Professionals involved in some organizations find that asking for a pay increase can be a bit tricky. The subject of money is touchy or delicate in general and particularly for black women in corporate America, who are conditioned to think in terms of being appreciative and grateful simply for having a job. Such an attitude is never appropriate and should never be acceptable. When we indulge in such false and misguided thinking, we allow our skills and expertise to be taken advantage of and perpetuate a practice of underpayment and unfair comparison to our peers and counterparts. It is time for us to stand up and step forward! To be deliberate in taking charge of matters of our compensation and get what we truly deserve!
I have worked at a technology consulting company for about three years and felt fairly certain that I was being paid much less than my peers. As I am a strong believer in salary transparency, to resolve any ambiguity or doubt, I actually asked them and confirmed the fact. Through further discussion and research, I found that my pay was actually less than the average pay for entry-level consultants in my field. To add insult to injury, my employer changed my job title and took away my overtime pay eligibility. That was the final straw for me, considering that the extra compensation had served to close the pay gap slightly.
Given that chain of events, I begin to measure my options and resolved to leave if I could find a better pay and benefits package with a different employer. I knew it was the right thing to do but before I pulled the trigger and submitted my notice, I decided to ask for a pay raise, sufficient to at least bring my pay rate on par with that of my colleagues and within a reasonable range of the pay scale for similarly engaged consultants in the market. I must admit that I didn’t have much confidence in receiving a positive response to my request, but knowing that I was already mentally prepared to leave, made it easier to steel my nerves and ask for what I wanted and felt I rightfully deserve.
Research the Market
Having done the work to understand the market for my skills, and the pay rates inside the company and within the market in general, I prepared myself with knowledge of salary ranges that would be considered fair and reasonable. It is really important to understand where your salary lies relative to the market for a similar job to develop realistic expectations and improve the overall likelihood of your requested or proposed salary would be found acceptable.
In effect, the numbers need to make sense independent of personal bias, with consideration of specific skill sets, professional brand, company and industry norms, and expectations for future performance and personal professional development. A great deal of useful information may be gathered through a review of public resources such as websites like Indeed, U.S. Bureau Labor of Statistics, and Glassdoor. The information gathered should be compared and contrasted with one’s title, salary, skills, and responsibilities to establish an appropriate basis for compensation considerations.
Show Work Commitment
When it comes to your job, you should be identified as more than an employee. You need to be clearly identified as “a team player”, an undeniable leader, the proverbial “go-getter”, a reliable brand, and an indispensable resource. You have to demonstrate your ability not only to do the job but to perform beyond the job description with an eye toward higher levels of achievement. We have to ask relevant questions that reflect foresight and good judgment, (very important in my opinion), and you should take initiative whenever possible, anticipating challenges and outcomes.
You need to adopt a mindset for absorbing new learnings and new marketable skills that show your colleagues how committed you are and to eagerly take on new challenges. Be willing to teach your co-worker new processes and techniques that are seen as promoting efficiency and enhanced productivity, as well as be beneficial to the team. You should want others to know who you are, especially all of your superiors and do all you can to promote positive comments about you, and especially about your work performance. In extra efforts, arrive to work on time or early every day and dress the part of the office or status you aspire to.
Ask Your Colleagues or Superiors
When you are prepared to level up your career that is surely the time to have a one on one conversation with your boss, supervisor, and or peers who have achieved a higher level position and role. Ask them how they achieved their success, how they prepared for the level of responsibilities they have acquired, and what advice they might offer to you to help you improve your outlook and prepare for similar success. Learn to skillfully stroke the ego of your superiors, with sincerity and aplomb, applying a balance of complimentary praise and wholesome ambition. From these conversations, a productive mentor and protege relationship may be fostered.
To burnish my credentials and establish myself as a valuable resource, I took on a leadership role in facilitating learning workshops for the clients to help them understand our new business system and how it added value. In addition, I became more proactive in seeking frequent performance discussions with my superiors and let them know my career goals and near tern aspirations, as this is how they will come to know you and how they might help you. It is their job to help you reach your goals and to achieve the levels you aspire to.
Provide Examples (High -Quality Work, Leadership, Good Feedback)
When engaging in performance discussions with your supervisor, understand that it is a formal discussion. You are involved in an effort to add value to your livelihood and overall career prospects. Communicating your current value and future development potential is key. Rehearse in front of a mirror, rehearse in front of your friends until you’ve got the cadence and flow down. Study your research findings and stick to the facts. Absorb the information and develop a good understanding of the nuances. You’ll feel stronger and more confident when you have mastered the full range of the data (plus, the true salaries of several of your colleagues) to support your request.
When it comes to asking for a raise, you will want to have available at your fingertips a list of accomplishments including work achievements and examples of your personal developments. These things taken together will help support your reasoning in general and your request in particular. Show how you saved the client a particular measure of operational costs. Show how you took initiative and showed leadership in providing certain reports that offered intuitive analysis and insightful judgment. Apply foresight in obtaining written feedback from clients, your superiors, and colleagues that you can share during your review. The more evidence you have available, the stronger your arguments for a pay raise will be.
Don’t Take No For an Answer Unless…
If you do hear a “no,” don’t let the conversation discourage you and end without obtaining the best career advice that can be used in future discussions. Ask your boss or supervisor where you need to improve and how you can be a more valuable asset to the company. There are fairly good chances that if you ask how you can improve and grow, your salary will grow as well. Ask to revisit the discussion in a time frame seen as satisfactory to you. When the time does come to reenter compensation again, it is important to set up the meeting appropriately. Keep track of everything and prepare a new set of talking points that reflect upon all the other great things you’ve done in the time since your last conversation.
If you do hear a “no”, maybe it’s time to look for other opportunities with a different organization. As suggested earlier, I contemplated my options to depart and was fully prepared to leave if my request was denied. Make sure you are willing and ready to take your talents and skills somewhere they are truly valued and your worth is reflected in an acceptable compensation package that you can be proud of as a successful career woman that you are! There is nothing like keeping your options open. But please make sure to not burn bridges or threaten your boss or superiors that you’re leaving or negatively manifest your work.
Featured photo: @simplycyn
Jasmin Williams is the founder and creative director (sometimes special guest writer) of Melanation. She loves sharing her experiences as a black woman working in corporate America and also passionate about women obtaining the necessary resources and information to thrive in their careers. In her spare time, she’s decorating her new home, occasionally watch documentaries on Netflix, learning Spanish, traveling, and reading a good self-help book. @jasminjanae