Each Monday, BND staff writer Brittney M. Helmrich will answer your questions about careers, leadership, office life and social media in her advice column, "Dear Brittney." Got a professional problem you just can't figure out? Send your conundrums to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line "Dear Brittney" to have your questions featured.
I work for a small business that's just starting to find its niche and, as a result, is growing at a rapid pace. All this growth has everyone at the company excited, but for me, that excitement is tinged with a growing sense of uneasiness. You see, as the company grows, so does my workload — including my time spent in the office. However, my paycheck hasn't grown at all since taking on these new responsibilities. And to complicate the matter, I don't have any experience asking for a raise, and I'm really nervous about doing so. Where do I begin?
- Big Job, Small Paycheck
Dear Big Job, Small Paycheck,
I don't blame you for feeling uneasy! You're doing more work and working longer hours, and your salary should absolutely reflect that. You say that your company is growing rapidly, which hopefully means that there's a little more room in the budget to reward hardworking employees like yourself.
When you're feeling overworked and frustrated at your job, there are really only two options: Either you do what it takes to make a change so that you can feel fulfilled, respected and valued, or you look for a new job somewhere you'll be more appreciated — personally and monetarily. It sounds like you enjoy your job and don't want to leave, but it also sounds like you deserve more than what you're being given. So I'm glad you recognize that and are looking to do something about it, even though bringing it up can be difficult.
The good news is, if you're working hard — and it sounds like you are — you're on the right track for a raise. But, the bad news? Nothing is guaranteed. I highly recommend keeping an eye out for potential new jobs, too. You don't have to spend all your free time actively looking for new opportunities, but you should set up email alerts for job postings similar to yours and companies you admire. When good opportunities arise, apply. Even if you love your current job and think you really might get that raise, apply anyway. You need to have a backup plan, because loving where you work and what you do — and all of that growth and excitement — can only sustain you for so long. And who knows, you might get an amazing offer that could change your life. But that's beside the point — just make sure you're paying attention to what else is out there, just in case. [See Related Story: 10 Important Things to Do Before Asking for a Raise ]
Now, for the asking part. Of course, you can't just march into your boss's office and say you deserve a raise. If you want more money, you'll have to put in the work to prove it. That means making a list of your accomplishments and how they impact the company. It means making a list of all of the new responsibilities you're taking on, and how many extra hours you're working per week to make that happen. It means researching what other people in similar positions in your field are making to see if you're making a competitive salary. If you're not — and it's likely that you're not, being that you work for a smaller, newer company — then you have a case, and all of the info you just compiled will help you back it up. What you need to do is show, in a concrete way, that you are an asset to the company and that you're putting in all this extra effort to support the company's growth because you want it to succeed. And knowing what the competitive salary rate for your position is will help you come up with an appropriate amount to ask for.
And don't worry — it's completely understandable that you're nervous. Even the most confident among us can feel anxious about asking for a raise — it feels risky, and there's a chance you're not going to get the answer you're looking for. The best thing you can do to combat this is to be prepared. Be prepared with all that information you're supposed to have, and be emotionally prepared for all possible outcomes.
Once you're prepared, email your boss and ask if you can set up a time to meet with him or her about your progress. And then, when it's time to have your chat, take a few deep breaths and say what you need to say. Be calm, polite and friendly, but don't be afraid to take ownership of your responsibilities and achievements. If you know you're good at your job and have the data to prove it, own it. Don't feel like you have to be overly modest or humble. Yes, humility is a good trait to have and you don't want to seem too cocky, either, but don't let your humility prevent you from talking about your accomplishments and asking for what you know you deserve.
If, after you've done everything right, your boss denies your request to increase your pay, don't give up on the first try. Recognize that just because your boss has some criticisms or even flat-out says no, it's not necessarily personal. So, be proactive about the situation. Rather than leave your boss's office feeling sad and undervalued, politely ask if you can revisit the matter in a few months. While you're at it, ask your boss specifically what you can do to earn a raise, and work with him or her to create a plan of action with a deadline (make it sooner, rather than later). Work as hard as you can during that time period to do what you've agreed upon, and diligently keep track of your accomplishments in the process. If you can, set up check-in meetings with your boss along the way. When it's time to revisit, present the facts, and it's likely your boss will agree to up your paycheck.
If not, it's time to find a new job at a company that will pay you appropriately. Every single person with a job deserves to feel valued by their employer — no ifs, ands or buts about it.