CAREER | October 15, 2020

by Stephanie Ritz

Timing: A Career Game Changer

You’ve heard that timing is everything, and this couldn’t be more true when it comes to your career. Here are three areas that timing can make an impact: 1. Asking your boss for a raise or promotion. 2. Requesting a meeting or lunch date with a corporate influencer. 3. Changing jobs. We are going to tackle all three of these!

1. Show Me The Money!

You’ve been working hard and excelling in your job. You go above and beyond and you show up with a positive attitude every day. You offer meaningful contributions and are a team player. You deserve a promotion and a raise because you’ve earned it. So, what is the best timing to approach your boss to make your case?

Annual Reviews

If your company uses traditional annual review methods and raises are given during this time, you may assume this is the best opportunity to discuss your accomplishments and plead your case for a raise and/or promotion. This is not the case.

In many circumstances, by the time you get to your annual review, your boss has likely already submitted salary budgets and increases. Although this should be your time to shine, the truth is that your future has likely already been pre-determined. That is not always the case but it is often true. She/he already knows if a salary or promotion is on the horizon, but all is not lost.

If your company does annual reviews and that is when increases and promotions are decided, it is a great advantage! You can start planting the seeds in advance. Check-in with your boss quarterly to share your accomplishments and self-advocate for where you want to be by the time your next annual review comes around. DO NOT assume your boss knows what you hope to accomplish. Lay it out there directly. Three months before and then three weeks before your annual review, schedule time with your boss to have these discussions so they know how to present your accomplishments and can also advocate for you.

*For more information on self-advocacy, here is a great article Rise In Your Career Faster by Learning to Self-Advocate

Culture of Feedback

Not all companies have a formal performance review process. Many are moving to a model of ongoing open feedback. So, how do you know when to ask for a raise or promotion if there is no meeting regarding your performance? You request the meeting when you are ready.

When you work in a culture of open feedback, you have the opportunity to show initiative in taking control of your future. If your boss does not schedule ongoing feedback meetings, you can request the meetings yourself. In these forms of communication, your boss should be open to hearing your goals and formulating a plan with you. You can take the responsibility of scheduling check-ins to make sure you are on track and that your boss is aware of your progress!

When you have put in the work and you have created a portfolio to support your request for a raise or promotion, you can request the meeting to make your pitch!

The Wrong Timing

Equally as important as getting the timing right, is being aware of when the timing is wrong. Here is a quick list of times to NOT ask your boss for a raise or promotion:

  1. Post-budget season: the chances of getting a raise right after budgets have been approved will be more challenging; find out when budgets are submitted and start laying your groundwork months in advance.
  1. The day after your boss gets back from vacation: your boss will have a lot of catching up to do and items to prioritize. Give them the space to get back into a routine before making any substantial requests.
  1. A Friday afternoon: by this time of the week, everyone’s mind is on the weekend and your boss is no different. You don’t want this to slip their mind before having the chance to take action. Wait until Monday!
  1. During company layoffs or reductions: the decision to make financial cuts is hard. Most employers never want to make those kinds of choices due to financial performance. Be respectful of your company’s financial status and do not ask for a raise while others may be losing their jobs. This is a time to rally and support a financial rebound with the understanding that when your contributions have supported the company’s financial goals, a raise will be warranted.
  1. If you have been in your position for less than six months: in most circumstances, as a new employee, you should show consistent performance and contributions for at least six months before asking for a raise. Even with a significant contribution in your first few months, you will need to demonstrate consistency and effort. The exception is if you started at a lower salary with the explicit understanding that you will earn a specific increase after completing a project or meeting outlined expectations.


2. Coffee or lunch?

Connecting with your boss or colleagues in a casual atmosphere, out of the office, is a great environment to build relationships. To ensure you get a “Yes!” to your invitation, consider the timing of your request.

Coffee With Your Boss

Depending on how much daily access you have to your boss, this may be very easy to schedule. Observe their daily trends and regularly scheduled meetings to avoid times when they are typically not available.

If you have access to their calendar, even better! Find open times and align them with your availability.

If you do not have daily access to your boss and are unsure of their schedule, ask for their availability. My recommended approach is to ask them when they have 45 minutes available on a specific date and have a backup date ready. The more specific the request, the better chance of getting a commitment. Once you have a date, let them know that you would like to take them out for coffee at that time to discuss (insert agenda.) Let them know that you thought it would be nice to have a conversation out of the office and that you are happy to treat them to the coffee as thanks for their time. An offer like that can be hard to turn down, especially once you have confirmed a date and time.

