Best Practices in HR

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Emil Shour
  October 20, 2018

The Executive Assistant’s Guide: Tips for Getting a Promotion or Raise

“Luck is a matter of preparation meeting opportunity.” – Oprah Winfrey

At some point, we’ve all had to grow up and learn that wishes don’t simply come true. We have to make them true.

If you wish for a raise or a promotion, then you’ve come to the right place. We’ll do more than just tell you how to get a raise or a promotion. These executive assistant tips will not only help you get that new role you want, but also show you how to completely master your new responsibilities. Consider this list the executive assistant’s playbook for total career acceleration.

And it’s high time more executive assistants started articulating their value and requesting commensurate compensation and advancement. According to SnackNation’s 2018 State of the Executive Assistant Report, most executive assistants are doing the job that entire teams of assistants used to do. A whopping 52% of respondents support 3 or more executives. Plus, the report also found that the responsibilities and expectations resting on executive assistants has grown to include a variety of tasks – everything from IT support to Human Resource duties like onboarding new employees…

So what are you waiting for? You so deserve to make your career wishes come true.

(PS – Join our private FB Group exclusively for Executive Assistants. It’s a community to connect, collaborate, and share advice on how to overcome the wide spectrum of challenges you face in your role.)

Getting a Promotion or Raise


Whether you’re hoping for a whole new role or just the pay bump you deserve, these tips will help you get there by showing you how to explicitly demonstrate your value—and your ambition. 

1. Ask for more responsibilities and track your progress.

Show your boss you’re ready for a promotion by actively seeking new responsibilities and kicking ass while completing them.

The plan:

  • Identify company or team needs you believe you could meet if you took on a few more responsibilities.
  • Evaluate your ability to perform these responsibilities. (Your team might need a new web developer, but if you can’t even read basic HTML, well, you know the rest. The point: Be careful not to become blinded by your ambition and optimism.)
  • Communicate your intentions to your boss and explain how you plan to keep up with your existing responsibilities as you take on the new ones.
  • Track your progress. Document the new responsibilities you’ve taken on, and once a week (Fridays are perfect), record all the progress you’ve made in the new responsibility. For example, if you’ve taken on meeting planning, then after week one, you might record that you’ve priced out new conference room scheduling systems that will make booking meeting rooms more efficient. Tracking your progress will give you the evidence you need to empirically prove that you’re ready for a promotion.

Tips and pointers:

In our guide for asking for a raise for Office Managers, Office Manager Megan recommended “keeping a detailed list of all you do and are responsible for. Presenting those clearly will help you validate your worth.”

She even provided a helpful template you can use to track your responsibilities.

2. Prepare a water-tight business case for your raise or promotion.


Your experience in asking for a raise or promotion will be different from everyone else’s in many ways. It will also have one thing in common with everyone else’s experience: Your boss is going to ask you why you deserve the promotion.

That’s why it’s crucial to your promotion success to prepare a detailed, specific response to that question.

The plan:

As we said, you need to determine the detailed, specific reasons you deserve a raise or a promotion. Vague answers reflecting general hard work, tenure, reliability, and positivity will not provide the impactful answer you need here.

Develop an answer that will make your request impossible to refuse using these tips from Ramit Sethi, New York Times bestselling author of I Will Teach You to Be Rich and founder of the eponymous website.

  • Determine what results you have delivered and estimate a financial value for them.
  • Outline new skills you’ve gained and how they could benefit the business.
  • Start planning months before your big ask so you can carefully collect performance results and praise to strengthen your appeal.
  • Work with a partner to determine how to address all possible objections leadership could raise.
  • Establish the dollar amount of your raise or the specific position you want. (This crucial step is easy to forget in the emotion of preparing to sell yourself, but a specific ask ensures you don’t just get a raise, but that you also get the raise you want.)

Tips and pointers:

Rehearse your big ask to avoid any last-minute jitters or forgetfulness that could ruin your appeal and shake your confidence.

3. Valuate the time you save your executive.


If an executive’s time is valuable, then the work you do to save your leader’s time is also valuable. Do your homework to assign a specific value to the work you do to save your executive time. Use that figure to make the case for getting a raise.

