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Episode 014

Episode 14: How to ask for a pay increase

by Gillian Fox

Listen To The Full Episode:

So, you are thinking about asking for a raise and you want to get paid what you deserve. Fantastic. But do know what to do?  

Today we are talking about how to prepare for a successful salary negotiation, how to track your successes, how to approach the actual conversation, and what to do if the conversation goes pear-shaped. It’s going to be action-packed episode!  

You are listening to Your Brilliant Career. I’m your host, Gillian Fox – executive coach, women’s career expert, and entrepreneur. The podcast that teaches you how to get the most out of your career. We talk tactics, tools, and stories that all help incredible women like you achieve the success you deserve.  

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Hello and welcome to the show. What a spicy topic we have today. If the thought of asking for a raise makes you break into a sweat, don’t worry. There is a solution, and that solution is knowledge! Knowing what to do.

I feel the greatest limitation for many women is not knowing HOW to prepare or have that conversation. And that’s pretty understandable because no one teaches us ….and it’s not encouraged in your early work life. Plus, your initial increases and promotions are just given to you.

Your boss certainly isn’t going to train you on how to ask for more money. As women, many of us have been conditioned not to speak up or ask for things.

Of course, asking for a raise isn’t that challenging if you have an incredibly supportive boss, but what about approaching the boss who doesn’t like these uncomfortable asks? Or maybe you’ve had a bad experience in the past where you asked, and you got a NO and it left you feeling deflated.

Or maybe… it never feels like the right time… every time you consider having the conversation, another constraint is announced… be it budget, a restructure, a pandemic! It’s relentless.

If you’re struggling or hesitating to ask for more money even though you believe you should earn more money, today might give you that little PUSH that you need.

INTRODUCING THE PAY RISE CHALLENGE

I’m also going to set a challenge today. It’s a ripper of a challenge. And it is this… I want you to ask for a pay increase this year and EVERY year. That’s right, every single year.

I’M CALLING IT THE “ANNUAL PAY ASK” CHALLENGE.  

Now … don’t develop a nervous twitch yet – this is not a flippant challenge – it’s a great challenge and the idea comes from THE PAY RISE EXPERT Meggie Palmer – who I’ll talk more about shortly.

But first let’s talk about this challenge… so we can calm that twitch!

I imagine many of you listening do not currently adopt this approach and ask for an increase every year. Maybe some of you have never asked for a pay rise.

You’ve acquired your increases to date as a result of changes within the business or a promotion that you’ve earnt. In most cases – they have come to you, and you might feel it has all worked out okay so far.

But I want to reset your thinking on that… because I can assure you the pay increases won’t always come to you. I would love you to leave this podcast thinking bigger. Valuing yourself professionally. Being committed to asking for that increase every year. And let me tell you why.

Making an ask every year attunes your employer that you will ask for an increase EVERY year – that you’ll be back… year after year – because you value the work that you do, the contribution you make to the business and yourself.

When you make this ask in a compelling way (and we’ll get to HOW you do that part shortly!) at a minimum, they will walk away impressed with you. They will see you differently – someone who is prepared to speak up, back themselves and someone who displays good business acumen in the way you’ve presented your case.

And you know what – even if they say no – you will have made an impact. You will have elevated yourself and you will be on their radar and probably others’ in the business. That alone makes it worth the effort. I really believe this, and I’ve seen the impact.

WHY WE NEED TO ASK

But there’s another reason to ask and I have to raise this because I’ve spent the last decade helping corporations attain their gender equity and diversity goals. The pay gap for women is still a huge concern. Australia’s national gender pay gap has hovered between 13% and 19% for the past two decades.

Asking for a pay increase will pave the way for other women to do it more. It may not feel like it, but I assure you there are real benefits in you role modelling this behaviour. It will help us close the pay gap.  

Plus, there are real business benefits to companies when men and women are paid the same. It increases productivity, there’s greater innovation and consequently, financial returns.

So, there’s not just a HUGE ‘what’s in it for me’ in asking for a raise – it actually helps other women and improves organisational performance.

