Wednesday, July 13, 2011

How I Asked for (and Received) a Raise

If you're like most working people, you probably would like to get paid more for doing the same work. Who wouldn't? Recently, I had the opportunity to re-apply for the full-time office job that I had left two years ago when I went back to school to get my master's. This is an opportunity few people have, and one that I am blessed to have had; even when I left the position, I figured that I would probably never have as good of a job again. So, when I heard that the position was opening up again, I was eager to throw my hat in the ring.

Next, obviously, came the interview. During the interview, I asked for a small raise, and I presented my reasoning for why. The rest of the interview went well, and when I heard back from HR, I was told that my new/old boss had authorized just shy of an effective 10% pay increase from what I had earned before! I was blown away as I had hoped to receive in the neighborhood of 2-3%, so getting 10% was kind of like going to bunt in a baseball game and somehow managing to hit a home run.

While I can't take too much negotiating credit (my boss was outrageously generous, by any stretch of the imagination), I've decided to share some of the issues I was thinking about when I asked for a raise. While my situation was unique, I still think there are some nuggets of truth to be gleaned.

1) I had industry knowledge - Even though I went back to school full-time in the fall of 2009, I still spent over a year working as a temporary worker for the same company (half of which was spent working in the same department in the same position for the same individual who just rehired me). The rate at which I was being paid during my two stints was equal to the rate I had been paid before I left (minus any bonus money). From this perspective, I felt my raise seemed reasonable as I had been working in the same industry, even if it was "only" as a temp, and I had been developing industry knowledge over the last two years that Joe Schmoe with a different work background wouldn't have. This was my key point in asking for a raise.

2) I had position expertise - While my employer could have hired somebody fresh, it would have been at his disadvantage to do. As I've already worked in the position (both salaried and as a temp) for over a year and a half, I have a good feel for how the position runs, what the expectations are, and whom to speak with in the company if I have questions. Joe Schmoe certainly wouldn't have had that. Along the same lines, my boss has the bonus of not losing hours of potential productivity due to a brand new person's learning curve.

3) I had the guts to ask - I'll tell you a secret: I almost didn't ask. I had gone into the interview with guns-a-blazing (in my mind), but, once in that conference room, I found myself quite timid. During a lull in the interview, my boss said something along the lines of, "Do you have any questions? Anything else you'd like to discuss?", and I knew that it was either ask at that point, or be content with the same salary until March (which is when annual reviews are conducted)*. At that point, I squeaked out my raise request, and, fortunately, it was met immediately with a positive response. Had I not brought the issue up, it seems like I likely would have been hired anyways, but I'd still be making the same money I have been making for the last two years (although, it certainly will be nice to now get paid sick days, vacation time, and holidays).

In short, I think the position I was in was particularly advantageous when I asked for the raise. Many of you reading this are almost certainly not in the same place career-wise. Still, I think the above can be useful as negotiating tips in your own annual or semi-annual reviews. Make it a point to say that you have industry knowledge that others might not have. Make it a point to say that you are the best qualified person for your position in the company. And never feel badly about asking; if you don't ask, you could be leaving money on the table.

*That said, I think my wife and I already get paid an obscene amount of money. "Just" getting paid at the same rate would have been very generous in and of itself. Still, it certainly feels like the American way to want more, doesn't it?

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