No matter how far along you are in your tax career, negotiating with your boss about a promotion, access to more resources, or a pay raise can be downright daunting.
But it is important for someone in sales tax to learn how to advocate for themselves in the office. The career paths and opportunities available are not one-size-fits-all. There is a good chance your supervisor isn’t aware of your growth plan unless you speak with them. If you don’t, opportunities and potential earnings might pass you by.
So how do you prove you’re qualified and prepared for the next step? How do you get over the fear of “no”?
Beyond doing the work and putting in the time, here are some tips to build your impact as a professional and further your career.
Poke your head out from behind your desk and expand the range of people you work with and know in the office. Volunteer for cross-departmental projects – you’ll get to know people outside your department, learn what they do, and explore ways you might collaborate in the future. Relationships formed can build resources available to you and keep you top of mind when new opportunities pop-up.
Take the case of Philip, a part-time contractor that made sure to be friendly and build relationships with almost anyone he met while working with a company in Chicago. When his contract was over, he got a call a month later about taking an open position in another, specialized department with better pay and a lucrative career track. His colleagues had recommended him because he knew his stuff, was easy to work with, and able to build good relationships.
If you work in public accounting, look for ways to get to know people from the audit, consulting, or other departments that are working on the same client as you. Internal teams, such as an educational task force or research team, are another way to grow your network and increase your visibility by meeting people from different offices within the firm.
But even if you’re not at a firm, look for opportunities when you can be involved in cross-departmental projects and use your skills. Sometimes it’s going to mean a little extra work that will add more to your your main job – but it’s a great way to network internally.
When the time comes to approach your boss for that big promotion, you will have people in the company – potentially across multiple departments – to serve as a reference for you and speak to the value you bring to the company. Few things are better than having others speak highly of you for you!
Building your career also takes having relationships with people outside of your own company as well.
Even if you plan on staying at your current place of employment, having friends and colleagues in other places can help you as you advance. They can be a wealth of information when you have a question, concern, or just need to bounce ideas off of. Be sure to always provide help to them as well when they need your assistance.
Meet other people in your vertical at educational events, industry conferences, and online in classes or forums. The colleagues you meet will be like-minded and understand where you’re at. Some of them may have already accomplished what you are hoping to achieve one day.
Plus, you never know where someone might end up. The friends you make at live trainings and networking events could start their own firm, need speakers or influencers one day, or just have an open position that you are perfect for!
This one may seem like a no-brainer, but it is harder in practice than it may seem.
A good boss wants to help their team grow. They understand that their standing within the company is based on the strength of the people they lead. But your boss can’t help you grow unless you speak with her about your goals and interests.
Have regular one-on-ones with your supervisor and be sure to make time for career path conversations. If you aren’t sure where you’d like your career to go, ask your supervisor for guidance and feedback about what they need help with, what they view as your strengths, or where you could improve.
And the best way to learn how to advance or get that next pay raise? Ask your supervisor how to get there! Most people never do this, but it is the simplest way to start moving up. Go right to the source.
At your next one-on-one say, “I enjoy working here and would love to move up and increase my impact to the company over time by achieving x, y, and z. What is it that I can do in order to make this a reality within the company?” Then listen to what they tell you and DO those things! When your next review comes around, you’ll be able to reference the conversation and show your progress!
Familiarize yourself with company initiatives and goals.
If an initiative falls within your personal area of expertise, simply interests you, or plays to your strengths, ask how you can get involved. People notice when you demonstrate the gumption to broaden your skill set and take on new challenges for the sake of company. Such initiatives are a good way to increase your visibility in front of higher ups, whose first impression will hopefully be your drive and desire to grow.
When you have a discussion with your boss about a raise/promotion, awareness of company goals and initiatives will come in handy. You want to demonstrate how you are helping the company reach their goals and successfully tackle their initiatives. The more you can show the value you’ve brought to the team, the better position you are in to get what you ask for.
Depending on how large your company is, your boss might not be in tune with how much value you create for the company as an individual. An important step to prepare for your ask is compiling supporting evidence. Document that you are worthy for the promotion or raise. Keep track of your accomplishments throughout the year – whatever they may be.
For example, if you do compliance, does your boss know how many tax returns you actually file every single month or every single year? Do they know the dollars that are reported on returns you’re responsible for? If you have audit responsibilities, keep track of initial assessments given to you by auditors to demonstrate how your efforts reduced liability and saved the company money. If you’re in consulting, keep track of billings or how many clients you bring in to the company.
Once you’re armed with supporting data, incorporate it into a larger business case for what you’re after. Use your knowledge of current company goals and initiatives and frame your ask as part of a solution to help reach a company goal. When you bring to light how your request is mutually beneficial for you and your company, your boss will be particularly inclined to listen.
Management is not always going to take the initiative to look for promotions and raises. Sometimes you have to be your own advocate and go out and ask for it! No one knows your career ambitions better than you do. Don’t shy away from asking for the compensation you deserve for your hard work or the support you need to reach your goals.
If you’re a woman tax or accounting pro, this is particularly important. Research by Linda Babcock, a professor of economics at Carnegie Mellon University, has shown that men are four times more likely to initiate a salary negotiation than women and that once women do negotiate, they ask for thirty percent less than men do.
Research your market value, take an extensive inventory of your strengths and accomplishments, and even script out your ask if necessary. Take these types of active and practical steps to bolster your confidence to self-advocate and approach your boss.
Putting in the effort to build your network, getting involved with company initiatives, and knowing the value you bring to the company can decrease your sense of vulnerability when you head into the important meeting with your boss. The time and determination you put into your career advancement will make your request worthy of consideration.
Remember – it’s your career and your future. Go after what is important to you. No one else is as invested in your future as you are. Make it happen and know that we are here to help you along the way!