FEAR OF ASKING FOR MONEY

Let’s chat about why there is this fear about asking for more money – I feel like we need to address that elephant in the room first.

Women earn far less than men yet are reluctant to ask for salary increases. Did you know a survey found that while 80% of women felt underpaid, two-thirds had never asked for more money – and those who had, described it as one of the most stressful things they’d ever done. Makes me feel almost sad hearing that!

It would seem men are better at asking for a pay rise and they will do it more consistently. It’s interesting to think why there is such a disparity.

Meggie Palmer, who I mentioned earlier – is the founder of salary negotiation company PepTalkHer. She has a theory and that is women associate the word negotiation with a negative experience. We think shark tank, or our worst teenage selves arguing with our parents – it’s heated, angry, it’s confrontational. But the truth is a negotiation is just a discussion. A discussion aimed at reaching an agreement. We need to see it for what it is… and put the drama aside… because it’s self-created.

Meggie Palmer and her company PepTalkHer offer the best resources and advice available today. I’ve read so many papers and listened to multiple experts over the years on the topic, but Meggie is the standout.

In fact, one of the tools on PepTalkHer is a pay rise calculator. It highlights why it is sooo worth you taking on the “annual pay ask” challenge. And making an effort to ask for a pay increase every year.

So, let’s pretend we’re using the calculator together right now. For the sake of the story, we’ll say the person is 34 years old and their current salary is $80,000 per annum. Just as a simple example to run through.

They ask for an 8 % increase. They go to their boss, present their business case – and get the increase. Super!

That’s a pretty reasonable scenario – so the calculator confirms that they would earn an extra $533 per month – that’s a few extra dinners out, maybe even a loan payment for new car.

This translates to $6,400 per year or a whopping $192,000 by the time you retire. How about that!

I know there may be variables to this, but it is still a powerful example illustrating the importance and the financial gains of consistently asking for a salary increase.

So hopefully, at this point of our conversation, you have developed an interest to participate in the “annual pay ask” challenge.

THE AGENDA  

There’s a lot to explore today and so you can follow this easily, I will focus on four key points. They are:

  1. How to understand your value – you’ll have a view, but will it be substantiated. It’s something you NEED to know.
  2. How to start building your business case – you know you can’t just ask for a rise – you have to demonstrate your value. You need to have a case, an argument to present – no one hands out money these days – tenure counts for nothing – so you need to be prepared. We’ll be exploring HOW you do that.
  3. How to make the Ask – yep, the actual conversation -the part that freaks everyone out about
  4. And finally, what to do if the conversation goes pear shaped.

POINT ONE – KNOW YOUR VALUE  

Let’s kick off talking about knowing your value. The question that emerges for most women is – how do I know how much am I worth?

It’s a good question… and you do need to know the answer.

When you know your worth, you can convey it with more confidence. It’s not your personal opinion, it’s the market and its substantiated.  

When my RISE participant’s do this, they tell me that they immediately feel better about asking for more money. Why? For them, it feels less personal, it’s a market rate, not their perception… and it allows them to own that figure. And that’s what we want. Confidence in owning the figure.

Many experts on the web suggest the best way to know your value is to use the salary calculators. There are plenty if you do a search. Hays salary check is an easy tool that can help you understand typical salaries and your potential earnings, based on your job details and location.

But it’s not enough. The online salary calculators are not enough. Sometimes these salary checkers are out of date and not accurate. They don’t allow you to build a convincing business case.

You can’t say to your boss – that’s me, my gig on line 42 – that’s how much you need to be paying me. It’s not credible enough.

So, what can you do? A great place is to speak with a recruiter and gain their insights on your earning potential and marketability. Recruiters are in touch with the market so will give you an informed opinion of your worth.

The great thing about recruiters is that they are privy to information that you won’t be. Salaries are always changing, and recruiters have their finger on the pulse. It’s their job to know what’s happening.

I know…I know…some of you will be cringing already, thinking I don’t know a recruiter that specialises in my industry AND I don’t know what to say when I call. So, let’s clear this up quickly!

