Advancing Your Career!
Evaluating your vocation
The first preparation step in getting a raise is to assess where you are in your career, and where you are headed. In my consulting and coaching practice, I meet a lot of accomplished, talented people. They got their BA, dove into their first jobs, maybe collected a Masters or an MBA along the way, and perhaps they also added a certification or two, and how about a family while we are at it. By the time they reach me, they are often exhausted and frustrated about losing track of their goals and aspirations, and no longer sure about their self-worth, let alone their market worth.
So, no matter where you are in your career, it is imperative to take a reflective pause from time to time, and reacquaint yourself with you; your values, your goals, and your strengths, skills, and accomplishments.
Understanding and owning your strengths gives you the raw material for completing performance reviews and answering job interview questions like, “Tell me about a sticky situation or challenge “and what you did to resolve it.” Or, “Why should we hire you?” To answer those questions with clarity, I am going to give you the highlights of an exercise called Looking Back to Move Forward, so you can begin to strategise your future.
Here is the first set of questions you need to answer. What did you accomplish in the past couple of years professionally and personally? What are the major accomplishments of your life from college forward? Take your time with those questions, and include everything that defines you, adventures, awards, certifications, go deep. Take one pass and set it down, and then come back to it later and add things as you think of them.
Now, look at your answers and let us mine them for the next set of questions. What values do your accomplishments reveal? Things like excellence, learning, resilience, and contribution. Next, what are the repeating themes? Do you consistently build great teams? Exceed sales targets? Are you one of those people who can translate complex information into readable prose? See if you can find a pattern. Whatever it is, own it, and write it down.
Now you want to ask what do your accomplishments and your results reveal as your most consistent strengths? If you build great teams, maybe your strength is collaboration. If you exceed sales targets, maybe your strength is relationship building or negotiation. Alright, you now have some pretty important Intel on yourself. Taking everything into account, here are two final questions to get you pointed forward. What are your immediate career goals, say in the next year or two? And, what are your long-term goals, say five, or maybe even 10, years from now?
These questions are designed to help you sit at the negotiation table with confidence and clarity. So, let us move on to the next step in your strategic planning process, crafting career narratives or stories that frame your value.
Fashioning your story
When a hiring manager or your boss asks you one of those standard questions like, “What do you think your best accomplishment this year was?” You don’t want to stumble around and improvise, or worse simply give a just-the-facts kind of answer. You want to make an impression, and you want to do it in a way that doesn’t come across as bragging. When you analyse your results and accomplishments, you will find that there is a story behind everyone. A story with a cast of characters and a few plot twists. A story that shows not just what you did, but how you did it. Let me give you an example from my career. I was working at a PR firm during a recession, and layoffs meant we went from a team of 10 to a team of five. We had three new business presentations to get ready for, and we were all slammed and disorganized, working 12 hour days, and always arguing about how to handle certain tasks. One morning I asked everybody to join me in the conference room, to write each of their main tasks and job responsibilities on a Post-it note.
We then did the same thing for all the team members who were laid off. Then I asked everybody to pick the top three tasks they knew matched their skills and strengths, regardless if it was part of somebody else’s job description. We took another pass at it, and chose things that would be a stretch, a learning opportunity. What we came away with was a complete reorganization of the team, and a plan for handling new client presentations, and a shortlist of where our team would need support.
The net result was that we succeeded in getting new business, hitting our targets, and developing a repeatable process. As you can imagine, my boss was thrilled with the outcome of our work together, but the bigger point here is that I have used that story countless times, in job interviews, in networking, and right now, for you. But imagine, if I had given just-the-facts answer instead, “I worked in a PR firm where I reorganized our team “after some round of layoffs and we still hit our targets.” It is a perfectly fine answer, but it is not as relateable and memorable as a story is, and it doesn’t answer the main question, how.
And really, the most important uses of story are in your at-the-table conversation to support your request, and when you encounter resistance or pushback. A story can often help pull you up out of the weeds. So, now it is your turn. To help you craft your stories, let us break things down. The classic story arc is made up of four elements. First is the opening scene or presenting challenge. In my story, this was the three new business presentations, and an understaffed and completely disorganized team.
Next, is crisis and drama: From my example that would be working 12 hour days and arguing about how to handle things. The third element is climax. That was the moment we all headed into the conference room to try and solve the problem.
Finally, we have resolution, and presenting the strategy to our boss. Now to help you craft your stories, look at the exercise files for this chapter. Now plot them out and practice them until you have them down cold. Ideally, you should be able to tell this story in, say two minutes or less. And then the next time you happen to be riding the elevator with a CEO, you will have a story ready to share.
Assembly your support system
It does not matter if you are just starting out in your career or well into it; we all have a need to lean on our support system from time to time to accomplish our goals and aspirations. I like to call this your Influence Posse. Your Influence Posse is your internal and external networks. These are people who know you and know your work, people that you have a connection with and shared support. So, before you start any negotiation for salary, you need to identify well in advance who the decision makers are, and who will be most influential in helping you get that raise.
