I’ve gotten small raises over the years, but what I really want is a $10K–$20K raise
I’ve been working as an office manager for an insurance office for the past seven years. I started here straight out of school as an administrative assistant and as the firm grew, I’ve worked my way up. I’ve never gone to college and I do feel like I missed out on something by not getting an education, but I don’t think it would be worthwhile at this point, since ultimately my salary is comparable to what many friends who did attend college are earning. Still, my lack of a degree definitely makes me less confident about requesting a raise, even though I know that I’m good at what I do, and I think I’m worth more than what I’m getting now.
I’ve gotten small raises over the years, but what I really want is a $10K–$20K raise. I haven’t started applying to other companies yet, but I do have the feeling that if I’d apply somewhere new, I would be able to ask for that amount from the get-go. Since I’ve been here so long, I don’t think my boss realizes that. But I enjoy my position here and don’t really want to leave. How can I earn more while keeping this job?
Happy and Hungry
Firstly, congratulations! Instead of paying for a college education, you got paid while learning a profession. I think we can all agree that the purpose of an education is to teach you income-earning skills, not a title to flaunt. It sounds like you achieved that without stepping foot into a classroom, so please don’t worry about missing out on anything at all. In your field, experience is the best education, and likely more valuable than a degree.
At this point, you believe that you’re being underpaid, and would like to change that. You’re correct that the easy way to prove your market value to your boss is to interview elsewhere. A competitive offer will clearly establish your salary worth and send that message to your employer. But, since you shared that you do enjoy your current job and would prefer to stay, I’d suggest a more straightforward route versus playing the “lets-ask-the-competition” game.
Let’s start by clarifying the difference between market value and company value. Market value is the average amount paid to someone in your position. This number usually has a wide range, depending on factors such as specific location (for example, Manhattan versus a nearby suburb), age of the company (50 years old versus start-up), and experience and talent of the specific employee (hard to quantify). Even when conducting a simple search on what people in your industry earn, there will be great discrepancy, which makes using this number a tough argument. Company value, on the other hand, is your individual value in relation to this specific company, which we can control to a large extent by becoming as invaluable as possible.
The best way to get a raise is by highlighting to your boss your internal value to the company. From a financial perspective, your salary is a company expense. Like all investments, expenses are only valid if they help generate a proportionate amount of income. An employee who can answer the phone and schedule meetings is worth a different amount than an employee who sells millions of dollars of policies.
Focusing on your value to the company is the key to a productive conversation with your boss, and the best way to prove that it would be worthwhile for the company to invest more in your salary is to show the boss exactly what you’re doing. Prepare a list of your accomplishments from the past year, and a list of your goals for the coming year. If there is a way for you to calculate the actual financial value of your work, even better. Using specific outcomes, such as: “oversaw processing of $150M in policies” or “decreased turnaround time from 60 to 30 days” is powerful, and really proves your value.
Now you’re ready to meet with your boss and make your request. If you’ve done your homework, you can expect a reasonable response. You may want to mention the market value for your role as a general barometer, but focus on what’s really important: why you’re worth more to the company. I suggest making a specific request, such as asking for the $10K–$20K increase. You may consider a performance-based timeline that’s tied to your responsibilities, such as an immediate $5K raise based on what you’ve accomplished so far, and then an additional $5K increase every three to six months, based on reaching specific goals.
If that still doesn’t work, then it may be time to start shopping around for a new job. Incorporate the same accomplishments you shared with your boss into your résumé to highlight your value to a potential employer. Going on a few interviews will give you a clear perspective on what your options are. Instead of just looking at dry numbers, you’ll get a fuller picture and be able to make a decision of what you’re really looking for in a job.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 863)
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