Words by Paula Coogan
August 13th, 2018
In 1976, ABBA sang these lyrics:
I work all night, I work all day
To pay the bills I have to pay
Ain’t it sad?
And still there never seems to be
A single penny left for me
That’s too bad
Money, Money, Money!
42 years later, we’re still singing the same tune and feeling the same way!
We’ve made great strides in the last few years in terms of transparency around pay and the gender gap, but at the same time talking about money is still a taboo subject, particularly among women and particularly at work. According to data from the World Economic Forum, women still earn less than men in every single country in the world.
So, we have a problem and a great responsibility; I believe that one of the best ways to make sure our generation bridge this gap sooner is to talk more openly about money, how much we earn, how much we want to earn and what we’re worth.
So, money money money, how do we get more of it? How do we get to the point where we have more money than month consistently? One of the most obvious, but also most avoided routes is asking for a pay rise.
There is a bad old piece of career advice that says, “If you have to ask for a raise, you’re doing something wrong.” This is terrible advice because you run your career. You don’t sit around waiting for someone else to bestow pay increases on you. Does a plumber wait for his/her clients to decide when they’re going to pay more? No way!
You decide when it’s time for you to get paid more, especially if things have changed at work and those big changes haven’t been reflected in your salary. It’s a muscle-building exercise to negotiate your own salary and now is a great time to start growing your muscles!
Discover how best to go about it below.
A great pay rise discussion starts at least three months before any words are spoken. You need to do your research and prepare your case.
Show What You’ve Accomplished for the Company
It’s not a good idea to justify a raise with, “I need the money”. Instead, prove that you deserve a pay raise by emphasising your value to the company. Document your accomplishments, then present your case to your boss when the time comes. Be specific, use examples, and include impressive feats such as:
In a nutshell: Don’t just ask for more money. Give your boss an incentive to reward you. If you do little above the call of duty, your employer probably thinks you get paid enough!
Research Your Market Value
Again, do the research! Speak to other people in similar positions, in your company and others; also speak to recruiters and head-hunters who will have a very clear picture of the going rate for your role. Online salary websites like Glassdoor are great but be sure to back up your findings with some in real life research.
Examine Your Own Beliefs
Women often expect to be rewarded for work well done. We know we’ve been working hard and achieving what was expected and many of us have been conditioned to expect positive reward and feedback as a result of that- it goes back to getting good grades at school. This isn’t how business works. You need to be able to take ownership of your accomplishments and build up a case for yourself first before you take it to anyone else or you won’t be convincing.
Know Who You’re Dealing With
Your boss’ personality type will help you decide how to ask for a pay raise. A boss who plays by the book may prefer a direct approach. Let them know in advance you would like a meeting to discuss your salary. Then be upfront about the increase you want and why it’s appropriate.
A different approach is to focus on a sales pitch or presentation to highlight your achievements. Some bosses are keen to listen when they see evidence of hard work. Follow the chain of command when asking for a pay raise. If your immediate boss is a supervisor, don’t go over your their head to the department manager. Instead, approach your immediate boss first and let him or her tell you the next step.
Organise a proper meeting with your boss at least three months before your annual review. These decisions are normally made that far in advance and budgeted for, so give yourself the best chance. When setting up the meeting, make sure you clearly signpost the purpose of the meeting- nobody likes being blindsided, and you’ll probably fare better if your boss has had a chance to prepare too.
Start by building a good rapport with your boss and be honest about what you love about the company: “I’m really enjoying X” or “Since I’ve been in my role I’ve contributed/delivered on/set up/sold X”. Showcase your skills, abilities and achievements.
Then say something along the lines of, “I’ve been doing my research and for my role, experience etc. it seems that I am being underpaid. I should be on X. I really enjoy working here but I would like a fair salary adjustment that works for us all.”
Don’t make it personal or confrontational but prove you’ve done your research. Approach salary negotiations as a discussion. Instead of thinking about them as a black and white request that’s met by either a yes or a hard no, frame the situation in your head as a conversation between two people with common interests who both want to figure out the best way of getting you to where you want to be salary-wise.
Most managers don’t want to lose decent employees and are inclined to try to find a solution that everyone’s happy with. The most important thing is that at the end of the meeting, you have your immediate boss in your corner with an agreement that he/she will take the next necessary steps to get your pay rise. (Often your immediate boss isn’t the decision maker, and he/she will have to take your request to their boss. This is why you need to do your research and have a case prepared, as it will make it easier for your boss to present your case.)
If you’re told no, don’t give up. Here are a few low-cash or no-cash alternatives that will add value for you while you’re exploring your next steps.
A One-off Bonus- if you can’t get an increase in your salary, then explore a one-off performance bonus agreed in advance for certain milestones. This can be a good option as a bonus doesn’t interfere with salary levels or grades and doesn’t figure into your base salary moving forward.
Training or Education- If a pay increase is not on the table, ask your manager to pay for a particular course or certification that you’re interested in. Show the course marketing materials to your manager and know the price tag in advance. Be ready to talk about how you can help your employer with your new-found skills. Ask the training vendor about discounts for multiple students from the same employer!
Leave or Time Off- When cash is tight, you can ask for extra time off to compensate you for your contributions when your pay isn’t increasing.
Coaching or Mentoring- Ask your boss to put you in touch with a professional mentor or coach as a substitute for the raise you didn’t get. Many companies now have a wellness scheme in place that may include life or executive coaching- if it’s there, take it.
Flexibility- If your boss says, “I have a big project for you” or “I need you to get this done”, think about where and when you work best. If you do your best work at home in your own personal office, make a deal such as, “I’ll guarantee to get this done ahead of schedule if I can work from home on Fridays”. If you don’t ask, you’ll never get what you want.
Job Title- Some people couldn’t care less about titles but many other people have spent time in a job or two where a bigger title would have helped tremendously, not only with external contacts but with internal ones as well. Your boss might be game to improve your title in lieu of your expected salary increase. If you begin job hunting any time soon, the upgraded title on your resume will help you get interviews for higher-level opportunities. However, with all that said, the biggest pay increases come from hopping lily pads. By that, I mean being agile and moving roles, companies or projects frequently within your career. It’s important to bear this in mind when seeking a pay rise, as the answer may be no on all your requests. This doesn’t mean that you should issue ultimatums- they absolutely do not work in love, life or work! It means that it should be part of your backup plan that you keep to yourself for the time being.
I totally get that changing jobs is sometimes daunting but I guarantee that if you do the work I’ve outlined above in terms of research, tracking the value you add to the company and your conclusion is that yes, you absolutely do deserve a pay rise and it’s turned down, use that to spark a fire inside of you. It will be the evidence you need to take charge of your own career and finances and step up to make some bigger changes. You have nothing to lose.
Paula Coogan is the founder of The Quarter Life Coach – a vibrant career and life coaching company aimed at empowering women in their 20s and 30s to practice courage, figure out their true desires both personally and professionally and then, to make it happen.
Her work is delivered through several live group programs and Masterminds including Career Breakthrough Mastermind and The Wisdom Circle. She also works one-on-one with clients who are ready for big transitions in their relationships, careers and businesses.
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