Thursday, October 1, 2009

Helping your Boss Help You

The recent NY Times Career Couch column The Promotion That Got Away deals with how to deal with the disappointment of being passed over for a promotion. While in today's job market, people overall are more focused on getting or keeping a job than angling for promotions, but losing out an an expected advancement - either in title or in salary - can certainly sting. The main takeaway from this article is learn to temper your emotions around this event - it's important not to express bitterness or resentment towards your boss or coworkers. Instead, allow time to process your feelings, and if you are still feeling slighted, wait a few days before attempting to talk to your boss about it. When you do talk with your boss about the promotion, ask her productive questions, such as what could you do in the future in order to be considered for a higher-level role? The article points out that your boss will likely feel a bit uncomfortable in this conversation - it's important not to put her on the defensive, but instead work with her to find out you can do to improve your value.

This brings up another topic that I think about frequently - how to empower your boss to be an advocate for you. What does this mean? It means that your boss may in fact want you to have a raise, a promotion,  a better title, to work fewer hours, to get an assistant, etc. But you will never know if you don't ask, and when you ask, you need to be prepared to give concrete reasons why you deserve these things.  The key is to concentrate on accomplishments - not just what you do (eg: work many hours) but what you get done (eg: deliver multiple high-profile projects, handle the biggest caseload in the office, bring in the most bacon). In a lot of situations, it's productive to view your boss as a member of your team - one that needs to be provided with the necessary rationale to be an advocate on your behalf.

With many people's annual reviews coming up, this is a good thing to keep in mind. Many people view the annual review as a meeting in which to receive criticism and accolades. A better approach is to view it as a touchpoint with your supervisor to let him know what you've accomplished this year (or period, if it's a periodic review), and to find out from him where you can do better. It's a good rule of thumb to be prepared by keeping a running list of achievements throughout the year, and be sure to have examples from the current quarter, as those will have the most resonance. If you don't have this running list (and don't worry, most people don't), sit down before your review and take some time to create this list for yourself. You can use this list of accomplishments not only for your review, but also to add to your resume and your LinkedIn profile.

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