You can a find a recruiter by asking a few people that you trust. They do not need to be your immediate work colleagues. They might be an old friend, an exercise buddy, an ex-work colleague. You will have people in your network that would be happy to share a recommendation.

You could even find a recruiter on LinkedIn. It’s all there – the recruiters want you to find them.

Let me say this… If you’ve managed to buy a fabulous pair of boots online by searching different shopping apps – you can do this. You can find a recruiter – it’s no harder. Promise! I’m speaking from experience.

When you contact the recruiter – you simply introduce yourself and explain that you’re interested in understanding the market, the current opportunities, and your market value. The recruiter is not going to get excited by a call that simply states – what’s my value – you need to have an expanded conversation.

You don’t have to hand over your CV – it’s a discussion and may lead to them approaching you about other roles, but hey, that’s not a bad thing. It might be a great opportunity and if not, it keeps YOU informed about the market and opportunities available.

Meggie advocates speaking to recruiters too. She also talks about attracting a small, trusted group of people that you can collaborate with about salaries.

A group that you can check in with and say – hey what are you and others being paid for that role right now. I love this idea and am starting to recommend it in the RISE Program, our 4-month women’s career program, because this is where women meet and continue to support each other.

Imagine doing the RISE program and having a group of fantastic women that you can plug into and ask – what is the salary of this or that. Maybe you’re recruiting someone for your team, and you want to know what a reasonable salary is for a marketing coordinator. You can consult your trusted group.

So good. It’s the sisterhood at its best. What’s not to love about helping other women earn more money. We all benefit.

POINT TWO – BUILDING YOUR BUSINESS CASE

Okay, let’s move on to the next point, building your case. What’s your argument going to be? Your justification for wanting more money?

When you ask for anything in business you have to demonstrate your value and build a business case that explains why. You get nothing for nothing.  

Consider asking for an extra headcount – you can’t just say I need an additional person in my team. Requests for extra headcounts often go all the way to the top… so naturally leaders want to know the ROI, the business impact of having the extra person versus not having them.

Asking for an increase is not that different – you have to present the facts, the data, the story to support your business case.

So …how do you build your case, so that you are clear and compelling when the time comes?

Well, you need to prepare.

Meggie poses this question and it’s a beauty… how you would feel if you had twenty minutes to prepare for your pay increase conversation?

That’s right, if you had to go in twenty minutes from now and pitch your case for a pay increase. How would that make you feel? Think about that for a moment. Twenty minutes to prepare.

Would it make you feel excited, ready to roll… or worried, anxious, frustrated because you, let’s face it, wouldn’t feel prepared enough.

To build a solid business case, you need to prepare – ideally months ahead.

Yep, the more prep – the more amazing you’ll be. But it’s not complicated or high maintenance.

The mission is to gather your supporting evidence for your salary increase. To be successful, you need to show your boss why you deserve a raise. It’s not enough to say the cost of living is increasing or that you’re generally doing a good job. You must have specific and quantifiable evidence to present.

While it might feel like your workload or recent increase in workload, speaks for itself – assume nothing. Niente. Zilch.

You know yourself as a busy professional, you overlook things. You don’t notice everything. Your boss is no different and they may not recognise your efforts in the way you want them to. I’m not saying this is acceptable – it’s just the truth.

There are a few ways to prepare and gather your evidence for this important conversation.

Both are effective… But different. Let’s start with the super fun one.

If you listened to the episode with the wonderful Briony Benjamin a few months ago called Careers are tough but so are you, you’ll know where I’m heading.

Briony is one of my favourite people – she just sparkles, and she shares some incredible tips on getting through the tough stuff – and all good careers have their tough moments!

In the podcast, Briony talks about her ‘ta da’ list – that’s right like a surprise – ‘ta da’ – I asked for an increase today – and ‘ta-da’. You get the idea!

Briony describes her ‘ta-da’ list a bit like an achievement list. A list that includes everything she has done. She’d complete it on a Friday afternoon. So she’d quickly jot down what she’d gotten through that week. What she’d achieved. So over time, she accumulated this log of achievements.

