Finding Courage To Ask For A Raise

I am 43 years old. I have been in the workforce since I was 14. I have been employed with my current company since I was 29. And until yesterday, I have never in my life asked for a raise.

It’s not clear to me when I first realized this was something I should, perhaps, consider doing. I’m uncertain why, in July of this year, I had a sudden desire to put together a spreadsheet showing my gross pay per year since starting with my company.

In doing so, though, it became obvious that my pay does not match my experience or skill set.

When I was hired, back in 2006, it was as an Account Manager. My territory was the western half of the continental US. At some point, that expanded to become the whole US. Then I was given another product, and I managed the whole country for that product, too. Ultimately, I wound up taking on product management duties on top of account management responsibilities.

Currently, I’m some hybrid of strategic development, product management, account management, and various other things.

My title is still “Account Manager.” And, when I looked at my pay on that spreadsheet back in July, I realized my current pay is equivalent to what I would expect if my job duties had never expanded and I had been given a simple cost of living increase every year.

On the one hand, I recognize that’s not right. On the other, why would I think I deserve more? Who do I think I am? What, like the company wouldn’t get by perfectly fine without my contributions? Pffft.

And yet… it nagged at me. And kept nagging. Until, finally, it occurred to me that one of the reasons given for women, on average, earning less than men is that women don’t ask for raises.

That’s when I started to seriously consider asking for more money. When it wasn’t just for me, but as something I could do to right larger wrongs, it started sounding like something I might have the confidence to do.

A helpful guide to asking for a raise:

At some point over the summer, I talked to my VP about these thoughts. (I have a really great VP.) He is not the person who controls salary increases. Upon hearing what I’d discovered, he agreed I do way more than my current pay reflects. He said he would support me if I asked for more money.

He suggested I wait until the big project we were working on launched in mid-October, which would be when budgets for next year would be getting worked on anyway.

So, I waited. The launch was mid-October, as planned. It took me a few more weeks after that to build up my courage, but earlier this week I reached out to the VP of Finance. He is the person who determines salaries.

Yesterday, he and I sat down together.

He and I have known each other for over 13 years. He is a nice person. We have a good rapport.

It didn’t matter. I felt nauseous going into that meeting. I was sweating.

My VP had sat with me and helped pump me up a little bit in the minutes before I went to the finance guy’s office, which helped greatly. And then the designated time arrived, and away I went.

Finance guy and I greeted each other and exchanged niceties. I started by telling him that my job satisfaction right now is higher than it’s ever been before in my life, and how much I’m enjoying working with my current VP and the tasks assigned to me.

But.

But, the tasks I handle now are a far cry removed from what I was originally hired to do back in 2006, and my pay has not been appropriately adjusted to reflect that.

I laid out, briefly, everything I described above about how my responsibilities have changed over time, and how my salary barely reflects a standard annual cost of living increase.

He looked at my salary data on his computer and saw what I’ve made over the past few years. He pulled out my personnel file and saw the raises I’ve received here and there over time.

After doing so, he looked at me and said those two beautiful words every person on the planet loves to hear:

“You’re right.”

He went on to say, “Okay. How much are you thinking is appropriate? How can we make this right?”

I gave him an amount I would like to see my salary increased to. It’s based on glassdoor.com salary data, using an average of the salaries for a few different position titles since my job is a hybrid of so many different things.

What I asked for was, admittedly, on the high side of what I would consider an acceptable range. I guess I figured, if I was going to summon up the courage to ask for more money, I might as well see how much I could get.

To my surprise, the finance guy didn’t balk. He didn’t tell me I was nuts.

He said that the amount sounded reasonable.

He said he didn’t know if they would be able to do quite that amount, but said he thought they would be able to get me very close to it. I believe him. In all the time I’ve known him, he’s proven himself trustworthy a hundred times over.

The next steps are for him to talk to my VP (a conversation I already know will go well), and for him to look at the budget and figure out the exact amount that’s possible.

I left the meeting feeling very happy.

Before leaving work yesterday, my VP told me that the finance guy reached out right away. The two of them are going to sit down together on Monday. So I know things are moving forward.

And all I had to do was ask. Amazing, no?

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