This past week and a half, I have been traveling with my family. I work part-time as a remote behavioral economics researcher. Once a year, I actually work in the office for a few days to remind people I exist, do a presentation on stuff I’ve been working on, and spend some face-to-face time with co-workers. We turn it into a big family vacation at the hotel with the pool and made-to-order breakfast and we all have a great time (minus the days I actually have to work in an office!). This year, thanks to a boost of confidence from my amazing brother-in-law’s advice on getting a raise, I decided this was my year to get a raise!
The story begins with me checking into the hotel near work. We usually get into town on Thursday night and spend the weekend vacationing as a family before I walk into the office on Monday morning. I was sitting on the hotel bed with my phone in hand and I decided to draft an email to my boss warning him I would be asking for a raise. I would think about what I would say, add to it throughout the day, and then send it off on Friday. I started by simply typing:
Can we meet to discuss the possibility of a pay raise while I’m in the office next week?
At this point, I didn’t know what else to say. And I probably shouldn’t have phrased it like that… it seemed too blunt. Suddenly, my daughter jumped up on the bed, I dropped my phone and picked it up to see “message sent.” Okay then. Quick thinking. I guess I’m very bluntly asking for a raise. No going back now. But I better send a follow up email quickly. I didn’t even sign my name!
So I quickly emailed “Sorry, I just got jumped on (kids!) and the email sent. I was thinking either first thing in the office Monday morning or right before I leave make the most sense. Whenever works best for you. Maggie.” Nailed it. Okay, maybe not… but at least I didn’t sound as pushy as I did before. And I actually added my name. That has to count for something. It was an awkward hour before I received a reply from the boss saying: “Sounds good. Let’s plan to talk right before you leave. Travel Safe.” Now the pressure was on to make my days in the office awesome.
The days in the office went great. I met with lots of people, rocked a presentation, and was overall awesome. (Though I did lots of head-nodding at my desk in the afternoons. How do people survive in the office all day without nap?!) The last day came and my boss set up a meeting time. Here is what I learned from the experience:
- Ask for a raise when YOU think it’s time: My boss started the conversation by saying “What do you make now? How long have you been at that rate?” He had no idea how much I made or how long I had been at the same rate. Yes, he was the one that arranged my original contract and my subsequent raise, but it turns out he is completely unaware of my paycheck. For some reason, I seemed to think he knew and/or cared about the exact hours I worked and how much I made and the last time I got a raise. I realize now this is a crazy thought. Why would he be as aware of that stuff as I am? He could easily look it up, but it’s not a priority for him. It’s a good thing I brought up a raise because it was not at all on his radar.
- Be prepared to explain why you need a raise: My boss did a lot of explaining for me “I agree it’s probably time for a raise. Your productivity is way up” (he’s a great guy). But I still had to explain what I’m doing now that I wasn’t doing then. With the realization that he is not hyper-aware of my paycheck came the realization that he is also not aware of exactly how much I do in my position and how much I have improved since my last raise.
- Aim high: In reality, I had no idea that I would be asked to give a number, but after a good discussion, my boss said “what do you think would be a fair rate?” I kept my cool and said the next round number that popped into my head. It turns out it was a 33% raise (did not calculate in my head before speaking). I had anticipated a negotiation, so I aimed high to start off. My boss’s response: “Sure. I don’t think we’ll get in trouble for doing that.” (Again, great guy. Also, the disclaimer that maybe my boss’s boss will cut the raise to a lower percentage. I’m hoping that doesn’t happen.)
- It’s not as scary as it seems: All in all, I feel like this was a fabulous experience. I’ve been someone that has definitely been guilty of just waiting for someone to hand me a raise. But if I kept doing that, I would never have gotten one because my boss wasn’t thinking about it. The actual discussion was a fabulous review of performance, a discussion of what I love about the job, and a few things I think would make it better. The actual numbers chat lasted only a few minutes and wasn’t nearly as painful as I thought it would be. At that point, however, even if he would have said: “we’re going through a reorganization and we can’t increase your pay at this time,” I wouldn’t have been upset about it. The discussion was well worth the risk.
So, thanks to my crazy kid jumping on the hotel bed, I earned myself a 33% raise! We just arrived back home late last night from the whole adventure and we’re exhausted. But the whirlwind was great. And hopefully once the paperwork goes through, November will produce a bit more money to throw at our financial goals. Winning!