So, let us look at your Internal Influencers. Who are these people? Well, they are colleagues and co-workers, your boss or manager, senior executives, leaders and high performers, and mentors and sponsors, people who can open doors for you. Your External Influencers are people like friends and former colleagues, top performers in your field, and people in professional associations you belong to or people you volunteer with.
Ideally, you would create an influence plan well in advance of your asking, and work on your plan throughout the year. To help you create the influence plan, I have several focusing questions for you. Given your immediate career goals, what relationships do you need to put on your radar immediately? Let us get a little bit more specific. Who have you done great work for, or who have you done a favour for? Who can speak highly of you and recommend you? Who can you go to for confidential, in-the-vault advice? And finally, who are the decision makers, people with power? Now, considering your long-term goals, what relationships do you need to cultivate and what resources and learning do you need to get there? Let us say your goal is to move from Senior Designer to Creative Director in five years.
This kind of a move hinges not only on great work, but also on great relationships. And that means networking within and outside your workplace. You are managing your reputation, your personal brand. And what that looks like is making quick phone calls to connect with an influencer, say in marketing, attending conferences to up your knowledge and skills, and having lunch with a colleague from another company who is doing what you want to be doing; and, taking on stretch assignments to develop your potential.
Now, it is not all one-sided, you need to be thinking about how you can reciprocate and be of value to the people you are asking for support. Give a little, get a little. I want to pause right here to say that my clients often tell me this process makes them uncomfortable, they feel like they are using people to get ahead, being too competitive or self-serving. To that, I say, “Consider this your edge, “a stretch assignment, be yourself.
“Be valuable to others and give as good as you get.” Remember, both your career objectives and your compensation goals hinge on your authentic and consistent connection with the people in your influence plan. So, circle back and make sure all the right people are on your radar, and work them into your influence plan. You might be thinking, “Who has time for all this?” My answer is, “You do.” You must make time because your livelihood and continuing employment depend on it.
So, find five minutes every week for an e-mail or 15 minutes for a conversation, an hour for lunch once a month, or maybe an evening at a networking event. Plan it, reach out, and put it in your calendar. So, let us make sure all the dots connect. You have assessed your career for accomplishments, results, and strengths, and used that information to craft your stories, and now you have an influence plan to help you put your short and long-term goals in action. It is time to research your market value.
Researching your market value
The next preparation step in getting the compensation package you deserve, is researching your market value. But let us take a minute to define market and market value, and where your personal value figures into the equation. Your market is your employer, and the general industry your company belongs to. For example, if you are an engineer in a green energy company, your market is the company and say, the electric car industry. Your market value is determined by your company’s position in the market, how well they are doing, and what competitors are paying for people like you.
And then there is you, the personal part of your market value. You are a store of value, and the shelves in your store are stocked full with your education, degrees, and certifications, and your experience, accomplishments, and results. And that is not all when it comes to Brand You, you have a reputational value as well, that you have been building over time with your network, your influence posse. So, let us say you are a UX designer with a reputation for creating simple and elegant customer experiences.
And let us also say you have spoken on panels, or delivered talks at industry conferences on usability trends. Or maybe you have conducted workshops for your company that have increased cross-departmental collaboration. That is your reputational value, and a huge piece of Brand You. So, your market value is the combination of internal and external factors, along with Brand You. And what all this means, is that your employer should make you an offer based not only on what you have delivered in the past, but also on the future benefits you can be counted on to bring to the company.
Now what you might have noticed is that your market value has nothing to do with what you personally need to survive or pay the bills. It is the value of your services in the hands of your employer. And to make sure you are not leaving money on the table, you must research. Step one in your research involves visiting salary websites. These are sites like salary.com, payscale.com, glassdoor.com, and the Bureau of Labour Statistics.
Now, salary sites are all a little different, but in general you will be able to enter information like your industry, job title, and years’ experience, which will produce a targeted salary range for the position you are researching. Step two in your research is to connect with people in your external influence posse, who hold similar jobs as you, and ask them to share their salary information. Now be careful here, you want to focus on people who are doing well in their field and working in companies that are comparable to yours.
And, if you are a woman, just be aware that the wage gap is still alive and kicking, and many women are being paid 10 to 30% less than their male peers. Step three is to consider contacting a recruiter. An industry-specific recruiter can quickly assess your experience and give you a range for a given role. A recruiter can also give you an idea about what other forms of compensation are typical in your industry, like bonuses, and profit sharing.
Establishing a relationship with a recruiter may also help you move out and up in your career, by landing an outside offer that you can either accept, or use as leverage with your current employer.
So, I want you to think about where you are now. You have credible salary data to support your request, you have a list of results that have saved or made your company money, you have influencers who are willing to speak on your behalf, and you have a story or two to tie it all together. The next step will be to be specific and prioritize all the items you plan to ask for.
From the Stable of Befitting Life