Tuesday, August 4, 2009

How to Get a Raise (Or $how me the money)

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How long has it been since your had a significant change (greater than 3%) in compensation? I know someone who has earned exactly the same amount of money for over 2 years. While his paycheck has stayed the same, the cost of living continues to creep upwards. So in one way he is earning less. I don’t think I have ever heard someone say “you know I would really rather not have a raise.” While most people wouldn’t turn a raise down, many of those same people have never asked for a raise, much less thought about how to go about determining if they deserve one. The overwhelming view on raises is that they are something your boss gives you when they see fit. I believed the same thing too until I spent 9 months as a recruiter. Our main selling point when we were recruiting was the money. Our business thrived on people who would not ask for and companies who would not give their employees regular and equitable raises. Though I was not cut out to be a recruiter (only job I was ever fired from) I learned a lot that has helped me in my own professional life.

Many people have ruled out the possibility of a raise due to the current economic climate. In fact, in several industries, wages are being pushed down. What if I told you that there are people who, regardless of economic conditions, earnings reports, and all other external conditions consistently get raises? What if I told you they did not work in the financial sector? Well I am telling you that and I am going to tell you how many of them do it.

1. Always be ready to interview

Often times we treat job hunting like car buying. It’s a rarely used skill set that is only used when necessary. I think this is a mistake. The best time to open yourself up to new opportunities is when you are already employed.

Interviewing regularly is a great way to kill several birds with one stone. First, you get an opportunity to practice interviewing while working in your current job. Second, it gives you an incentive to keep your résumé dusted off. Third it keeps you knowledgeable about what other opportunities may be available to you and with what types of organizations. And finally, if you get an offer, you can have a good idea of your worth. But, often times you don’t even need an offer. You can look at ranges in the job posting or use tools like Salary.com or glassdoor.com to see how you compare. Oh and it gives you a reason to keep your wardrobe updated. If your interviewing suit is a pastel color, it’s been too long.

2. Be Honest with Yourself

Taking time to honestly appraise your work quality is a crucial step to determining your value to your organization. Do you meet your objectives? How is your work quality? Chances are if you’re just “getting by” your boss is not going to be motivated to give you a raise. She can find someone else to “just get by” easily. However, if you meet your objectives, do quality work, and are eager to take on new responsibilities your boss will probably want to keep you and will be willing to make the case to keep you. Remember, when it comes to high performing people “it’s cheaper to keep ‘em”

After you have appraised your work quality spend some time writing down your major job duties. Note how you spend your time. What tasks are you doing? How has this changed in the last year? Are you supervising more people? Handling more projects or larger projects? Specifically you want to identify ways in which you have increased your ownership of processes (work tasks that you can do with little input or guidance from your boss). Note the changes. When you’re last compensation level was set you were doing x and that has now increased to y. Spell it out in quantifiable terms. If there has not been any change, then you may not want to bring up a raise. If there has been change, and more importantly if that change is significant, then I would say it’s time to talk about a raise.

3. Make some decisions

So you have determined that you could possibly earn more outside of your organization. You have determined that your work quality is valuable to the organization and that you have taken on new responsibilities. Now it’s time to put the rubber to the road. Before you set up that meeting with your boss you need to have a meeting with yourself. You have to decide several things:

I. What do you want?
a. How much money would you like?
b. How much will you accept?
c. What is not enough?
This is important. You should have a clear idea of what you want. Remember to think in terms of over all compensation, not just take home pay. Set those three benchmarks. Ask for a, hope for b and worry about c only if it happens. Be sure that what you would like is reasonable and not too far away from market. Make sure that what you will accept is what you believe you could reasonably make at a similar organization type (meaning if you’re in government or in corporate). Finally, keep b and c to yourself.

II. What are you going to do?
Decide BEFORE you even ask for a meeting. If you get your “a” well then you will most likely be happy and head off to pick out a new car. But there is more. Are you willing to accept “a” along with more responsibility? You have to decide; the same goes for “b.” Finally, for “c” you have to decide that as well.

4. Make your pitch

You know what you’re worth and you know what you want. Now, how do you get it? You get it by giving your boss pitches he can throw at whomever he is going to have to convince to approve your raise. Remember, she probably has to make your case to someone else. Make it easy for her.
I. Begin with gratitude. Express your gratitude for the job you have and the organization you work for. Be sincere.
II. Talk about the parts of your job you enjoy and future projects you are excited about.
III. Start from your last compensation negotiation and explain how you have grown and added value to the company in quantifiable terms. Express your desires for future growth.
IV. Express how you desire an equitable relationship between the organization and yourself.
V. Ask for guidance/advice
VI. Shut up.
VII. If asked, name your desired number.

Avoid doing any of the following:
• Talking about other job offers
• Hypothesizing about leaving the company if you don’t get a raise
• Talk about your tenure as rational for a raise (you can cover this by explaining your growth)
• Ask for a raise in terms of a counter-offer

It’s the big day. You’re having your meeting with your boss. You listened to “Eye of the Tiger” 40 times on your commute in. You’re ready. You make your pitch and one of three things happens:

Scenario 1:
Your boss agrees with you and tells you that he is going to help you pursue a raise at an amount you find agreeable.

Express more gratitude. Ask them in what ways you can help. Ask them about the process going forward. Ask for a date when the raise will be considered.

Scenario 2:
Your boss agrees with you and tells you that they will try, but they are not s

Express more gratitude. Ask them in what ways you can help. Ask them about the process going forward. Ask for a date when they can let you know one way or the other. Depending on what happens see scenario 1 or 3.

Scenario 3:
Your boss flat refuses to give you raise citing economic conditions, wage freezes, the price of eggs in China, etc.

Express more gratitude. Express understanding. Make no threats. Ask for guidance on how you could increase your value to the company, take notes. Exit the meeting and decide if it’s time to find another job or stay where you are. If you find another job I would advise against accepting any counter offer. If it takes the threat of leaving to get what you should have been paid in the first place, is that somewhere you really want to work?