tasks — it could reveal areas your struggling with.
You might also find clues in less obvious places. Think back to jokes about you in the company, Fast Company also suggests. Not necessarily mean-spirited ones, but silly things your friend-colleagues may have said about how cluttered or messy your desk is might show you should work on organizational skills.
If you're aware of where you need to improve, it makes your growth trajectory more realistic and, if you include it in those regular reviews with your manager, it will likely impress them. What's more, you could ask them — or a mentor — how to work on those weaknesses. Responding to such feedback can be one of the most impactful ways to improve your performance.
Now you're equipped with an action plan, it's just a matter of execution. If you're thirsty enough, it will be hard not to advance the ranks.
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