Personal Finance
Promote yourself at work
February 15, 2000: 6:15 a.m. ET

Stay cool and cite accomplishments to nail down that better job you want
By Staff Writer Rob Lenihan
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NEW YORK (CNNfn) - You want that promotion. You know you deserve it. Now you have to ask for it.
    While it has been said "ask and you shall receive," if you really want to score a promotion in today's marketplace, what you receive from your company may depend a lot on how you ask.
    Experts say you have to present yourself intelligently, and -- if you get a thumbs down -- handle rejections gracefully. Opt for temper tantrums and bellyaching and you may wake up one day taking orders from the mailroom guy.
    "The competition for promotions is more intense today than ever before," said Harry E. Chambers, author of "Getting Promoted" and president of Trinity Solutions Inc. in Atlanta. "Productivity is increasing and organizations are flattening their hierarchy, so more talented people are competing for less promotable jobs."
Long-term strategy

    Chambers said that if you plan on becoming a supervisor, you have to watch your behavior with your peers. If you're going to be their boss tomorrow, that means no drunken carousing tonight. Ditto for the strip clubs and similar forms of questionable activity. If you must indulge, do so on your own.
    "You've got to be sure you don't do anything that will compromise your leadership position later on," he said.
    Chambers also has a list of attitudes he calls "promotional viruses," the kind of lines that can sink your plans for advancement before you've even had a chance to ask. These include:
  • "I wasn't hired to do that."
  • "When you start paying me more, I'll start working more."
  • "You didn't ask me, so I didn't tell you."
  • "I told you so."

    Do all your shopping on the office computer? Drop kick your wastepaper basket every time someone says "hello"? Or maybe you're the sort who gathers up every bit of personal grief in your psychic wheelbarrow and dumps it in the office. If you want to kill your chances for advancement, keep it up.
Scout's honor

    The Boy Scouts have a motto that serious career people should commit to memory: Be prepared. That's something to keep in mind when you ask your boss for a promotion.
    "You've got to come in with a strong case as to how and what you've done to merit the promotion," said Laura Berman Fortgang, author of "Take Yourself to the Top," and president of Montclair, N.J.-based InterCoach Inc. "Be able to document it somehow. Point to accomplishments, goals reached in record time if there were any."
    Rehearse your approach, particularly if you're not accustomed to asking for what you want. Speak slowly and take deep breaths so that you can say everything you have to say.

    Mildred Culp, author of the WorkWise column for Universal Press Syndicate, suggests you take an inventory of your work at the company and feel free to call colleagues, friends and anyone else who will give you constructive responses.
    "Ask yourself, what is the main thing you do that keeps you on the payroll?" she said. "If you're looking for a promotion and you haven't thought it through, you may not get what you want."
    And be aware that timing really is everything. If you've just made a huge sale or scored some big account, ride the wave of positive energy and ask for that promotion.
    However, if your company's into its busy season and your boss is running around the office ranting and raving, you may want to come back some other time.
Keep it cool

    Once you get your goal straight in your mind, work on your approach. Your reason for the promotion should not be driven by desperation.
    "It can never come from need," Fortgang said. "Humans smell neediness on each other and they run the other way. People want you when they think they can't have you."
    Swaggering into your boss's office and saying you want the promotion because you're entitled to it is not a winning strategy, either. This may come as a surprise, but just about everyone at a job feels they're entitled to something. So don't go drawing a line in the sand.
    "This should not be about threats or ultimatums, unless you're willing to do that," Fortgang said.
    Chambers added that you can make your feelings known about your future during your performance evaluation. Tell your supervisor your goal is to get promoted and ask what you have to do to get there.
    "Instead of being demanding and perhaps becoming adversarial," he said, "you want to be collaborative. Every quarter I would send you a one-page letter with goals for the year -- here I am, here's what I've done."
    While it may sound like a clichť, keeping it real is also good advice. Be yourself when making your request because that's the person they hired in the first place -- you.
    "If you're presentation is bombastic and you're not," Culp said, "they'll be a real disconnect. Just be yourself. The more humor in your campaign, the better."
    And don't try to butter your way into the corner office. People will see right through flattery and gifts, and they will resent it.
    There is a good chance you will be turned down for a promotion at least once during your career. How you react to the rejection will go a long way toward determining if you will succeed the next time around.
    Stay calm. Refrain from making unkind remarks about your supervisor's personal habits or genealogy.
    "You can say, 'Wow, that really disappoints me,'" Fortgang said. "But don't lose it."
    "If you start a negative diatribe you won't be considered again," Chambers said. "You have to be very careful. Don't spread any poison. You don't want to say anything that could come back to you. Take a few days off if you have to. You may have to vent, but don't do it at work."
    Culp said "no" in business often means "try again later." However, if you want to put your boss on the spot, do it with your eyeballs, not your mouth.
    "Look the person straight in the eye and say 'I'm disappointed,'" Culp said. "Then keep your mouth shut and let the other person speak. Make that person feel uncomfortable."
    Above all, don't let things crash and burn here. Ask your boss what he or she would want you to do so that you can nail that promotion in the future.
    "Never leave the room without another date to talk about it," Fortgang said. "If you leave with nothing, it's going to be even more terrifying the next time." Back to top


When it's time to quit - Jan. 28, 2000

Fattening your paycheck - Oct. 13, 1999




Trinity Solutions

Universal Press Syndicate

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