“In my experience, it is rarely someone’s ability or work ethic that holds them back, but rather, people’s careers often stall because they don’t know how to effectively communicate.”
– Carla Harris

Your career is filled with important conversations and how you handle them can make or break your chances of success.

Whether it’s advocating for your promotion, negotiating for a pay rise, or talking about what you’re good at without sounding like you’re bragging, these are career conversations you need to be able to have.

There are ways to have these conversations effectively and that’s what Carla Harris and I talked about recently for a new Career Mastery Talk. She also shared word-for-word scripts for what to say to senior managers and when to say it.

Carla is a Senior Client Advisor and former Vice Chairman at Morgan Stanley and we grew up in the investment banking business together. She’s also a top keynote speaker, author and someone who gives great advice.

In our conversation, Carla shared three simple communication mistakes you want to avoid in important conversations about your career. Most people overlook them!

Avoid These 3 Common Mistakes in Your Career Conversations

Let’s talk about some common mistakes that you see people make when it comes to important career conversations like advocating for yourself, asking for the next assignment or promotion, or how to talk about pay?

The common communication mistakes that I see people make are:

Number one, walking into one of those conversations about promotion or compensation without your data.

Walking in without knowing, for example, what those compensation bookends really are. And people make this mistake all the time.

They’ll say, “I want a $25,000 raise” or whatever it is and sometimes that raise is still going to have them below the market value of the seat. Or the $25,000 may take them way above the market value of the seat and now the person you’re talking to is looking at you like you're crazy because that job is not worth that amount.

So one mistake is not having your data, whether it’s around pay or even around promotion, not really understanding before you go into that conversation, what it takes to get to the next level. You should have already figured that out so that you can justify and say, “Here’s what I’ve done and why I think I check all those boxes and why I’m ready.”

The second mistake is not anticipating what the response might be and not playing that “what if?” game by yourself. 

What if the person looks like they're visibly upset during our conversation? My response: give no response. Just keep looking at them.

What If the other person wants to engage me in a deeper conversation about the topic I bring up? What might they ask me? How long have I felt this way? Why do I think that's the case? Do I know what anybody else is making? Let me think about how I might answer all of those particular questions.

And then the third mistake is that people fail to follow up.

I tell people all the time, the way that you differentiate yourself in any kind of scenario is to follow up and to follow through. And most people don't do it. They take the advice or input and they drop it right there. That's the end of it.

Somebody tells you what to do, they give you the advice, they tell you how to advance, and then you don't follow through and you never go back and you close the loop.

And I must admit, as somebody who is often asked for help, I really value those people that come back to me and say, “I did what you told me to do” or “I didn’t do what you told me to do. Let me tell you where things are now…”

I love it because that then motivates me to invest in that person again the next time they call.

That is fantastic. And I want to underscore that because so often, I know I’ve done this and others that I’ve coached do this too, you don’t follow up because you don’t want to “bother” that person again. You’ve already taken up their time with little old me. But they want to hear from you!

Use effective communication and get what you want in your career

Follow Carla’s advice and avoid these common mistakes when it comes to your important career conversations about pay, promotion or whatever you need to talk about:

  1. Not having the data: Gather your data before going into the conversation.
  2. Not anticipating their response: Instead, play the “what if?” game beforehand.
  3. Not following up: Make sure you follow up and follow through.

As you advance in your career, you’ll face many more conversations where you need to influence senior managers, communicate concisely and confidently, convey your achievements in a compelling way, negotiate for compensation and more.

Check out the full conversation with Carla Harris in Career Mastery™ for more advice and word-for-word scripts to succeed in your important career conversations. You’ll be glad you did!