"Put your head down and do your job" used to be good advice on how to get a raise or promotion. Not anymore.
Doing your job is now table stakes. It might—just might—be enough to keep you from being fired. People who get "meets expectations" on their annual review can usually expect flat income and no upward mobility.
"Keep your boss happy" is another example of an outdated strategy. I know plenty of people whose boss has told them, "I really appreciate all your work, but budgets are tight and I wasn't able to get you more money this year."
The only foolproof way to get a raise is to increase your perceived market value. Translated, this means how much your boss, and your boss's boss, and other employers think you are worth.
Let me say this again: asking for a raise, working extra hard, showing initiative... all of these are not enough to earn repeated raises in today's economy.
To get consistent raises, you must increase your perceived market value.
To do this, you must...
Make your expertise crystal clear: Why are you worth a lot of money? Are you the best programmer in your industry? Can you sell a boat in the desert? Have you taken three companies public? Until you can state your top skill in ten seconds or less, you will always be underpaid.
Hint: your current job title is not your top skill.
Increase your professional visibility both inside and outside of your company: Become more active on social media; try posting or sharing something every day for 90 days. Go to industry events. Network with peers and their peers. Make sure all know your top skill.
If you don't have time for this, get used to living on a flat income. I'm serious.
Help others: Lend your expertise freely. Every time you do this, it's like an advertisement for the value that you add. The more people you help, the more word will spread that you are a great person to have around.
Avoid tit-for-tat deals in which you only help others if and when they can help you. Accept the fact that a portion of the people you help will never help you in return. This is the price you pay for helping some people who will lead you to huge opportunities and rewards.
It is impossible to predict which of the people you help will end up helping you the most. In my experience—which means out of the thousands of people with whom I've interacted—the most significant help often comes from the edges of your network. This means:
Help freely, without hesitation
Never stop expanding your network
Be willing to leave your employer: I'd like to say that loyalty pays, but generally speaking, it doesn't. Most companies have become too amoral, too committee-driven, and too focused on their own bottom line.
Decision makers have to sit down every year and decide who they have to pay to retain the talent they need. If you are willing to stay no matter what, you will never get paid what you are worth.
But if you are focused on maximizing your market value, you have to be willing to follow the money. I wish it were otherwise, but that's our current reality.
Bruce Kasanoff turns your best ideas into compelling social media posts, and helps you engage the people who matter most to you.
To learn more on how to increase your perceived market value, read his Kindle book, How to Self-Promote (without Being a Jerk).
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