Hey everybody – long time no talk. Life’s been a little hectic around the Big Day Coming household. We’ve gotten back started on our kitchen remodel, and now that nicer weather is around we have an endless amount of outdoor work to get done. Mowing, trimming, mulching, weeding, gardening, chainsawing (yeah!), seeding. It seems like it never ends. We sure did pick a heck of a project house, inside and out. Oh well, it keeps us busy.
Things have also been pretty busy at my job. In fact, things have even become a little stressful. But, well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves…
Today I wanted to share my good news: I’m getting a raise!
This is the very first raise I’ve received that hasn’t been through an act of Congress. I received a raise at my very first job as a library page back when I was 16 due to a raise in the minimum wage. I make a very nice wage, but that’s only because I’ve managed to get good bumps in my salary when switching jobs. Every time I switched jobs, my pay rate went up – but I’ve never had a raise until now, at the age of 32. What gives?
No Formal Performance Reviews
In the jobs I held during high school they paid a certain rate per hour and that was it. These aren’t jobs where you typically get performance reviews and raises on a nice schedule. The same has been true of my job(s) for the past 7 years. I’ve worked at two startups (the latter acquired the first), and while we did some informal performance reviews we’ve never done anything formal tied to actual bonuses or raises (though we’re slowly starting to now). And quite honestly, I made good money and didn’t want to press for a raise.
In college, I worked as a co-op (sort of a paid internship) that my college required as part of my degree. I made pretty good money, but again this was a set pay rate and for a set amount of time (it had to fall into the college trimester schedule). Right after college, I landed a job through a 3rd-party contract agency. Again another set pay rate, set contract period. No real wiggle room for asking for more money. In fact, the contractor got squeezed for money from the company that we actually did the work at – Xerox. They asked for the rates to drop and asked for back pay, or the contract agency would be off their list of approved contractors. The agency passed on part of that squeeze to us in the form of reduced pay. Let’s just say that didn’t sit too well.
I work on a long running, not-so-glamorous project for my employer. It’s software the company needs for our customers, but most of our programmers aren’t excited by the language and technology involved with working on it; and finding a good programmer who has related experience with it can be difficult. The project itself has slowly lost engineers over time and we haven’t been able to backfill their positions. Now we’re down to just me and another engineer. He’s been on the project about a year and a half. I’ve been working on the project in various forms for over 7 years now. It’s pretty clear that the project would be in a serious lurch if I were to leave.
Since it had been roughly three years since the first startup got acquired and my salary was bumped, plus the state of the project I decided to press my case. I meekly asked for a raise in one of my interviews with my manager stating my case very plainly, without pushing the issue – or stating the obvious point that the project’s livelihood rested mostly on me. I simply stated that I’d been working on the project for a very long time, that I was hoping to begin working on additional projects to get some more experience, that I’d been loyal to the company and worked hard, and that I’d had no raise in years.
A week or so later I got word that I’d been approved, and starting back in May my new salary hit my paychecks. Yeah!
Here’s what I think helped my case:
- I had some leverage because of the state of the project, but I did not threaten to leave or explicitly try to press that point.
- I was specific in how long it had been since my last salary increase (sort-of raise? when we got acquired, they gave us each a “raise” to sign on with the new company)
- I raised the issue around the time we were doing performance reviews. The company is still getting started doing them so they’re not yet officially tied to raises or bonuses, but I made sure to raise the issue when it was relevant.
- I raised the issue during our weekly one on one meeting with my manager. I didn’t just barge into his office or whine off the record. If you don’t have a regular time to speak with your manager, schedule a meeting to do so – and then use that as the place to ask about HR related items.
- I didn’t get into personal issues/needs. My manager knows we’ve started our family and have a bunch of projects and remodeling going on. But I didn’t start raising those in the request because those are things I’ve taken on myself and not something my boss or company should feel obligated to “help out” with or even care about.
- I was patient. Once I’d asked, I didn’t press the issue repeatedly, I let my manager (and his boss) raise the issue again while the request was being handled.