Work it

Work it

Have you ever asked for a raise? It worries me that a lot of you are going to say “no.”

And that’s why we need to talk. I don’t often write here about work, but things are heating up a bit. The World Economic Forum in Davos is bringing the spotlight on women in business – or the lack thereof. Liz Lemon renegotiated her contract. Plus, I recently mentored two very bright ladies and was surprised to hear their career perspectives.

Obviously, gender parity is an complex issue with so many factors at play – but we’re not talking about that. We’re talking about you.

So, I thought I would share a couple rules that have served me well in my career. I hope this same advice that helped me will help you:

1. Always negotiate your starting salary. No matter what your job. No matter what the situation. At hiring, you have the best possible opportunity to work out a good deal. Do your research, know what you’re worth, aim high. Think about it: every time you get a raise, it will be based on your initial salary. If you don’t ask, not only could you be leaving money on the table at the start, you’ll be putting yourself behind at every future raise.

2. Renegotiate every six months. Don’t wait for annual reviews. Champion yourself by taking a look at your performance at least twice a year. Think about your accomplishments and talk to your boss. If you have kicked ass, ask for a reward. One of the best pieces of advice I got was: “If you ask and get turned down, that’s fine. If you ask and get accepted right away, you should have asked earlier.”

3. Reverse psychology. An awesome trick is to flip your question around. Instead of “what should I be doing better” ask “what is keeping me from __promotion/new title/getting the job/etc____?” It’s a lot harder question for a boss to answer. Take the response to heart. Document it, work on it and bring it up again when you’ve done it.

4. Do your homework. Know the ins and outs of stock options if you’re taking a startup job. Keep your resume up to date. Always know what your salary should be. Ask lots of questions about benefits and details of a job offer before you accept. Find mentors and friends who can give you advice. When you’re armed with knowledge, it’s easier to stand up for yourself.

5. Always, always ask. It’s the consistent theme here. From asking for a bigger paycheck to asking a mentor to review a contract, asking is the most important thing. If you have to, bribe yourself to do it (I’ve used ice cream) or simply pretend that it’s no big deal. Big shout-out to Ann Tardy and her book Life Moxie on this one. Ann and I shared a speaking tour a few years ago and her talks were so inspiring – I owe her a lot.

Okay, off the soapbox for me. If you have any questions, I’d love to help!

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There are 14 comments for this article
  1. Anonymous at 7:42 am

    Brava! I do find that women I have worked with are much more hesitant to be proactive in salary negotiations. Hopefully this is changing. Christie

  2. racherpeg at 6:55 pm

    This is wonderful, thank you for posting this! I'm currently working to get hired full time in a company that I'm a contracted administrative assistant. Do you believe it's still possible to negotiate a starting salary when getting hired on the bottom rung?

  3. mrsem Author at 11:08 pm

    Yes! Definitely. To be honest, entry level salaries can be the easiest to negotiate since the amounts are small in comparison to other people your boss may manage. It would make a big difference to you and be a small deal to your boss.

  4. Catherine at 11:27 pm

    Might seem like a dumb question, but how do you know what your salary should be?

  5. Bethany at 12:28 am

    Hi Emily! Thanks for posting this. My one year review should have been last Monday. I work at a very relaxed company and we don't really "do" reviews however I did ask for a raise and was told that at my review this would be discussed. Should I go ahead and ask when we are going to schedule my review? Should I wait it out? It's been about a month since I last mentioned it.

  6. mrsem Author at 4:55 am

    Hi Bethany – Sure, you should remind them about your review. See if you can reschedule it for next Monday.

  7. Anonymous at 5:48 am

    Any tips for people in the health care field (physical/occupational therapists)? Is negotiating still a possibility for entry-level positions at a hospital? Have you heard from people who have done this successfully? I'm just coming out of graduate school and starting to think about these things! Thanks 🙂

  8. mrsem Author at 4:10 pm

    Hey Anonymous PT – I've not worked in a hospital, so it's hard to say. I would guess that like any other large organization, they probably have defined salary ranges for each role. It should just be a matter of figuring out what the range is for your job (ask) and negotiating that you should be on the high end.

  9. Jackie at 9:05 pm

    I second all of Emily's suggestions. The last time I switched jobs, my husband encouraged/forced me to negotiate my starting salary, even though I felt the offer was more than fair.

    In the end, I got a 10% higher salary and negotiated a sizable starting bonus.

    They're not going to un-hire you because you ask for a higher amount (unless you previously stated a salary range during the interview process and have totally different expectations now…).

    Do your homework on stock options, employer matching, health benefits, etc.

  10. Lindsay at 9:23 pm

    Thanks for posting this! I found it really helpful. I applied your advice is a slightly different way – I'm renegotiating my job description. I work as a therapist, all day every day. It was getting to be too much, so I asked if I could help with other tasks – grant writing/reporting, serving on committees, etc. I like to think that I renegotiated my job satisfaction and set myself up to be in a good position to ask for a raise at my review in May.