THE BRAZEN CAREERIST- Getting promoted: That is so last century

Can we all just stop talking about promotions like they matter?

A promotion has meaning when someone's moving up the corporate ladder at such a slow pace that every small step is grounds for celebration. But there are no more ladders, because no one stays long enough at a company to get up the whole ladder. And even if someone did try to climb, she'd probably be laid-off or off-shored before she got to the top.

So what's the point of a promotion? Titles don't matter because they're accoutrements of hierarchy in a nonhierarchical workforce. And people don't care about getting more responsibly that implicitly comes with a promotion; they want the right kind of responsibility– interesting work and a chance to expand their skills set.

So all that's left to justify continuing to talk about promotions is getting a raise. But the idea of a raise is so insane I can't believe we even talk about it anymore.

Here is a headline from "Raise Outlook Better than Employees Expected." The article goes on to say that the average raise was something just above three percent. Let's say four percent. This means if you were making $100,000 a year, you'll get $4,000 a year more.

So what? After cost-of-living and tax adjustments, perhaps you're looking at about $1,000, and that's not going to change your life in any significant way.

When someone tries to give you a promotion or insult you with a $1,000 a year raise, tell them you want something that really matters. Some suggestions:

1. Growth opportunities

Learning new skills is worth a lot more to you than some ridiculous four percent raise. Ask to get on a team that will teach you something important. Ask to work with the clients who are doing the most innovative projects. Request a training budget, and send yourself to a bunch of seminars. The best way to learn is to role-play, which everyone hates to do, so go to a seminar where someone is forcing you to do it.

2. Mentor opportunities

Ask to be matched with a mentor in the company. This is not a revolutionary request. Human resource executives have been studying this process for more than a decade, and they know how to pick someone good for you. They just need to spend a little time doing it.

3. Flex-time opportunities

If you're so great at your job that you have earned a promotion, suggest that you keep your current job but do it from home or do it four days a week. After all, you've already shown you perform well. Heck, ask to work from Tahiti; you should be able to do the job however you want as long as you maintain that stellar level of performance.

4. Entrepreneurial opportunities

Just say no. To the promotion, that is. Now that you have a sense of how much time and energy your current job requires, now that you've mastered the scope, you can try something on the side. The safest way to experiment with running your own business is to do it while you still have a regular paycheck. Who cares if it doesn't include that four percent raise? Think of that paycheck as a research grant for your ideas for a side business.

Instead of letting last century's carrots dictate your workplace rewards, think about what's right for you, right now. What do you really need? You don't need a promotion. It's something else. Think about what would really make a difference in your life, and then make it happen. While the rest of your organization is focusing on titles and money, you can slip under the radar and get something truly meaningful.