The plan:

Writing for the Harvard Business Review, Melba Duncan breaks down exactly how to assign a value to the time you save your executive. She writes:

“At very senior levels, the return on investment from a skilled assistant can be substantial. Consider a senior executive whose total compensation package is $1 million annually, who works with an assistant who earns $80,000. For the organization to break even, the assistant must make the executive 8% more productive than he or she would be working solo—for instance, the assistant needs to save the executive roughly five hours in a 60-hour workweek. In reality, good assistants save their bosses much more than that.”

To create your valuation, review a list of your responsibilities and calculate how much time it takes you to perform tasks that your executive might otherwise have to do. Multiply those hours by your best estimate of your executive’s hourly salary.

Tips and pointers:

Don’t undersell yourself! And remember, you’re an expert in the work you do to save your executive time. It might take any executive twice as long to complete certain tasks that come naturally to you.

4. Request feedback from managers and track your progress toward any areas of improvement.


Unless you can read minds, you might be missing some areas of improvement that could be barring you from a promotion. Ask your manager to reveal those areas and then work on improving them. Again, be sure to track your progress so you can use it in your appeal for a raise or a promotion.

The plan:

If you have a face-to-face meeting coming up with your boss, then ask if you can have about a half an hour to talk about some ways you can help more. Explain that you don’t just want to continue excelling in your current role, but that you also want to grow your responsibilities.

Work with your boss to establish a list of your new responsibilities. Track your progress on each one at least once a week so you have plenty of evidence to use when you ask for a raise or a promotion.

Tips and pointers:

Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback! Chances are, you already have the facetime, and it’s simply a matter of appropriating some of that face time to discuss your career. In our State of the Executive Assistant Report, we revealed that 30% of respondents said they only get feedback on how to improve at work once a year, yet 56% of respondents have a face-to-face meeting with their boss every week


5. Research salaries and duties across the industry to see where you stand.


Knowing where you stand in the grand scheme of industry salaries and responsibilities will strengthen your appeal for a raise or promotion, even if you find you come in above average. (Because you’ll have to develop a counter-argument just in case your boss happens to point this out.)

The plan:

In our guide for asking for a raise for Office Managers, Office Manager Chelsey recommended using sites like PayScale or Comparably to determine salary ranges for your position and responsibilities. She also advises you to factor in your experience level and any above-and-beyond responsibilities you take on. Then put everyone in a list so your boss has something visual to review as you make your case.


6. Collect praise and endorsements from managers and co-workers.


Similar to five-star reviews of restaurants, this tactic makes a great way to provide an unbiased evaluation of your skills, talents, and overall value.

The plan:

  • As you receive compliments and kudos, write them down. Note who said what and record what project or task the compliment was associated with. This advice from Career Contessa will provide material that didn’t come from your last formal review.
  • Ask for coworker feedback. If compliments aren’t coming in organically, then be honest. Approach your coworkers, explain what you’re trying to do, and ask them to relay what they like best about working with you. (It doesn’t hurt to mention that you’d be happy to return the favor any time.)
  • Ask for letters of recommendation. You did this to get into college, so why not do it to get a raise or a promotion? Your boss will be impressed by your initiative and organization.

 7. Evaluate the market to see if your company can afford a raise.

Before you ask for a raise, make sure your company is in a position to offer you one. 

The plan:

Writing for the Interview Guys, Mike Simpson advises you to evaluate if your employer can afford to give you a raise. He says,

“Start by first looking at the market and where your company fits into the big picture.

Next, look at your company overall. Is it in a position to be able to support paying you more?

Is it a brand new start-up just getting off the ground or is it a well-established corporation?

Has it grown since you started working there, resulting in increased responsibility and work for you? Is it a good year? Are profits up? 

You don’t want to ask for a raise if a company is financially struggling and looking for opportunities to cut costs.”

Tips and pointers:

Use your detective skills. Do you know of any associates who’ve recently been promoted? Has your company landed any new clients? Have you noticed leadership making any major purchases or investments?

8. Ask your boss to help you earn a promotion.


Instead of simply asking for a promotion, work with your boss to pinpoint how you might be able to earn one. This tip from Paul Petrone on the LinkedIn Learning Blog helps you build rapport with your boss while working toward your promotion.

The plan:

Honesty is central to this plan. Just tell your boss what you want and what you’re willing to do to get there. Ask your boss to be honest as well—about what you truly need to do and learn to get to a promotable level. This approach takes some of the pressure off of you since you won’t have to guess what you need to do to sell yourself. And your boss might surprise you – she very well may appreciate your candor and respect your ambition.