So, when she went in for her first six month review at her role at Mamamia, she blew herself and her manager away because there was so much great work to show case. One fabulous ‘ta da’ moment after another.

Her manager was like “Oh my goodness, how have you done all this?” and as Briony said in that episode… that if you don’t tell your story and you don’t advocate, then no one’s going to do it for you.

I’ve always been a fan of writing down a list of your achievements, so you have a record – its great preparation for the pay conversation – but I really love this concept because the simply the whole idea of ‘ta da’ brings so much joy to the process… Today I achieved a new customer worth x amount… Ta da!

Its playful and fun…yet also tracks your success.

So, you could easily start your own ta da list. All you need is an exercise book, or I would personally buy a lovely notebook, so it feels a bit special… and get to work. The ta da approach is ideal for people who like a creative approach or like writing things down. Good old pen to paper!

The other approach is digital… and I have to say… it is a VERY cool way of tracking your success. It is Meggie’s PepTalkHer app. It is a place to TRACK YOUR SUCCESS in an app and it’s the most brilliant tool.

You can go into the app store on your phone and look up PepTalkHer. Make sure it has ‘her’ at the end because there is a Peptalk app and it’s not going to help you get an increase.

Once you’ve signed up… you’re in and you can start tracking your success. It helps track your everyday career wins. You simply type text and you can even upload photos of your successes… and it’s all saved. How great – how tidy – how simple. AND… You have real data to showcase just how amazing you are!

The app even has templates that help you build out the success, so you sound more compelling when you actually share it. I really love this part and it will make you sound more sophisticated.

For example, if it’s a sales success, you might write – “I brought in a deal today”. And the template helps you articulate the business benefits of that success because that’s how you need to present it.

So, using that example of “I brought in a deal today”. I did this by… (you fill in the blank and there’s prompters in the template), which means (blank and you insert impact of that deal to the business).

You get the idea. You don’t have to use the templates, but I like this tool for your top ten achievements. You will sound be convincing and you want those big achievements to shine.

But if you don’t fancy the template – still get the achievement down in the app. It doesn’t have to be a whopping achievement.

  • Did you start a conversation on how to improve something in the business?
  • Did you organise the end of year drinks at the pub?
  • Were you included in any important projects?
  • Did you receive positive feedback?

All those examples are worthy.

And if you can include a dollar figure or percentage improvements, do that – even better.

What’s great about the app is that you will accumulate a really cool list of your contributions and what makes them special. What makes you special!!!!!

It even provides reminders and tips if you want them.

The ta da list of the PepTalkHer app will be the “glue” to your Ask because nothing speaks louder than data and facts.

Your boss will want to know what specific value have you added? And you will have the answers – and they’ll all be accessible because you’ve tracked your success.

Why is it important to do this consistently? Because we forget. Even if we dedicated the whole weekend to preparing for our pay rise conversation – do you really think we’d remember all our achievements over twelve months. No way!

There is no way you will remember – too much happens. I can’t even remember what I did last weekend. And your boss definitely isn’t going to remember – as good as they might be – they are not going to be invested in you the same way that you are invested in you. No one is going care more about this than you.

So, you’ve got to capture your successes consistently, so you build a great case.

Imagine reading back over a few months – how good will you feel about yourself – seeing all those incredible achievements.

Reading about your own accomplishments is highly motivating, and it also causes you to see and believe in your own value!! Yes!! It’s an authentic reminder of how good you really are. And you know what… that increased self-belief is going help you have a better conversation.

POINT THREE – THE CONVERSATION  

Next up is the conversation – the Ask. This is where you use the data and examples you have collected to validate the Ask.

Once you’ve chosen the appropriate time to discuss, you need to have a conversation. Now… don’t over-complicate this… you can say:

Thank you for taking the time to meet with me today. I’d like to talk about my contribution to the business over the past twelve months and my salary. Note that bit is upfront.

Share your successes – use the achievements, and where you can, how they align to the business. If you are able to include a dollar figure or percentage improvements, do that too.

Make your request for the salary increase. Avoid “I think I deserve this because of …these successes”. That’s not assertive. Instead, say, I feel 8% is appropriate. Or I feel this amount is commensurate with the value that I’ve been bringing to the business.

