Do You Ask for What You Want at Work – Or Settle for What You Have?

Apr 25, 2013 by

iVillage, Inc., a media company that focuses on women-related issues, recently released findings from its 2013 Career Week Survey.  The majority of the 1,500 women who participated in the Survey indicated that they are hesitant to ask for more money, training or career advancement. Specifically, only 19% of the respondents have ever asked for a promotion and only 35% have ever asked for a raise.[1]

As a Communications Coach, who works with women to enhance their communication and presentation skills, I’m not surprised by the Survey’s findings.  Many women have difficulty asking for what they want when it comes to their careers.  They fail to recognize the contributions they make to an organization or to assess their professional worth.

Here are some practical steps you can take to make it easier to ask for what you want:

1. Assess What You Are Worth to the Organization

Before you ask for a raise take a look at what you currently do for the organization.

  • How does your position support the goals of the organization?
  • How do your responsibilities support the boss’s objectives?
  • Know the difference between job responsibilities and career accomplishments.   For example –

Responsibility:  Develop national communication plans to promote healthy nutrition in local schools.

Accomplishment:  Increased school participation in the “Eat Healthy” Program by 75% as a result of targeted communication planning

  • Identify your responsibilities and then carefully link your outstanding accomplishments to the responsibilities.
  • Promotions are determined as a result of your proven accomplishments – not on a list of your daily responsibilities.
  • Distinguish between responsibilities and accomplishments.  This is the first step in assessing your professional worth and realizing what you contribute to the success of the organization.

Once you have assessed your worth you will want to prepare for a meeting with the boss to discuss your career advancement.

2. Prepare for the Meeting

Develop talking points to support your request for career advancement and use them to prepare for your conversation with your supervisor.

  • Review your current job responsibilities.
  • Identify your accomplishments.
  • Use clear concise sentences with strong action verbs when developing your talking points.
  • Show how your successes (large and small) link directly to the organization’s objectives and goals.
  • Be specific – the more you can measure and document – the stronger your justification for a promotion.
  • If you have exceeded the organization’s expectations and delivered a project ahead of deadline – highlight this effort and describe what you did to accomplish it.
  • Mention projects or assignments you volunteered to lead and manage.
  • Explain how you formed partnerships across the organization to work collaboratively on a project.
  • You have contributed to the success of the organization.  Don’t be afraid to let your boss know what you have accomplished!

Once you have identified your accomplishments and documented them with facts and figures you will want to practice how you will ask for your promotion or increase in salary.

3. Practice! Practice! Practice!

Make it easier to discuss your career advancement goals by practicing what you will say when you ask for a raise.

  • Perform a role-playing exercise with a friend or Coach and practice asking for a raise, a new position, or job-related training.
  •  Use your list of accomplishments to demonstrate your value to the organization.
  • Identify how your accomplishments support the objectives of the organization.
  • Have your role-playing partner ask you some difficult questions so you can develop appropriate responses.
  • Role-play a scenario where the boss does not respond positively to your request for a raise.  Practice asking for a follow-up meeting to discuss your career advancement at a future date.
  • If you have access to a video camera, tape the role-playing sessions and critique your responses.

Now it’s time to focus on your presentation skills and the impression you will make on your boss when you ask her for what you want.

4. It’s What you Say and How you Say It

You want to appear confident and make an excellent impression when you ask for what your want.  Pay attention to your non-verbal cues.  Your body language should reinforce what you say and project a strong, confident image.

  • Dress.  Many organizations dress very informally today and you should dress appropriately for the culture of your organization.  But when meeting with the boss to ask for a raise or a promotion, the old adage — “dress for the position you want, not the one you have” — still rings true.  You can’t go wrong with a well-tailored suit, a scarf or pin, and a pair of pumps!
  • Eye contact.  Establish eye contact – no staring or glaring – just eye contact throughout the meeting.
  • Posture.   No slouching – walk with a purpose as you enter the boss’s office.  Sit tall and lean slightly forward while you talk with the boss and describe why your request has merit.
  • Breathe.  Breathe from the belly to produce a resonant and pleasant voice throughout the discussion.
  • Appearance.  It’s back to the basics — clean hair, well-manicured nails, polished shoes.
  • Attitude.  Check any negativity or frustration at the door. You may believe you deserve a raise or a promotion – and feel irritated because you might have been overlooked.  But displaying anything other than a professional attitude during the meeting will not benefit you or your career goals.
  • Etiquette.  Manners count.  At the completion of the interview, remember to say thank you for the meeting and for considering you for the new position or raise.  Follow-up with a thank you note – or email.

Tape these role-playing sessions and evaluate your presentation strengths and weaknesses.

 Congratulations.  You Did It!

You met with the boss and asked for what your wanted.  You identified your achievements and documented why you thought you merited a promotion or a raise.  You presented your request confidently and ensured that your non-verbal cues supported your well-chosen words.  You remembered your manners and took the time to send a note to the boss thanking her for meeting with you.  And most important — you found the courage to ask for something you wanted.

However, don’t be discouraged if your request didn’t produce the results you wanted. Sometimes the organization cannot respond immediately to what you want.    But by identifying your contributions to the organization, practicing your assertive communication skills, and finding the courage to ask for what you want – you have made your boss aware of you and your career goals.  Ask when you can meet again to discuss your promotion.  Don’t give up.  Persevere and continue to ask for what you want.   It’s up to you to keep the conversation going!

   “No one knows what he can do till he tries.”

Publilius Syrus


[1] The iVillage 2013 Career Week Survey Results,, April 8, 2013

Related Posts


Share This