Time For A Raise?

Recently my client Jessica and I were discussing salaries and raises.  Her primary question wasn’t IF she should ask for a raise, but if under her current circumstances  was Now a good time? Although Jessica’s situation may be somewhat unique – everyone’s situation is a bit different – I thought there was some good information to share, and she is ok with my sharing our exchange.
Here’s the back story:  Jessica has been working for a couple of years as a writer/editor for a specialized publication in the Midwest.  Her job enabled her to frequently work from home and telecommute.  Recently, she moved east to be closer to family, and she has been fortunate to be able to continue telecommuting for her job.
But because of her move, Jessica is a bit concerned about job security.  Her employers have conveyed that they are happy with her and the quality of her work, but she wonders if being so far away from the main office and unable to personally attend meetings or interact with staff may negatively impact the longevity of her job.  Concerned, Jessica started a job search for local (East Coast) employment.  Obviously she doesn’t want to quit her current telecommuting job before procuring another position, but wants to keep her options open.  She feels that a raise from her current employer would go a long way to confirm their need for her contributions and respect for her work.
I asked Jessica if her current employer was aware that she was looking for another job, and she seemed confident that they did not know she was pursuing other opportunities.  I proposed that even if her boss knows she is looking for another position, as long as she is maintaining her workload, or if her workload had increased, that would provide legitimate justification for her seeking an increase.  I reminded her that if she is doing more work, along with the higher cost of living in her new location, combined with the higher costs of her network connection, higher cell phone bills, etc., the overall costs of doing her job are higher, and worthy of a salary bump.
Despite Jessica’s physical distance from the home office, her staying with the same employer saves them the costs of identifying and training a new staff person.  Those cost savings of her continued employment and the costs of maintaining her loyalty and helping the employer avoid the inconvenience of replacing her have a lot of value to the employer, and I suggested she may need to provide a subtle reminder of that to them.
Realizing that a convenient opportunity to talk about a raise might not come on its own, Jessica waited, then got up the nerve to casually broach the subject with her manager.
She told him she recognized it was probably a bad time to talk seriously about a raise, but that it was something she wanted to discuss.  Her manager agreed that they would talk about it in the next few weeks and that she could continue to bug him about it.
Luckily, her manager was appreciative that Jessica came to him first, instead of telling him she was looking for a new job and announcing an unexpected resignation.  Of course not all employers and managers would be as understanding!  But her employer’s willingness to discuss a possible raise, and expressing their appreciation that she wasn’t jumping ship was a good sign.  From what Jessica conveyed, it does sound like she is respected for her work and contributions.
The only remaining question I had was, if her boss looks at resumes that are posted online, might he stumble upon hers by accident?  Of course this is not within her control.  But IF her boss is looking at possible future candidates, hopefully he’ll be filtering his selections to local applicants – a strong possibility – and therefore unlikely to see her resume online.  And if still concerned about this slim possibility, she could post her resume anonymously on the employment websites she is using.
Regardless of your circumstances, if you’re seeking a raise be sure to justify the value to your employer in giving you more money.  Keep track of completed projects, work done ahead of schedule, demonstrations of personal initiative, and real cost savings for which you are responsible.  There’s no guarantee that your employer will honor your request for a raise, but if you can substantiate your contributions and value, when you have the discussion you’ll stand a much stronger chance of getting that pay bump.
Jessica promised to let us know the outcome of her negotiations.
Please drop me a note with your own story of successful negotiations for a raise so others can benefit from your experience.
For more tips and help for job seekers and those on the job please search this blog and also visit:  hanklondon.com


  1. Mamasnydes -

    Finally got that yearend review. I’m happy to say it came with a 12% raise. Now I realize this is huge, but I still feel the statistical data shows that I am underpaid. My employer is arguing that the data applies to larger firms with which he can not compete. While I should be pleased, I’m feeling that there are people who work less, are less essential, yet they are earning more. I am only privy to this information as I hold a financial position within the firm. I want to continue having a positive attitude, but left today feeling shortchanged. I was told that yearend bonuses will put things in better perspective. my employer knows I was not satisfied as we have an open and honest relationship. I hope this will not affect things going forward. We all agreed to give consideration to each other’s stance. Why is it that in order to really advance yourself financially, you have to change jobs? There is something to be said for longevity.

    • Hank -

      Mamasnydes: You stated in your note, “Why is it that in order to really advance yourself financially, you have to change jobs?” This statement is far truer when there are more jobs available. It is such an employer’s market right now that changing jobs will be difficult, and employers can truly claim that they can easily find another to do the same job for less money. Switching to another job might put your salary back that 12%!
      I completely agree with your statement: “There is something to be said for longevity.” But in the employers’ eyes, it may take several more years before they consider someone as being in the firm long term.
      I will also add that your having access to confidential salary information puts you in a tough position. You can’t really use as leverage what you are not supposed to know about what others make. My hope for you is that with a little more patience your employers business will grow, and they will come around and provide the additional financial incentives you seek. Thanks for contributing to the discussion.

  2. Hank -

    You bring up a good point – in the current economy, startups in particular are less likely to offer pay raises quickly. While reassurance from your employers by itself doesn’t put extra money in your bank account, at least yours indicated they are happy with your work, and hopefully your having brought up the subject to them, with good details to support your being deserving of a salary bump, will get them to act favorably.
    It is possible, that they are keeping their cards close to the vest, not wanting to reveal their intentions to give you the raise too quickly. If through the past year they have shown you other (unofficial) benefits and perks that have demonstrated their appreciation for your efforts, they may feel that they can continue with the small tokens for a while longer before paying you more. This doesn’t put more food on the table, but does show they want you around.
    But I will suggest that your argument, “… but I can go elsewhere and make much more” would have more strength if it presently wasn’t such an employer’s market. Good paying jobs – at every skill level and industry – are tough to find right now. And though things are slowly getting better, I don’t suggest anyone use this tactic unless they already have a higher salaried job lined up, and are in a position to really negotiate with their current employer for a raise to match or beat the offer of another employer because they really don’t want to leave.
    Sounds like you are being very thoughtful in your approach to the subject, and I wish you luck in your discussions with your employers. Please let us know the outcome. I’m rooting for you!!

  3. Mamasnydes -

    How very interesting….
    I am in the process of also negotiating a raise. With one year under my belt with a startup company, the time has come. I have provided statistical data that shows I have been grossly under paid and reminded them of my accomplishments for the past year, but the reality is that in this day and age, a huge jump from a start up is just not going to happen. I have been reassured that my accomplishments, work ethic, and skills will be rewarded. I don’t want to be in a position to say “yeah, but I can go elsewhere and make much more”. Threatening to leave NEVER works in your favor. So how do I attain my value in salary, and still promote a positive attitude? Final decision from above will be handed down this week. Stay tuned!

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