Lunch With a Company Influencer

If you have identified a leader in your organization that you are hoping to build a rapport with for mentorship or someone that could be an advocate for your growth in the company, building a relationship with them is essential! Lunch is a great place to start and the timing will be important.

If your target leader has an assistant, connect with that person first to find out about availability. Once you know when they are free, saying “No” will be more difficult for them. The assistant may also have some insight into projects their boss is working on, which may make leaving the office more challenging. Find out as much as you can so you get a “Yes!” with your first ask.

If your target leader does not have an assistant and you are not accessible to them to know their availability patterns, you will need to ask in a prepared way. Face to face is your best opportunity. Head into their office, state your request and have your availability in hand to put something on the calendar. What gets scheduled gets done.

Here are some times you are less likely to get a “Yes!” to your invitation:

  1. If you walk into their office and they appear to be stressed or overwhelmed, come back another time!
  1. If you bump into them in or around the office, that is not the time. Wait to request your date when your calendars are readily available and when they can’t walk away from the conversation so easily.
  1. Immediately following their return from a meeting is also bad timing. Give them the space to get caught up and follow up on any action items from their meeting.

Once you leap into asking for a lunch date, timing is again very important. If they say “Yes!” send a calendar invite out right away so the time is locked in. If they ask you to follow up with them, put a note on your calendar to follow up during the timeframe they requested. If they decline, letting you know that they are very busy and it’s just not a good time, ask permission to follow up again in a few weeks or months, whatever the circumstance calls for.

For more information on relationship building with your boss or company influencers, check out this article on Accelerate Your Career Through Building Relationships.

3. Should I stay or should I go now?

Before changing jobs, consider whether or not this is truly the right time. Let’s take a look at money, your resume, and job satisfaction as it relates to changing jobs.

Don’t Throw Away Your Hard-Earned Money

There are a couple of times throughout the year that you may be leaving money on the table that you have earned. You will need to decide whether it is worth staying for the money or not.

The first is annual or quarterly bonuses. In most circumstances, you need to be actively employed with your company at the time the bonus is paid out to receive it. If you have worked hard all year and you know that the bonus is coming, don’t walk away too soon! Consider the timing of your departure and try to align your timing with capturing your bonus before you leave.

The second is annual 401k matches. This is often forgotten about because you may not be checking your 401k regularly. It may be out of sight, out of mind. Many companies offer matches that are paid throughout the year, however, some only pay out matches annually. If you are unsure about 401K matching, contact your HR department. Leaving your job right before an annual contribution from your employer could mean losing thousands of dollars.

The Job Hop Resume

I do not recommend staying at a job at which you are dissatisfied, however, job longevity is a relevant factor on your resume. I have been hiring people for over two decades and when I see job changes every one to two years, it is a big red flag!

Here are the concerns that an employer may assume with job-hopping:

  • You have not been successful and have moved on.
  • You are not reliable or loyal to your employer.
  • You are not clear on your desired career goals.
  • You will leave for the next opportunity to make more money.

None of these may be true, however, you may not get the opportunity to share your reasons for changing jobs. Employers have a lot of resumes to scan through and will quickly discard any resumes with perceived red flags. Consider if leaving your job now is the right time. If you must make a change and your resume is a concern, feel free to connect with me for additional support on how to move forward.

I Hate My Job

If this is you, it is probably time to move on in a well-timed way. If you “hate your job,” it may be a matter of mindset or making changes to find happiness in your job. Self-evaluation here is critical. Is it your job, or are there other factors influencing your perception?

In my opinion, you should be able to find joy in what you do. If there is no joy, then it is the right time to transition jobs. I would encourage you to work with a coach or mentor to dig deeper into your feelings about your job. You may find that changing jobs will not be what makes you happy. You may need to pivot, but in many circumstances, mindset transformation will make a significant impact on how you feel about your job.

Making a rash or rushed decision to quit, may not be the solution. If you decide to leave your job for another opportunity and your feelings about your job do not improve, you will have lost time in the transition and it could impact your resume.

Time to Wrap It Up!

I have reviewed the importance of time as it relates to your money, making connections, and a career change. Timing truly is key when it comes to your career. Be strategic and impactful in your timing.

If you find yourself overwhelmed with making decisions as it relates to strategic timing, connect with me! I have successfully navigated mine and my client’s careers through mastering timing. My STAR Method to Rise consulting framework covers the areas of Skills, Timing, Advocacy, and Relationships. You can learn more about the Claim Your Career programs here.

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