There’s no denying that most of us would like to get ahead in the workplace, whether that means promotion, a pay raise, better benefits, or some combination of all of the above. It might even mean something else entirely for you, like a more flexible schedule so you can accommodate family needs.
However you define getting ahead at work, you need to speak up: workers often don’t for fear of looking too assertive, and women in particular tend to take what they’re given without complaint. At the same time, you don’t want to be overly pushy. You need to know how a smart girl gets ahead at work: what questions she asks, when she makes her requests, and how she handles rejection.
Laying the groundwork
Don’t fool yourself: a smart girl doesn’t assume she deserves anything. No boss will be receptive to a request from a worker they feel to be subpar, so it’s important to make sure you’re giving 110 percent every day. However, many workers don’t realize the importance of doing a little extra on the small tasks as well as the big ones.
What that means: when you’re asked to unjam the copier for the hundredth time, do it with a smile. You might just become the best copier un-jammer in your office, and your coworkers will appreciate you for it. Which brings us to point two: give credit where credit is due. It can be tough to feel overlooked when you’re giving your all and a coworker get noticed instead, but don’t ever make a grab for credit by overstating your contribution to a project (or, worse, stealing an idea!). Whether you know it or not, people notice if you “piggyback” your way to the top and this can come back to haunt you.
Making your move
A smart girl schedules a meeting at her boss’ convenience, preferably for a time of the week/month when she knows her boss will be less stressed and more open to listening to a request. Don’t open up the review by making a demand; instead, explain that you’ve been with the company or in your current position for X number of years and you feel you’re ready for more responsibility or that you feel you’re worth more than what you’re currently being paid.
Now is the time to briefly outline the “why” of your request; keep this to a concise sixty second pitch that lists several of your shining moments with the company or the strengths that make you a valuable asset. Don’t brag, but don’t be too modest, either. Don’t wrap up with a demand, though; wait to see what your boss says.
If she’s open to hearing more, wait to see what she offers, rather than pitch something too low or too high. For example, if she agrees that you’re valuable to the company and offers you a pay raise of a certain amount, you can agree or very cautiously ask for more. If you’re asking for something less tangible like more flexible scheduling wait for her to ask exactly what you have in mind, then outline your idea in a non-pushy way. Make it clear that just as you’re asking her to be flexible with you, you’re also willing to negotiate and meet her halfway.
Dealing with “no”
Even smart girls hear “no”, they just handle it differently. A smart girl knows that “no” doesn’t always mean a failure on her part; sometimes it’s just not the right time for the boss to accommodate her request, or there’s another outside factor. In any case, a smart girl always takes “no” graciously and accepts any feedback her boss has to offer. If her boss has suggestions on ways to improve her performance, she always takes them to heart.
Remember, just because your boss wasn’t receptive to your request today doesn’t mean you can’t try again in six months or a year. Keep your head up, smile, be courteous, and take rejection as a chance to improve and reshape your case for next time.
And if you’ve been stuck in an endless cycle of “no” for several years? It’s time to skip to plan B and explore other options. Research your field, consider other offers, then go back to your boss to explain that you feel you’d be given a better package in another position at another company and you’d like her to consider giving you a raise/promotion/other accommodation. If she still turns you down, it may be time to move on.