Being underpaid is a common complaint, but most people, especially recent college graduates, never ask for a raise.
Let’s face it, conversations surrounding money, especially asking for more, can be rather awkward and intimidating. But what most people don’t realize until much later in their career is that you won’t automatically get a raise for doing a good job. Sometimes you will, but not always.
“There’s this weird dichotomy in the American workforce where we’re supposed to hustle and work hard, which is ingrained in us from K-12 and beyond, we have to be hard workers. “said Anna Camp, a senior specialist student at George Washington. University. “Then there’s this disconnect,” Camp said, where workers don’t ask questions, they don’t ask for better wages or better work environments for themselves.
Anna Camp, senior specialist student at George Washington University
Source: Anna Camp
The combination of feeling that a lot is expected of you in the workplace and that you are not a good advocate for yourself can lead to an unhappy or toxic work environment.
“I think it’s bled into some of the issues that we’re seeing where instead of having these conversations we go for a better opportunity,” Camp said.
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Some people think it could jeopardize their job or position in the company if they asked for more. In fact, however, the worst outcome is for the boss to say no, as he gains respect for his confidence and assertiveness. The best that can happen is that the employer agrees with you and, if there is money in the budget, you will get that raise.
Now, that doesn’t mean asking for a raise the minute you walk in the door or just for no reason. There are a few things to keep in mind when asking for a raise:
1. Only ask for a raise if you are underpaid for the work you do.
You need to know what you and the work you do are worth – and ask for a raise when you deserve it.
2. Be prepared. You should enter this conversation prepared with research on the salary range for this job in your area and with a list of talking points about what you have accomplished and why you deserve it.
3. Pay attention to timing. If this is a difficult time for the company, your department, or your boss, it might be wise to wait for conditions to improve. This will increase your chances of getting a raise, whether it’s the full amount you’re asking for or a portion of it.
4. Be kind but proactive if you don’t get it. If you ask for a raise and don’t get it, you can do two things: 1) Ask what else you can do — maybe take on more responsibility; or 2) Ask them to consider a bonus, extra vacation days, or something else you really want. They may not have the money in the budget, but if they want to keep you, there are other things they can offer you as compromises to keep you happy.
Some good news: With runaway inflation in the United States and the Great Resignation in full swing, many companies are increasing their payroll budgets. The median total salary increase budget is expected to be 3.5% in 2022, compared to a 3% increase in 2021, according to the Conference Board.
Some companies automatically give employees small annual raises of around 2-3% to account for rising costs of living.
It’s something Brad Cox, director and owner of a 12-person architectural firm in San Jose, Calif., said he does on each employee’s anniversary.
If a worker asks for an additional merit pay raise, Cox said he wants someone to be willing to put in the time and research to make a compelling case. “I would be inclined to increase someone’s salary if their job function has changed and they are essentially promoted in a different financial field. I would like to see data on what the market is carrying and what their peers are earning”, did he declare.
Asking for a raise without substantial claims to back up the demand is a major red flag for employers at all levels. Cox strongly believes that increases should be relative to the current market as well as what other people of the same skill level are earning.
Cox also points out that employers would be well served by making sure they’re not underpaying or overpaying employees.
“It’s really important not to end up in a situation as an employer where you underpay a good interpreter and somehow overpay a bad interpreter. It’s the death of the culture of ‘a business. They’ll find out eventually one way or another,” he said.
While some employees will inevitably earn more than others depending on the circumstances, good practice holds that the pay disparity reflects something tangible in order to prevent further problems from arising between employees.
There is also no one-size-fits-all approach to asking for a raise. Don’t just copy the way someone else did it. Find what works for you.
In 2019, American University graduate student Karl Melchior accepted a job at the Mike Cairns Environmental Sustainability Program at West Nottingham Academy, where he participated in sustainability programs and promoted an environmentally positive agenda. After about a year in this position, he decided to pursue a pay raise.
Karl Melchior, graduate student at American University.
Source: Karl Melchior
“I didn’t specifically ask for a raise – that was during my contract negotiations. I basically provided them with a value proposition as they were looking for a teacher. So I offered to teach the ‘one of the classes in order to increase my salary,’ said Melchior.
Although Melchior was the one to initiate the offer, the end result was the same: a pay rise.
Camp was lucky in her last job as a college counselor: When new leaders arrived, they dramatically increased the salaries of all counselors, a development some had been waiting for years. Camp recalled that some even shed tears of joy upon hearing the highly anticipated news.
This particular moment only further underlined to Camp the importance of knowing how to enter into these kinds of conversations and negotiations when the time comes.
Melchior and Camp agreed that doing your research on why you should get a raise can make or break an employer’s decision.
Another effective technique is to interview for similar jobs at other companies. Then when you get an offer – or more than one – come back to your current employer and seek out that extra income.
“Come up with several offers of similar positions offering a certain amount of money and ask if the offer matches the offer,” Melchior suggested.
In the event that the conversation does not end with the desired outcome, it is important to maintain a strong sense of professionalism.
It’s also essential to stay positive and keep working hard. If you change this approach just because you’re angry that you didn’t get the raise you asked for, it won’t move you forward. You would only hurt yourself. The message is, get over it and stay on track.
One thing you can do is volunteer for new assignments and responsibilities like Melchior. And, check in with your boss regularly to make sure you’re doing everything you can to reach that next level – in your career and in your salary.
“Always stay respectful because you want to at least keep this relationship nice even if you can’t get what you want right now. You never know who you’ll be working for in the future,” Camp said.
″College Money 101″ is a student-written guide to help the Class of 2022 learn about the big money problems they’ll face in life — from student loans to budgeting and getting their first apartment — and make smart financial decisions. And, even if you’re still in school, you can start using this guide now so you can be financially savvy when you graduate and start your adult life on a great financial path. Christiana Corporon is a two-term strategic content intern at CNBC Councils. She is currently a student at George Washington University. The guide is edited by Cindy Perman.