Tips and pointers:

Be ready to compromise if your boss has a different vision for your career advancement, and of course, be assertive. In our guide for asking for a raise for Office Managers, Office Manager Selena said,

“Closed mouths don’t get fed. Be open and honest about what your goals are and what you want. If you want a raise, if you think you deserve something, then you need to bring it up.”

9. Figure out how your performance is measured and determine ways you can exceed expectation.


Do you know what metrics your boss uses to evaluate your performance? If not, then you need to determine these metrics so you can figure out ways to exceed expectations.

The plan:

One CEO in this GOOD article says a metrics-based approach to a promotion appeal helps young workers make themselves strategic assets. So how can you start evaluating your performance based on specific metrics instead of your overall impression?

  • Go back to your most recent performance review; many formats put all your job’s evaluation criteria right on the table.
  • Refer to any casual feedback you’ve received. Even casual comments might indicate priority areas of your job performance.
  • Ask your boss. If you’re unclear how you’re being evaluated, it’s perfectly fine to clarify these points with your boss. If no metrics exist, work with your boss to draw some up. This doesn’t just display your initiative, but it also provides clear direction for your efforts.

Tips and pointers:

Performance evaluation verbiage can be heavy; don’t be afraid to clarify anything you find confusing or vague.


10. Highlight a problem you solved.


If you solved a problem for your company, especially a big one, funnel your success into your appeal for a promotion.

The plan:

Outline the problem you solved and the positive outcomes of the solution. Make note of all the actions you took to solve the problem and all the ways you went above and beyond in pursuit of solutions. Turn your summary into a pitch by explaining how you can channel your success into future solutions to future problems.

Tips and pointers:

If you choose to create an appeal around your ability to solve problems, then it might be a good idea to pinpoint a few more problems you plan to tackle. You could even propose a promotion as part of your reward if you facilitate another successful solution.


Rocking the job


Now that you’ve made your case and landed a host of new tasks, here’s how to handle—and even excel—in your new responsibilities.

1. Consider your new responsibilities and create a strategy for managing your time.

What new responsibilities do you have? How much time do you have to handle them all? How will you get everything done? Check out our post on time management for some pointers for office managers that actually apply to any role.


2. Request frequent feedback.


Frequent feedback may have helped you get your promotion, and now, it can help you excel in your new role. After you start your new role, request frequent feedback, even casual feedback, so you know exactly what you need to do to make a positive impression as you get started.


3. Increase your leadership quotient by cultivating emotional intelligence skills.

Psychology Today defines emotional intelligence as follows:

“Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others. It is generally said to include three skills: emotional awareness; the ability to harness emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problem solving; and the ability to manage emotions, which includes regulating your own emotions and cheering up or calming down other people.”

Check out Inc’s 10 Commandments of Emotional Intelligence to learn how you can do to build your people skills.

4. Learn more about your business.

Our State of the Executive Assistant Report recommends frequent lunch dates:

“Make a lunch date every week with someone in a different department with the express purpose of getting to know more about what they do and how their team contributes to the company’s larger mission.

Really dig in. Ask questions like, what has been your team’s biggest wins? Biggest challenges? Which of our competitors keep you up at night? If you had a magic wand, what would you change about the company overnight? The industry?

After your conversation, write down the two or three biggest takeaways from your conversation. Keep these in a spreadsheet for easy reference. Not only is this a great way to network within your company, but before long you’ll have built the foundational knowledge you need to provide valuable insights to your boss.”


5. Set specific goals and develop a plan for meeting them.

Figure out what you need to do and how you will make it happen. Consider this list a roadmap for success in your new position and refer to it often to check your progress.


6. Now that you have your goals, figure out what new skills you need to meet them.


Take a look at your list of goals and see if you need to develop any new skills to achieve them. Acknowledge your shortcomings so you can set yourself up for success.

7. Request training.

You may not be new to the company, but if you have responsibilities you’ve never tackled before, then don’t be afraid to request some training. Preparation beats course correction any day.


8. Identify your “human” resources.


Who will you interact with the most in your new role? Who knows the ropes? Identify the people who may be able to support you as you learn a new set of skills and ask them for help.


9. Take a break.


Before you dive into your new role, take a vacation! It’s good for your body and your mind, and you’ve also earned it.

Do you have any useful tips for executive assistants? Let us know in the comments below!

(PS Be sure to Join our private FB Group only for Executive Assistants.)