Make Your Case

Make Your Case ImageToni’s performance has been consistently outstanding over the last several years.  She’s taken on increasing amounts of responsibility, manages a large team, continues to come up with creative product and marketing solutions that generate stellar results for her company.  Senior management repeatedly tells her what an asset she is to the team.  She receives accolades from colleagues across the company.  Sounds too good to be true, no?  Oh, it’s all true, but there is just one small problem:  Despite the verbal complements, despite the pats on the back, Toni still bears the title and sits within a pay grade more junior than the work – and, more importantly, the quality of the work she is doing.

Now, you’re probably thinking, Toni’s vision of her own performance is over shot, she thinks she’s working harder, smarter, better than she actually is, blah, blah, blah.  Not so.  Toni’s results speak for themselves.

So, what’s a person to do?  Whether it’s about your title, your development options, your salary, your mix of responsibilities, my advice:  Make your case… for promotion, for professional development, for a pay raise, for more opportunity.

In talking with her, I learned that Toni did just that.  This impressive young woman gathered her facts:  She outlined the projects she and her team worked on, documented the outcomes and approached her manager in a measured and calm manner.  The objective way in which she presented herself – though it took a while – worked!  She is now slated for a promotion and a pay raise with the next performance review cycle which concludes late next month.  I’m so proud of and happy for her!  Toni realized what we must all realize at some point:  You must advocate for yourself!  There is no need to be boastful or arrogant or assumptive.  Rather, by collecting facts, articulating the actions taken and results attained, one can make his/her case to justify promotions and investment in other opportunities.

A simple model for crafting such a document is called SAR:  Situation – Action – Result.

  • Situation.  Succinctly state what was the situation, who was involved, why did it matter, etc.  For example, were you working on a project?  What were the goals or objectives?  Was there a crisis or urgent matter that needed attention?
  • Action.  Now that you have outlined the situation, what action did you take?  Did you mobilize others to assist?  How did you develop your solution?
  • Result.  What outcomes did you achieve?  Did you generate revenue or abate expenses for your firm?  Did you create or save jobs?  Did you help to improve your organization’s brand image in the community?

On a related note, it bears mentioning that people in similar situations may choose to take the “glass half empty” perspective, waiting for the company to acknowledge their contributions and potentially feeling disgruntled because management hasn’t done enough to recognize them for their service.  If you are working hard and can build your case, take the bull by the horns!  Remember, the point of this exercise is to advance your career.  It is not to brag or come across as having an entitlement complex.  Take charge of your own destiny.  By making your case with facts and information, your management team can’t help but sit up and take notice.

Have you experienced a time when you made your case – either successfully or unsuccessfully?  What went right? What went wrong?  How did you make your case?  We could all learn from you!  Please take a moment to comment below so we can get to know you and your story.

3 thoughts on “Make Your Case

  1. As I work with engineers in my business, I often find a reluctance to “toot your own horn”. When I see it, I often suggest exactly what you’ve outlined here. You’ve provided great advice in this post.

    All of us must realize that our careers are our responsibility, and we must constantly be creating and collecting positive data to support and fuel our dreams.

    I’m reminded of a classic article, The Brand Called You, by management guru Tom Peters, in a 1997 Fast Company magazine issue. It’s still available online and should be required reading, especially for college grads.

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