Show Me the Money. . .And Promotion

Q.  I just completed my first year at my current agency and nothing has been said about a promotion from entry-level where I started (after two internships elsewhere).  I like what I’m doing, but need a promotion for both financial and psychological reasons. When should I expect to hear or how do I ask about a promotion?  –EB

A.  Most agencies have a formula for the timing of promotions, so do a little homework before making your case for a raise or promotion.  There are many online resources that help you organize your raise/promotion game plan.   If you’re working on client projects that are growing and you have received positive feedback from your supervisors, a promotion from entry level (i.e. account coordinator) to the next level (i.e. assistant account executive) normally might be expected between a year and 18 months after your full-time start date.  Most entry-level promotions come near the one year mark, according to my HR friends.  They also explain that promotions sometimes are postponed when an organization isn’t’ performing well, so be sure to understand the financial health of your agency.

If you suspect something might be holding up a promotion, ask your supervisor for a moment to discuss how you’re doing.  It is amazing how few people ever seek out that sort of discussion with the boss.  Don’t be so bold as to ask when you’re going to be promoted.  Instead, let him/her know how you enjoy your work and appreciate this  opportunity to get feedback.  Often during this discussion, you’ll receive insights about your future.  If not, diplomatically ask when you might anticipate being promoted.

Before your meeting, prepare a list of your accomplishments over the past year, extra effort moments and agency activities you helped lead.  Supervisors are busy people and sometimes need to be reminded what their team members have accomplished.  These notes will help them build the case for your promotion.  Avoid comparing yourselves to others who might have been promoted sooner.  Your supervisor may have had nothing to do with the promotion of others, but he/she should be your biggest advocate.

There is little negotiating room for a raise above agency guidelines since most firms have budgeted for raises during their annual plan process, However, there is no harm in stating your case for more than your agency’s customary entry-level promotion raise, especially if you have done a great job.  Time such discussions after completion of a successful performance review. Don’t bother asking about money if the prior conversation wasn’t positive.  Instead, determine what you need to do to be considered for a promotion and ask what time frame might be involved.  Keep a positive attitude no matter what direction the conversation takes.  Good luck.


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