If you like your company, but want a more senior role and more money, it’s natural to look for ways to advance without leaving your employer. However, getting accolades from your boss may not be enough to move up the ranks. Therefore, it’s time to put together a strategy to help make your next career move a big one, both professionally and personally.
Many younger professionals in today’s workforce have struggled to advance within the last few years, says John Beeson, principal of Beeson Consulting, a New York-based firm specializing in succession planning and executive coaching. One key challenge is that promotion rates in most industries have slowed significantly since the recession that began in 2008, according to Beeson, author of The Unwritten Rules: The Six Skills You Need to Get Promoted to the Executive Level.
For employers, promoting from within typically is the best choice, says Matthew Bidwell, assistant professor of management at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. His research finds that external hires typically are paid 18 percent to 20 percent more than an internal candidate moving into a similar position, yet the internal workers had better performance reviews overall for their next two years.
Fortunately, employees can make the jump to a bigger job—without threatening to leave—by seeking meaningful feedback and asking for opportunities to demonstrate leadership. Here are a few steps that can put you on a faster track to being promoted and earning a raise.
1. Schedule career conversations
Start by asking your manager for candid feedback on your strengths and development needs, Beeson says. In the following weeks, set up similar discussions with other managers you’ve worked with. End each conversation by asking the manager: “What one or two things would most build your confidence in my ability to succeed at a higher level in the company?”
2. Ask for more responsibility
Use the feedback from these discussions as the first step in working with your manager to identify and build your skills in those areas most critical to moving ahead, Beeson says. You might ask to be on a committee where you can work with people in other departments, or head a team that researches market conditions or develops a new strategy.
“A lot of managers say the easiest promotion decisions are the ones where people are already doing the higher-level job,” by seeking such leadership roles, Bidwell adds.
3. Interview like an outsider
Companies frequently interview internal candidates for promotions, and it’s important to prepare for these meetings as carefully as you would for a job at a new firm. Anticipate the challenges a person in the senior role would face, and come equipped with examples of how you have dealt with similar obstacles in your career, Beeson says.
4. Seek salary details
As Bidwell’s research showed, it can be tougher for internal candidates to negotiate a salary bump, but they still have some leverage. In larger organizations, Beeson says you should ask where the new position ranks in terms of pay structure, and learn where your salary would fall within those parameters. “If they’re bringing you in low in the range, you may have some flexibility to try to move the initial salary up,” he says.
If a manager can’t or won’t budge, it’s reasonable to ask whether a six-month review would be possible, assuming strong performance in the new job, Beeson suggests. Companies also might be willing to accelerate a merit increase or to consider another form of compensation, such as a bonus.
How employees handle the promotion process matters just as much as the skills they demonstrate. “Companies look for professional maturity when they make promotion decisions,” Beeson says. Maintaining composure under stress and showing the ability to handle confidential information professionally will go a long way toward reassuring managers that you are the best person to take on greater responsibilities.