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!
Claudia @ Two Cup House
Way to go, Maggie! This is excellent news!
I know! I’m in shock!
Harmony @ CreatingMyKaleidoscope
Congrats – what a big move forward in accomplishing your goals! It’s no surprise that your boss wasn’t sure of your pay rate or how long you had been there, because they have so much else to worry about. For me, we have yearly performance reviews, but for many others, the boss is unlikely to give raises unless you bring up the subject.
Right. This was a concept I hadn’t really processed. I just assumed he was completely aware of every paycheck I received (because, obviously, I’m important enough for him to care!). 🙂
Wowsers! Great job Maggie! This will help reach your financial goals faster for sure.
I do still only work 10-15 hours a week, but still… now I’ll be getting 33% more money during those few hours!
Yea we (the workers) are the ones that have to take ownership of our own careers. Our boss and co-workers have their own work responsibilities, families, friends, etc. I also don’t think they care about our need to make more, what they care about are the results that we bring to the company. Our boss is responsible to their boss and their boss and so on and so forth.
Anyway good for you! ^_^
True and true. But I disagree that my boss doesn’t care about my raise. Mine genuinely wants me to be happy, which is a great thing.But he does have all his own stuff going on, so he has enough to deal with. 🙂
Alyssa @ Generation YRA
Oh my gosh – congratulations, Maggie!!! 🙂 That’s amazing & what a trip! I hope you were sending a very enthusiastic wave from the Seattle airport yesterday! It’s a very great exercise to practice & you have no idea what the outcome will be – but why not try? Very happy to hear you’ll be able to achieve your goals faster all thanks to your courage & kiddo for jumping on the bed!
It was a death-defying moment for sure when I realized I had just sent a very blunt, unsigned email asking for a raise. But, in retrospect, I’m glad she made me do it!
Sarah Noelle @ The Yachtless
That’s awesome! Isn’t it funny to think about how little money-saving strategies (like comparison price shopping at the supermarket) pale in comparison to a substantial increase in income? Not that the money-saving strategies don’t add up — they do! But asking for more money is, in a lot of ways, simpler and much less time-consuming. I actually had a similar experience recently, and it just blew me away how much of a difference it made.
I can’t wait to see what I difference it makes in our income! And the pay increase will motivate me to work more as well as I get paid hourly!
Our Next Life
Wohoo!! The raise is meant to be — you weren’t supposed to overthink it, so what a fortuitous email. Congrats!!
Thank you. It does feel good. 🙂
Kim from Philadelphia
Maggie, congrats on your raise!! I love that your daughter “accelerated” the process!
Although I’m sure you have a great boss, I’m sure he has a great employee and he’s appreciative of the excellent work you do!
Your work sounds very interesting; great that you have location flexibility!
Thanks Kim! I love my job so much. And my boss is kind of a family friend, and they’ve been great about flexibility and everything else. It’s perfect for me. And the raise makes it even better! 🙂
Congrats on the raise! The answer will always be “no” if you never ask. Crazy how things just work out sometimes…
But asking seems so scary! It’s a good thing my kids keep me on track! 🙂
Yaaaaay! Congratulations, Maggie! I’m so happy for you as if I’m the one who got the raise! And 33%! Wow! Just wow! (I’m so excited this comment is filled with ‘!!!’!)
Thank you, J! Exclamation points are warranted. I’m still a bit nervous it won’t go through, but there’s nothing I can do about it at this point and I’m getting a raise regardless, so all good things!
Penny @ She Picks Up Pennies
Read this post earlier on my phone, but I wanted to wait until I was at a “real” keyboard to leave a proper comment.
Well done! You make excellent points about advocating for yourself and selling yourself. No one knows better that you how hard you work and how much you’re worth. I haven’t asked for a raise since high school, but I still remember it being one of the hardest subjects to broach and one of the most rewarding!
Thanks Penny! It’s hard enough to say good things about yourself… adding a “I’m so great you should give me money” makes the whole thing really hard!
Way to go! It’s always good to take yourself seriously when it comes to pay. I’m lucky that my boss evaluates my salary yearly. If not, I’m not sure if I’d feel comfortable asking for a raise. I’d definitely have to work up the courage.
The annual review is nice… I sort of wish I had that… but alas… it did take some major courage/kid jumping on the bed… but I’m glad it worked out!
Ditching The Grind
Awesome news! Congratulations!
Thanks! I’m pretty excited about it!
Freaking AWESOME! High five!
The first step of every negotiation is just asking and you did great! One of the most important point for a face to face negotiation is always how confident you are. It’s a lot harder to push back when the person in front of you is so confident that they obviously have to be right.
And as you say, it isn’t as bad as it could have been, the more we practice these difficult situation the better we become at it.
Thanks Nick! I was pretty confident walking into that meeting… and that definitely helped.