Samantha Curran

Looking for a raise? Step off that ladder

By Samantha Curran

Today's corporate ladder looks more like a rock-climbing wall. Top performers innovate to find the best route within their organization.

I was half-heartedly watching the news recently when Diane Sawyer's voice caught my attention. ABC had reinstated its series, Real Money. As a human resources professional in a community development financial institution, this is a topic near and dear to my heart, especially the inaugural segment, "How to Ask a Boss for a Raise."

The piece followed a marketing executive from Ohio who was about to make "the ask." Her story brought to mind numerous employees who have asked me for advice on this subject.

Woman on indoor rock climbing wall
CC by Gamma Man

The segment contained some very good guidance, like these tips from Barbara Corcoran of Shark Tank.

What really struck me about the story was the lack of discussion about how career development and, subsequently, seeking a raise, has changed over the past several years. As cited in an ABC News poll, the number-one money goal of poll respondents was to obtain a real raise (five to 10% of their annual salary) from their employer. So, assuming the funds were available, how did top performers succeed in getting raises?

They left the ladder behind, and grabbed their rappelling gear.

These days, the corporate ladder looks more like a rock-climbing wall, with lots of bumps and twists. Top performers work with managers and innovate to find the best route for them within their organization.

Part of the process is accepting that growth and leadership are no longer linear. Employees can grow in both depth and breadth outside of the traditional molds. The new leadership is more about aligning those around you for a common goal than about issuing orders from the corner office.

The marketing executive on the show asked for a raise after a lot of homework, practice, and coaching. Despite her preparation, her manager responded by urging her to keep up the good work and said they would revisit the request in several months.

While disappointed, the marketing executive was positive. She felt she had not only deepened her relationship with her manager, but that theirs was an engaging conversation in which she learned about other ways to grow her skills. Her manager suggested, among other things, becoming more active in cross-functional teams, initiating and articulating learning opportunities, and checking in more frequently with colleagues and her manager.

Perhaps she is taking her first step off of the ladder. Perhaps you can, too.

Samantha Curran is Human Resources Director at the NH Community Loan Fund.