My advice as an HR Professional:  Own your career.

Companies/Managers don’t sit around thinking about you, your career, your pay, and your job fit (very much).  After all, they are trying to run a business!

You are the most knowledgeable person at your company about how to manage/reward you.  Share that information with them.  Help them help you.  That isn’t being difficult; that’s being helpful. Own that conversation.

Make your expectations clear.

If you want a promotion, say it (tactfully).  If you want a raise, say how much and why.

The company then has two options (both of which are a positive for you).  a) they can meet your expectations (which is only possible because you explicitly stated them; otherwise the company moves forward with an absence of information, which leaves them guessing). or b) they can explain to you why they did not meet your expectations (which would presumably include a conversation of “how you can get there from here”), which allows you a path forward.

If you think it is “too forward” to ask for what you want explicitly, you likely do not understand a) your value as an employee and/or b) that you are actually helping your employer (why should you be hesitant about helping?).

Your company IS NOT doing you a favor by “giving” you a job.

They don’t “give” it to you.  You are presumably doing something for them that is very useful (otherwise why would they give you money?).  Recognize your value.

Develop unique skills.

If “anyone” could do your job, then at some point they might.

However, just because other people could do your job, they are not.  You are doing it and that is valuable.  Your unique skill might be as simple as “I have very good relationships with a lot of people around here.”.  Think of ways to position yourself uniquely.

Don’t let a company/manager promise you something in the future.

A company/manager cannot promise something in the future, even if they would like to…because business reality changes.  They likely fully intend to do what they have said (e.g. promotion, pay raise); it is just that factors outside their control may change the situation.  That is the reality of business promises.

Get the promise in writing if it is a substantive promise.  If this is not possible (which it may not be), do not weight the promise fully, as they can’t necessarily deliver on their promise even if they would like to.

Understand that you may have to leave.

While you are being helpful by telling them what you want, they will not always be able to help (for whatever reason) and so you must be prepared for what happens if they don’t value you as highly as you would like.  This situation happens and is fine; be prepared to start looking for a job.  (If you are often leaving employers due to differences of opinion of your value/readiness…you might consider which party is more likely correct.)

It is helpful to keep your resume up to date and keep up your network.  For most folks good at their job, a good network comes naturally.

My first inclination is always to stay at my current employer and work it out.  Give them an opportunity to make it right.

Don’t threaten your employer.  Don’t discuss your career if you are currently upset.

Remember, you are trying to help them retain and manage you.

The difference between “I am having a lot of recruiters call me to offer 20 – 30% more than I am currently making.  It is becoming distracting.  Can we re-evaluate where I am versus market pay for my role?  I’d really like to make a commitment to staying here.”  and “You aren’t paying me enough.  I need a raise.” is largely word choice and whether you have a smile on your face when you say it.

Framing matters; choose your words in a way that focuses on helping them help you.

Bottom line:  Far too many people are recipients of their career.  They think they will work hard and be rewarded.  That isn’t wholly false, but it isn’t exactly true either.

Own your career.  Ask explicitly.

One Response to “Own your career. Ask explicitly.”
  1. Russ says:

    I agree. I think a lot of good employees don’t understand their true value, and plenty of bad ones overestimate theirs. I never used to fully understand my value, but when I asked for what I wanted, it was immediately given to me. You nailed it when you said employers aren’t “giving” people jobs. Both employers and employees often misunderstand this. A good work relationship goes both ways, with the employee (hopefully) providing their worth, and the employer (hopefully) paying for that value. I’ve also learned that employees are often in the driver’s seat of the relationship, though they usually don’t recognize this. Most employers would rather keep a good, or even decent, employee rather than the headache of finding someone to fill the spot. Good article as usual. -Russ

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