If you feel you need to add and you might include within the conversation… that, I’ve also sought to understand the market and my value. The proposed salary is equal to salaries for roles similar to mine in companies of the same size.

And then be comfortable with what I call… the three-second-long pause. That’s the pause where you desperately want to fill in the gaps because you’re uncomfortable with the silence.

But give them space to think and respond – they will – they might say they will come back to you with some feedback, and that’s okay. They might say yes, I’d like to see what we can do.

Can you see if you practise this conversation EVERY year… how damn good you’re going to get at this? It’s an exciting prospect, right!  

If you need some extra support preparing, think about joining us on the RISE program, our 4 month women’s career program. We’ve helped many women prepare their conversation, so they do it exceptionally well. Once you’ve got one good run under your belt – you have the fundamentals. And you can repeat it.

Go to Your Brilliant Career if extra support and the RISE program is of interest to you.

POINT 4 – WHEN THE CONVERSATION GOES PEAR SHAPED

Now we also know – despite the best prep – these conversations can go pear-shaped.

We also know we tend to get a bit nervous at these moments, and it’s easy to wobble. So, we need to have a Plan B and C thought through.

The thing that makes most people feel the conversation went pear-shaped is that they received a no.

If you’ve really made an effort – this can be disappointing – and your natural response at that moment might be to RUN. Get the hell out of there. Remove yourself from this tense situation.

But hold tight – it’s still unfinished business.

So, let’s run with the NO scenario – you know there are two common scenarios –

  1. The first is they say no because they don’t believe you’ve achieved enough – there is a skill or performance gap that might be letting you down. Don’t fret – it’s good to know this, so you are better equipped next year.Don’t let the conversation go off track here – stay focused – ask them – what specifically do I need to do in the next 6-12 months to acquire the increase? We want to know exactly what we need to pull off to get the raise. It makes them think and be more accountable too.
  2. People also get a no – and perhaps a more common one right now – because the feedback is “we have no budget”. Sound familiar!!Now I’ve worked in organisations where there have been staff freezes which means if someone leaves, there’s no replacing that person, no increases, nothing and yet I know some people still got pay rises. So don’t feel bad about asking.If they say there isn’t any money… don’t pull up stumps there. Prepare to ask for something else – it might be more super, fewer work hours, trips interstate to see your family, training and development. Join us at RISE – we even give the wording on how to ask your boss to join.What have you got to lose here? Nothing. Worst case scenario – they still say no.

Thinking through these scenarios is helpful. You need to plan and prepare. It feels like a lot of work, but here’s the thing… you are building a new skill set and once you do this… it is going to get easier and easier.

Knowing how to ask for a pay increase will set you up for success for the rest of your career.

SO TO RECAP…  

  1. Understand your value – as a first action point go speak to a recruiter. It’s the smart thing to do.
  2. Next start tracking your success, so you build out your business case – your WHY you deserve this – and you want to make it compelling.
  3. How to make the Ask – be clear, direct, unapologetic and showcase that data and value.
  4. And finally, if you get a no – hang in there and ask help questions or propose another option. Be ready for that part of the conversation. They won’t be!!!

Okay I hope you found that helpful today.

You can do this. You are more capable than you think, so give it a go. I know you won’t be sorry….and get paid what you deserve.

Thanks for listening today. It’s been a pleasure sharing these tips and hopefully inspiring to take on the “annual pay conversation” challenge.

I will be back in a few weeks. Please join me because we are talking about dialling up your LinkedIn profile in 2022. See you soon.

Thanks so much for listening to today’s podcast. If you’re enjoying what you’re learning on the podcast, sign up for our free guide on HOW TO MAKE YOUR VALUE MORE VISIBLE AT WORK. I share three strategies that will help you amplify your accomplishments and boost self-confidence at work. I think you’ll love it.  

Head over to www.yourbrilliantcareer.com.au/free-guide If you want some inspiration and tips during the week, join us on Instagram, Gillian Fox Group. I look forward to seeing you there.

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