Recently a friend of mine got a new job. I’m older and have more professional experience, but I won’t degrade our relationship by calling it mentoring. Still, I try to give her good advice when I can, which is why when I found out she got the job I told her, “Ask for more money.”
“Do I have to give a reason why I’m asking for more money?” she asked.
“Nope. Just ask for more.”
Asking for more money at work isn’t about greed. It’s about setting yourself up for long term success.
A lot of organizations have guidelines on standard promotions and cost of living increases. They give certain percentages based on your performance rating or level. Those rules are meant to make things equitable, but they are only equitable if everyone was making the same salary to begin with, which we know is rarely the case. Because of this, getting a little more when you start a new position will compound over your tenure at least at that organization. And since in most places it’s still legal to ask for someone’s salary history before hiring them, it can impact you in future jobs too.
Ask for more money.
Even if you are satisfied with the salary you are being offered, ask for more money, even just a little. Asking can feel awkward, but it will only become easier if you’ve done it before. Do it if only for the practice. Plus, it will show you aren’t a push over.
There are some guidelines when asking for more money:
- Don’t use ultimatums unless you intend to follow through. That is, don’t say, “I can’t accept this job unless I make x,” unless you really don’t intend to accept the job. If they don’t give you x and you take the job anyway, you look foolish, and you won’t be taken seriously in future negotiations.
- Don’t ask for a crazy number just to see how much you can get. If you intend to ask for something much higher than the offer, have some evidence to back up why you feel that is the more fair salary.
- Be professional. Don’t fight or pout. Calmly say, “For this position, I really feel I should make x.” See what happens. The worst thing they’ll say is no.
Yes, the worst thing they’ll say is no. They offered you a job, probably after considering many other candidates. They want you to work there. They aren’t going to change their mind just because you politely ask for more money. They are more likely to be worried you will say no!
If they say no you still have options. If you were truly happy with the offer, you can accept it, or you can try further negotiations. Sometimes organizations aren’t willing to commit to a higher salary when they don’t know if someone will actually work out. Sometimes they’ll be more amenable to giving more money after you’ve met certain milestones or even just as a retention bonus (i.e. you get the money after you’ve stayed for a year or two). You can try to ask for an arrangement like that. You can also try to ask for non-monetary perqs like another week of vacation or more telecommuting flexibility. Stock options may be an options (but are often risky).
There are a lot of reasons why women and people of color tend to be paid less. It would be nice if the burden weren’t so often put on employees to stand up for themselves, but currently that is the main thing that individuals can do. So, the next time you get a new job or if you’ve been in the same position for a while, ask for more money. Seriously. Do it.*
*Note: Like so much good advice, it is easier to give and to take. In my career, I have asked for more money sometimes, but there are too many times when I didn’t. I encourage you to do better.
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