Article originally appeared on Forbes.com
Welcome to The Salary Chronicles, where we’re bringing transparency to negotiation and salaries, one story at a time. We ask women to share their experiences negotiating their salary and what their advice is for others doing the same. We share these stories anonymously so they feel comfortable speaking as openly and as freely as possible.
This week we’re speaking with a woman who had to learn to speak up and advocate for herself in order to be taken seriously and go for the promotion and the raise she really wanted.
Position: Accounting Associate
Location: San Jose, CA
Original Salary: $58,000
New Salary: $74,000
What was the situation when you decided to negotiate?
I had been working at a large accounting firm for a couple of years and was frustrated with my progress. I felt like I worked hard but I kept getting passed over for high profile projects, promotions, and substantial raises. I saw my peers begin to earn more money and move up through the company while I felt stuck.
During the annual review process at the end of my second year my manager gave me the news that I was ranked as an average employee against my group of peers and was going to be given the standard 5% raise. I considered myself a high achiever and getting this ranking really stung.
I said nothing to him but I went home, cried, and started searching for new jobs. I felt like I was doing so much, but I was getting nowhere.
Too embarrassed to talk to my friends about my career woes, I called my Mom. I expected her to comfort me and to tell me that it was time to go look for another job. Instead, she surprised me with a hard dose of reality. She told me that going to a new company wasn’t going to solve my problems. I shouldn’t expect other people to monitor my hard work and I needed to learn how to advocate for myself. If after that I still wasn’t being taken seriously, it would then be time to move on.
I didn’t picture myself as the girl who just put her head down and worked hard, but hearing my Mom’s brutally honest advice made me realize that I had put myself in the corner and I needed to get myself out.
How did you decide what to say and what to ask for?
I took the next week to do some research. The office was buzzing with rumors about who was getting promoted and who was getting the biggest raises. Instead of feeling jealous, I used the gossip to reverse engineer their success. They had all done something that had elevated their visibility, whether it be working on a high profile client or creating an internal training program for our company.
Using their accomplishments as inspiration, I made a list of what I would find exciting and would want to contribute to the group. I realized that I wasn’t necessarily adding more to my plate, but I was adding very visible and impactful projects.
I scheduled a conversation with my manager to discuss my development plan at the firm. I had my list of highly visible projects I wanted to work on and I decided that my end goal would be to be promoted next year (and to get the sizeable raise that went along with it).
How did the conversation go?
It was productive and positive and I think he was surprised by my initiative. I’m not going to lie, having to actually voice that I wanted these opportunities and that I wanted to be promoted felt intimidating.
I started the conversation with my very honest assessment that I do above average work, but I’m not being recognized for it because I’m not asking for opportunities and talking about the great things that I’m doing. I told him that I didn’t want to be viewed as an average employee anymore and I wanted to step up to the plate and make this a big year. I laid out a list of opportunities that I wanted to be considered for and then made it clear that my intentions were to be promoted.
We set up a plan to talk monthly about my progress toward promotion and he agreed to pitch me to the partner in charge of one of the largest, most visible projects on my list.
What was the end result?
We kept our monthly development meetings and each month I would bring in a list of my accomplishments and he would coach me on my development areas.
Over the months I was able to get in front of more people and started to get noticed as a high performer. To be completely honest, I wasn’t working much harder but I was working much smarter. I was asking for things and getting comfortable talking about my achievements.
At the next annual review I ended up getting the promotion I wanted along with a $16K raise. Even more importantly, I felt more confident about my ability to actually speak up and take on things that were outside of my comfort zone.
That year was the year that I feel like I finally became an adult in my career.
What advice do you have for other women?
Don’t drift through your career. Speak up and ask for the things that you want, even if they scare you. I waited for my hard work to be noticed and waited to get better opportunities. When I stopped waiting and started asking, that’s when things actually began happening. I wish I had the courage to ask for opportunities, promotions, and more money from the beginning.