Lessons from a Recovering Doormat

Question: Marissa wrote to say that she worked in a large company for a long time and sees the men advancing while she’s passed over for higher positions and more money. She’s very frustrated, and angry about it. She almost stormed into her HR to complain but caught herself.

Answer: Complaining outright is never the right way to get a promotion. Nor is comparing yourself to those who get the promotions, even if you do the job better. The person making those decisions doesn’t want to hear that. It can make you seem whiny, which doesn’t make you look good. Instead, use your accomplishments to your advantage. And be aware that sometimes people don’t think of you for promotions if you haven’t indicated an interest as the other people may have.

So, good communication is key. First, write a list of all the things you’ve done well for the company. Include projects you’re involved with, clients you’ve brought in, skills you bring to the table, etc. This is important because often you may know you’ve done a good job but don’t have these specifics on the tip of your brain. Just saying that you’ve done a good job won’t make the same kind of impression as giving details about that good job. And it will motivate you to believe in yourself more too, which will increase your confidence.

The best way to approach the person who makes the promotion decisions is to ask for a meeting with him or her. Keep it friendly. As I said, say nothing about how you feel passed over or that the guys get all the good breaks. Just say that you want to be considered for a promotion. State why you think you’ve earned it with the things on your list. Ask if there’s anything you’d need to do to facilitate it. Speak with confidence.

•    “I’ve been working hard and have done this, this and that and feel ready to take a step up.”
•    “I know I can handle more responsibility and have proven my worth to the company.”
•    “I’d appreciate your keeping me in mind when an opportunity opens up.”

And so on. Also ask if he/she needs anything else from you or if there’s something more you can do to make it happen. Speak with confidence that says you know your worth. Be prepared to give examples of why you can do a more challenging job. Thank him/her for his/her time. Ask if it’s okay to check in occasionally to see if anything is available. You should be smiling all the while you speak. If after you’ve spoken up and you continue to get passed over, you may ask the person in charge if there’s a reason you didn’t get something you felt qualified for. But that’s as much as you can do to challenge the decisions.

At that point it may be time to polish your resume.

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