Pitch, Please! How to Ask for a Raise, a New Title, or a Promotion at Work

Entrepreneurs and business owners use pitch decks to help explain their business to potential investors to enable them to make the right decision (i.e. invest in their business). The art of the pitch doesn’t just apply to entrepreneurs looking to secure funding. As an employee, you too can use a pitch to outline your career goals, explain your value to the company, share the results you plan to achieve, and make your ask (i.e. more money, a new title, or a promotion at work). You’re asking your Executive and company to invest in you. Make your pitch so good that they can’t help but make the “right” decision.

Whether you are preparing for an annual performance review, planning to ask for a raise, or proposing that your company create a Chief of Staff role (and that you fill it), you can use the framework throughout this article to help you create the perfect pitch. It’s your career. No matter how supportive your Executive is, no matter how great your HR department is, or no matter what professional development your company offers, it is still up to you to manage and grow your career. As Dorit Sher said, “Your career is your business. It’s time to manage it as a CEO.”

But, before we skip to the good part, there are a few things to do to prepare for your career pitch meeting.

SET YOUR INTENTION BEFORE MAKING THE ASK

What is your intention for the meeting? Are you looking for a title change? A promotion? A raise? A new bonus structure? Additional training? More PTO? All of the above? Get clear on why you want and what you are willing to accept. You may not get everything that you ask for. But what are your non-negotiables? Perhaps you forgo that additional PTO request if you got the raise you were asking for. Maybe you would opt for a larger continuing education budget, rather than change your title. And maybe you aren’t willing to negotiate at all. You need to know that too so that you can enter the conversation with confidence and clear intentions.

SCHEDULE THE COMPENSATION CONVERSATION MEETING

I recommend you schedule at least one hour for this meeting, preferably at a time when you know your Executive isn’t going to be distracted, tired, or suffering from decision fatigue. Give yourself a little buffer time before the meeting (to get centered) and after the meeting (to make any notes or process the conversation).

PREPARE FOR THE MEETING AND MAKE A CAREER PITCH DECK

  • Update your job description so that it accurately reflects what you are currently doing for the company.
  • Gather a list of awards, certifications, recent trainings, and other results or contributions to the company. Include any specific results or contributions that you can point to along with any corresponding business metrics (revenue, expenses cut, time you’ve saved your Executive each week, customer acquisitions, etc.).
  • Research salary data. Look for similar roles to yours and review the titles and job descriptions (particularly if you are going for a title change). Use multiple sources for your salary data, for example: your state’s Department of Labor, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Salary.com, LinkedIn, Glassdoor.com, and other industry specific salary reports.
  • Identify and write down your long-term career goals, shorter term growth goals, new responsibilities you want to take on, and how you want to contribute to the organization in the year ahead.
  • Create a pitch deck (more to come!).
  • Send the pitch deck to your Executive about 24 hours in advance. You do want to give them the opportunity to review. However, if you send it too soon, they may forget to look at it. Or, they may start trying to have the conversation with you before the meeting when you’re caught off guard or busy with other projects. You spent a lot of time preparing for this meeting. Manage it like the CEO of your career that I know you are!

GET CENTERED AND CLEAR ON YOUR CAREER GOALS

About 30 minutes before the meeting, start getting yourself into the right headspace for the conversation. It’s not always easy to ask for a promotion, more money, or to create an entirely new role in the organization. The more centered and clear you are, the more centered and clear you’ll be able to show up in the meeting. Start by taking 10 minutes to relax and center yourself. Do whatever works for you – meditate, take a walk around the office, call your spouse or friend, do some jumping jacks, take some deep breaths. Remind yourself of your non-negotiables and keep the end in mind. You know your intention going into the meeting. You’re prepared. Let go of the outcome. You can’t control how your Executive will react to your pitch. All you can do is show up and hold the space for yourself and your Executive to have a constructive conversation.

Alright, so you’ve walked into the meeting, brought yourself and your Executive a cup of coffee, and finished up 30 seconds of pleasantries…now what?

DURING THE MEETING

Bring that clarity, calm, and centered mindset with you. You will want to stay open-minded and neutral throughout the conversation. Again, you can’t control how your Executive will react to your proposal, but you can control how you respond. Listen (and listen for what they aren’t saying too). Be curious and ask a lot of questions. If you don’t understand their counter-proposal or are unsure of why they dismiss your request so quickly, ask for more information and for examples. The more your get to the bottom of their real issue or concern, the better you will be able to get creative and handle that objection.

For example, if they say it’s a budget issue. Fine. But ask when that might be revisited. Is there a way if you helped generate $X of dollars of additional revenue or cut expenses by 10% that your raise could be approved? Are there other ways (such as a bonus structure or company equity) to get you to the salary that you are requesting? What if your Executive says the company isn’t ready for a Senior EA role? Again, get curious. Why? Is it a funding issue? Is it because it would mean having to relevel all staff? What might that look like? Could you help with that process? There is usually a way to make your pitch work – it might not look exactly like what you thought, or it may not happen as quickly as you want, but exhaust all options!

WRAPPING UP THE MEETING

It may be tempting to accept whatever your Executive offers right in the meeting, but don’t rush! Remember your non-negotiables and understand that you may need to negotiate. There is nothing wrong with asking your Executive for 24 or 48 hours to consider their counter-proposal. Also, make sure to let your Executive know that you do not expect an answer right then and there. But do make sure you ask when you will hear back. Let’s say it’s Thursday and they tell you they will be back with a decision on Monday. Let them know that you’ll follow up in 24 hours just in case they need more information or have any additional questions before making a final decision. Remember, you’re still managing the meeting.

Leave a copy of the pitch deck with your Executive again and email a copy so it’s at the top of their inbox. I would also recommend you bring a relevant book or other “leave behind” (such as a journal or article). For example, if one of your growth goals for the year is to work on increasing your project management skills, perhaps you leave a copy of the HBR Guide to Project Management, and let your Executive know that you are using that to guide your learning and would like their opinion. Or if you know your Executive has decided to work on their thought leadership to grow the company’s brand in the year ahead bring a copy of Content, Inc. and let your Executive know that the book is full of great strategies and you’re ready to help them implement them.

OTHER THINGS TO CONSIDER

  • Be selfish! Own the meeting. This meeting is for you. You made the request. You’re making the ask. Stay professional, but don’t hesitate to ask questions in order to get the clarity you need from the conversation.
  • Do other decision makers need to be in the meeting? If so (and if it’s appropriate) include them when scheduling the meeting.
  • These meetings are also a great opportunity to check-in on expectations with your Executive. One or both of you may have experienced life changes or shifting business priorities. Make sure you’re both still on the same page and reset expectations if necessary.
  • Use this meeting to do some additional reflection. Are your career goals and the company’s vision still in alignment? Are you still able to see that you will be able to have success and fulfillment by helping your company or Executive succeed?

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