About me. As a young professional I am writing to share my perspective with other professionals in a similar stage in the career. I am a soon-to-be advertising and marketing communications graduate from the Fashion Institute of Technology. Working with a boutique recruiting agency has given me a behind the scenes look at the job search process as well as what candidates and clients look for.
My first job was a retail job selling shoes at a mall. I struggled with negotiating a raise after a year of working there. I kindly laid out the reasons why I have succeeded in the position, my accomplishments, and my planned trajectory with the company — and was still denied a raise. At the time, this really impacted my professional self-worth. I felt unmotivated, uncomfortable, and undervalued. After all, I gave examples of my success and professed my loyalty for the company.
Looking back, I wish I knew how to better approach compensation discussions. There was certainly a level of confidence that I was lacking, and I realize now that I wouldn’t have given myself a raise if I was in my supervisor’s position. When going into a discussion about compensation expectations, it is important to be confident, respectful, and clearly communicate your message in a non-threatening way — I wasn’t hitting the mark on all of these things. Additionally, I would have benefited from understanding that I’m not negotiating with a person — I’m negotiating with a company, and my supervisor needs to agree with my assessment and then advocate for me. The goal of the conversation should be to help them understand my thinking, that my request is reasonable and justified, and ask for their partnership in making it happen.
If you are looking for a raise, here are a few tips:
- Ask at the right time. Don’t ask when the company is swamped with a big project, within 9 months of being hired, or right after review time. The best time is a month before an annual review, so the company has a chance to consider your request and work within their schedule. But if that’s not coming anytime soon, just be mindful of timing.
- Give your employer some advance warning of your expectations. This gives them time to try and make it happen.
- Be sure your performance is excellent and you are consistently demonstrating a positive and collaborative attitude at work. Companies will extend increases to retain employees that improve their workplace, not the opposite.
- Convey your desire to be with the company going forward, and your appreciation for the opportunities you have already been given. You love being part of the company and have consistently achieved objectives. You hope that the company values your contribution and can show that in your compensation.
- Be reasonable. Ask for something that is within the range of what you think the company has historically paid for your role – or at least does not significantly exceed it. Discuss with other people in your life and get some advice about this when needed.
- Remember that you are replaceable. There are other people who want your job and are willing to work for less. Be sure that the value of keeping you exceeds what you’re asking to be paid.
- Remember that your employer is also replaceable! If they are not in a position to give you a raise, maybe it’s time to look elsewhere. If they are declining a raise, it’s probably not because they don’t value you; maybe they just can’t afford it right now. Remember that budgets are often set at a higher level than your supervisor.
- Treat your supervisor like your partner in this effort. Because they are going to have to advocate for the raise, it’s usually not their sole decision. Be sure to build a good working relationship, complete quality work, and that your continued presence benefits them.
Don’t: Threaten to leave if you don’t get the raise. This may work in the short-run, but do you really want to work somewhere you have to do this?
At the end of the day, an employer that truly values their employees will compensate them fairly. They want to see their team grow and succeed. An employer that refuses to understand this might show you that you are with people who don’t really care about you or your future. What you have to offer is valuable and you want to make that apparent.