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Getting Off on the Right Foot and Planning for Your First Raise

By Don Orlando, MBA, CPRW, JCTC, CCM, CCMC, Col. USAF (ret.)

You will have worked hard to get your first job. Naturally, you now want to buckle down to the mission and stay in your new position as long as it works for you. I've written this article to maximize your chances of reaching those goals.

By the time you have been hired, you have already made your first impression-at least with the management team. By design, you guided that first impression, the interview, striving for collaboration, the match between what you do very well and what your new organization needs very much. Now the focus shifts to delivering on the promises you and the company made each other.

Before you begin work, make a "ground rules" appointment with your boss for your first day on the job, just as you did with your commander whenever you went PCS. Consider this meeting a continuation of the collaboration you focused on in the interview. Here are some of the topics to cover:

  • How would your boss like you to interact with him or her? Regular status reports? By exception with memos? Phone calls? Emails? Personal visits?
  • At which meetings should you be present? What do the agendas for those meetings look like? Does your boss have any pet peeves?

Try to get independent answers to these questions from the boss' gatekeepers or others who work with him. Use this opportunity to introduce yourself to all the gatekeepers. They control much of the flow of information.

When will you be introduced to the people you will be working with? Try to get the boss to introduce you personally. Her presence underwrites your authority to act in her behalf.

When will your next performance review be due? Would your boss prefer interim "how-goes-it" meetings, at least for your first few months on the job?

What you've done so far does more than make you a part of your new work community. Properly done, it prepares for your first raise.

Good companies must keep their best employees. And the best employees are noted for their contributions to the mission. Without considering the inevitable "office politics," it's often true that no one will look out for your best interest except you. I am not talking about "brown nosing." I am talking about documenting your performance before you, and your boss, forget.

Each week, without fail, log the problems you have solved, just as you did when you wrote your résumé. What was the problem? What did you do to solve that problem? What were the results? Don't forget to quantify results whenever you can, compare what you've done against a standard, and show the context of your work. Here are some questions to help you get the most impact from what you record:

  • How long had this problem affected your organization before you solved it?
  • Had others tried, and failed, to find a solution? How long did those efforts take?
  • Were you sought out, by name, to fix this problem? Did you volunteer?
  • Did this problem appear during a particularly busy time?
  • Did you bring in the solution early? Under budget?
  • Has your work served as a model for any other part of your organization?

Please don't spend time polishing your entries. A simple Word document will do just fine. Enter only enough information to help you recall the details when the time comes. Protect your log with a solid password.

About two weeks before your performance report is due, turn your notes into the same format you used for your résumé. You may want to use the same model as before: what was the challenge? What action did you take? What were the results? What context applied, if any?

Cover your new document with a memo to your reporting official. In the memo, mention that your performance review is coming up soon. You often handle problems that needn't take your boss' time. Nevertheless, you've attached a list of your contributions so your boss can use it to expand your responsibilities. In other words, you are tipping off your boss that you intend to ask for a raise.

If you have quantified your contributions, you will be in the strongest position. Suppose you had saved your organization $50K. You can suggest your organization get a 90 percent ROI on that savings. That certainly is fair. And it will generate an additional $10K bonus for you!

This approach helps everyone. Your boss now has the support she needs to give you a raise. The company certainly won when you saved them that money. And you, of course, got the bonus you deserved. In effect, this sets a great standard for the company and its employees. The more employees contribute, the greater they should be rewarded.

If you don't get the rewards you deserve, use your notes to update your résumé and renew your job search.