Whether you’re pushing for a promotion or raise or management has broached the topic with you, one thing is certain: The process will take longer than you expect. In most companies, managers don’t have the authority to give you new responsibilities or a pay increase. They must go through the proper channels to get approval.
“While it’s natural to feel antsy while waiting for the raise they asked for, it’s critical to find some more productive, tactful ways to prove their worth in the meantime,” says Vip Sandhir, CEO and founder of HighGround, an HR software company.
But just because the process may seem out of your hands, you don’t have to sit around patiently waiting for your promotion or raise to kick in. There are plenty of small ways you can remain engaged and proactive in the process, and even help push it along.
Get a head start on your new role
If you’ve been promised a promotion and it’s a matter of waiting to work out the details, you should remain proactive. Start by doing at least “25 percent of your next job in your current role,” says Juan Ruiz-Hau, chief learning officer for SurePeople, a talent analytics company. Even if a promotion isn’t set in stone, he recommends going slightly above your job title to demonstrate your capabilities.
“That doesn’t mean you should stop doing your present job and start taking on new responsibilities preemptively just to prove your point. It means that you should incorporate activities in your present role that require you to flex some of the skills and behaviors that are important for the next one,” says Ruiz-Hau.
Any promotion or raise will be tied to new responsibilities, so this downtime is an opportunity to get prepared, says Sandhir. You can use this time to get an idea of what your workload will look like, what skills you’ll need and to get organized for the final transition.
[ Related story: 4 tips for tough conversations with your employees ]
Manage your expectations
Once you’ve asked for or accepted a promotion, you can’t expect it to happen right away. It can take a while for things to get done in any business and that’s especially if you work for a large organization.
You’ll need to find a balance between patience and being slightly pushy, but your approach might differ depending on your boss’ managerial style, says Ruiz-Hau.
“If you have a highly relational, ‘big picture’ kind of boss; the kind of person that cares about you and is not detailed-oriented, chances are that he or she may not be following up with others involved in the promotion process,” he says.
With this type of boss, he says it’s best to check in within a week of your initial promotion or raise conversation.
If your manager is detail-oriented and meticulous, Ruiz-Hau says that “chances are, he or she is on top of what’s going on.” In this case, he suggests waiting a few weeks before broaching the subject again.
Alternatively, if you can’t pinpoint a managerial style, he suggests setting expectations early in the process. Once your boss brings up the subject of a promotion or raise, ask specific questions about it, establish the next steps and get clarity on when you can expect to hear more.
[ Related story: 14 best tech jobs in America ]
If possible, get the details of your promotion or raise in writing, says Sandhi. That will give you clear documentation with a timeline to follow up on if things go quiet. If you can’t get it in writing, you might need to accept some ambiguity in the process.
“Employees should typically have a timeline for when their promised raise or promotion will take effect, but unfortunately this isn’t always the case. Various factors such as changes in the company budget, many layers of approval, or a sudden freeze on raises can delay pay increases and promotions,” says Sandhir.
If your manager seems elusive with details, don’t take it as a sign that it’s not happening, says Ruiz-Hau. While managers should remain transparent — even if it’s just to say there aren’t any updates — some might avoid the topic until they have more information. If that’s the case, you will need to be more proactive to get clarity through consistent followup.
If you’re in promotion-limbo, Ruiz-Hau says you can help the process go more smoothly by being as prepared as possible. Ask if they need to conduct a new performance review, if anyone will need an updated version of your resume and what the process of approval looks like from the top down. He also suggests identifying the key players in finalizing your promotion or raise to ensure they have the latest information on your performance.
In a way, you can use the promotion and raise process to hone your soft skills, like collaboration and communication, which become increasingly important as you move up the ladder, says Ruiz-Hau.
“In short, what you want to remind your manager of through your actions, is that you are worthy of the promotion, and that you’re ready to represent and augment his or her leadership brand in the work that you will be doing,” he says.