As an executive coach, I talk with clients every day about their careers: the highs and the lows, the exhilarating and the mundane. One thing is for sure, my clients care deeply about their work. Although it can be challenging to navigate a complex workplace, most senior professionals spend a significant amount of time devoted to their jobs. And yet most are absolutely loathe to discuss compensation, the most basic reward for the time and energy that we devote to our work. I am often surprised when I talk with mid-career clients about compensation; many confide that they have never even asked for a raise.
There are many reasons why. Two of the most common refrains are, “I feel good about how much I’m being paid,” and, “I am just really uncomfortable talking about money.”
Regardless of what your reason may be, if you feel that the time is right (or overdue) for a raise, it’s time to ask. Regardless of the outcome, when a professional asks for a raise, he/she is signaling to colleagues, “I spend a significant amount of time and energy focused on my work; I want to be paid accordingly, and I really care about my career.”
At the very least, it is critical for you to normalize conversations about compensation. It is hard to ask directly for a raise, and it takes practice. So start by initiating generic conversations about compensation when you don’t feel as strongly about whether or not you actually get a raise. When you do feel strongly about asking for a raise, you will be well-practiced and it will be part of the normal course of business. A conversation opener about compensation generally might go something like, “I want to ensure that we both agree that my compensation is reflective of the impact that I’m having within the organization. Can we touch base on that now?”
All organizations have unique cycles for promotion and compensation adjustments. But you don’t necessarily need to align a conversation about compensation with the organizational calendar. What you do need to do is be prepared to make your case for a raise, and equally importantly, listen in response. If your point is, “I feel I really overdelivered on this matter; I’ve had an outsized impact, and I’d like my compensation to be adjusted to reflect that,” your manager may respond with “I agree, and when we come to the point in the year when I can make an adjustment, I plan to.” Rather than simply say “Thank you,” you might follow on with “What else can I do to ensure that my adjustment results in my comp being adjusted to $x?” Compensation is inextricably tied to performance, so listening to your manager’s guidance as to how best to cement your raise is critical.
In preparation for your conversation, it’s important to lay out your case for a raise point by point — the more detailed, the better. It is also crucial to anticipate your senior colleague’s responses and to practice your rejoinders. Finally, spend time rehearsing the conversation with a coach or other trusted advisor. The more practiced you are, the more relaxed you are going to be when the time comes to ask for a raise.
Reach out to Alumni Career Services if you’d like to schedule a time to meet with Gwen or any other coaches.