100 Days to Your Promotion

In today’s economy, you might be feeling lucky you even have a job—asking for a promotion could seem like tempting fate. “Better to sit tight,” you might be thinking. “Not make waves. Keep my head down.”

Possible. But Leonard Lee, Assistant Professor of Marketing at Columbia University, did a study showing that people given coupons before they enter the store will spend more money than people given coupons once they’re in the store.

Why? It seems if we are given the coupon once we are in the store, we are already in “search-and-destroy” mode– our goals are determined.

How does this apply to you—and your future promotion? Because if you want to influence your boss’ decision-making, the time to start is now– while he or she is still “outside the store” so to speak— well before he or she has made their plan for you.

Given this, here are 3 must do’s and 3 must don’ts to ensure you feel confident asking to move to the next level in the next 100 days.

Three Must-Do’s:

Dress the part
I’m sure you’ve heard “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” This idea is particularly important once you’ve set your promotion deadline because, while I have no doubt you are dressing appropriately for your current role, the position you want might require you to make some adjustments.
For example, perhaps your office has a policy of dress-down Fridays, and this is something you and your contemporary’s look forward to. That said, you’ve noticed senior management doesn’t take advantage of this.  Given that, I’d recommend you abandon Friday-casual, too. The visual reassurance that you have picked up on, and are willing to adhere to, this unspoken policy will go a long way toward their feeling confident you’re ready to become part of the team.

Speak up
One seemingly small, but vitally important, way to impress is by exhibiting ease in multiple situations. One of the quickest ways to have this ease recognized is by speaking up at every opportunity– not just during the weekly staff get-together.
For instance, perhaps you find yourself on the elevator with your CEO a few mornings a week. Rather than simply standing face-forward and observing the control panel, I recommend taking this chance to greet him or her. I’m not asking you to be effusive—a simple “Good morning,” coupled with a smile, is often as much as is needed—but I am asking you to speak up. This way when your boss goes in to discuss your raise with the CEO, he or she will have already begun to see you as part of the team.

Ask for it
For many of us, the idea of asking outright for what we want or deserve is extremely foreign. But asking for what you want is a must. Not doing so means you’ll be disgruntled, and no one wants an employee with a chip on his shoulder.
Given this, I recommend

  1. Making an explicit appointment to discuss your request
  2. Providing concrete examples of how you have contributed to the firm’s success
  3. Having a specific salary figure/title in mind

Most importantly, however, I recommend recognizing that, more often than not, “no” is just information– not a reflection on your value to the firm. In fact, it’s more likely a reflection on the history of the position, or the current balance sheet of the company.

Why is this important? Because making requests with this in mind will help you remain relaxed throughout the conversation. And when you’re at ease it’s easier to roll with the punches– to think strategically and convey confidence and humor, essential elements in the negotiation process.

Three Must-Don’ts:

Withhold praise/credit from co-workers
Sometimes we become so focused on presenting our best self that we forget to acknowledge the efforts of others. Alternatively, concern that pointing out others’ achievements means our own could be overlooked sometimes keeps us from expressing our thanks, or offering praise, for others’ work.

The trouble is that when we neglect to acknowledge others’ contributions, we send a message to those in charge that we’re not ready to be part of a team—and you don’t get to the executive level without understanding teamwork.
Consequently, during these 100 days, actively cultivate the habit of thanking others for their ideas and their work, and make a point of telling those in charge about their achievements.

Sometimes you contribute 110% and still have your efforts overlooked. When this happens, it can be difficult to accept gracefully. In fact, you might find yourself visibly or vocally disgruntled in the moment. Or, you might take this chance to log a few sick or personal days in order to recover.

The trouble with this is, your verbal temper tantrum might become the focus of the meeting; your virtual temper tantrum might become fodder for lunchtime gossip.

With this in mind, take care to vent your frustrations and resentments in such a way that there’s no chance of their harming your future. There’s truth to the saying: you may have lost the battle, but you can still win the war.

Ask for it
As you can see, asking for it is both a do and a don’t. The reason for this is that there are a lot of effective ways to make your request, and lots of ineffective ones, too. Here’s the flip side of the above– some things to avoid:

  1. Tagging your request onto another conversation– catching your boss off-guard won’t endear you to him or her.
  2. Making the request based on promotions/raises received by others at your level; i.e. “I know Bob just got X and I was wondering if I could, too.”
  3. Not having a specific number/title in mind. If you don’t know what you want, you could lowball yourself in the pressure of the moment.

Finally, failing to recognize that no is just information can keep you from thinking strategically, and strategy is crucial to negotiation. Given this–should ‘no’ be the first reaction you get– I strongly recommend asking if your terms can be revisited in another 100 days.

Frances Cole Jones

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