What Should I Expect When I'm Promoted?

Last Updated May 9, 2011 12:30 AM EDT

Dear Evil HR Lady,
I'm in the process of finding a new job which will include a new title. I'm currently a Senior at my company, and will be looking to find a Manager position. How much of an increase should I expect to get for this bump up the ladder? Also how does cost of living factor in this? For example, if I'm currently in Austin, but moving to San Fransisco and the cost of living is 10% more, should I expect my new salary to reflect that increase? What should I look for in a relocation package? Should the new employer help me with the sale of my house? If they want you to start working before you've relocated, should they help pay for a temporary place?
I hate to break it to you, but the answer to all of your questions is (drum roll please), I have no idea.

Everything you've asked about depends entirely on your company. Yes, you should expect a raise with a promotion and 10% is always a good number, but your company policies may vary. Additionally, not all manager positions are higher salary grades than all individual contributor positions. When you apply for a new job internally, you'll want to double check that you're applying for a promotion and not for a lateral transfer, or even going down a step.

Some companies have hard line policies about how much of a salary increase you can receive with an internal promotion. It may be a low number, such as 3-5%. It may be considerably higher. It also may be the case that your company is willing to hand out a new title and new responsibilities but has a salary freeze in place, which means you'll get nothing.

Additionally, moving costs are entirely up to the company. Some industries have a good reputation for paying relocation and some do not. You are far more likely to receive relocation costs for an internal transfer than you are for an external transfer. But, as to what that covers, it's seriously up in the air. Some things that are possible are:

  • Flights for you and your spouse to look for housing in the new area.
  • Packing and moving expenses.
  • Temporary housing in new area.
  • Closing costs for sale of old home and purchase of new one.
  • If you rent, then penalties for leaving before your lease is up.
What's realistic? Well, again that depends on your company, the level of your position, and the economy at the moment. Closing costs can be huge. Real estate agents like to charge people a fortune to sell their house. This number is negotiable (and don't let them tell you that it isn't, because they are lying.) But, will realistically be between 4 and 6% of the price of your home. This is (normally) all paid for by the seller, so you can see that if you have a $250,000 home you're looking at $10,000 to $15,000 just in real estate agent fees. Then there are all sorts of other fees that make your eyeballs hurt if you look at them. Companies prefer not to pay this type of thing because it's very expensive.

The higher level employee you are, the more likely it is that these costs will be covered.

Should you expect a cost of living increase? Again, maybe. It depends on how your company structures salaries. Nobody likes to get a decrease when they move from San Francisco to Austin, so companies are kind of loathe to have different salary scales for different locations. Still, it's extremely practical and worth asking about.

And that's the key right there. You will need to ask and negotiate all of this. You need to be confident but not obnoxious and demanding. When you're asking for things like relocation (which is totally reasonable), they may be less willing in today's job market because they can hire someone externally who is already living in San Francisco. But, be flexible. If they won't cover full closing costs on the house, perhaps you can negotiate a set figure.

But, the key is, you need to know what the realm of possibility is. Your company may wish to keep this information a complete secret, as it's easier for them if you have no clue what is even possible. For this reason, you need to speak to other people who have relocated in the past. Find out what they got and then you'll know what is possible for your particular company.

You should always ask. It's also okay to ask, for a new salary, "Where does this put me in the salary range? Am I high, at midpoint, or below midpoint? By how much?" While everyone thinks they want to be high, remember if you are being promoted from an individual contributor role to a manager of people, you have no clue whatsoever what you're doing. Doing the work is extremely different than managing the workers. It makes sense that as a newbie you'd be low in your compa-ratio. Having a low compa-ratio also means more potential for bigger raises down the line. Companies don't like people to make too much more than midpoint and therefore, the closer you are to that, the lower your annual increases will be.

Make sure you treat your interviews for internal promotions the same as you would if you were applying for a job at a different company. Dress up. Check your teeth for spinach. Turn off your blackberry, even if it's company issued. And remember, everything is negotiable.

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