We were not even through the first week of the New Year when Rebecca Cohen, HerMoney’s social media manager and my assistant asked for a raise. This was not the conversation I thought we were going to have. In our weekly scheduled call, I was expecting the usual update on our social media progress since she had taken over the role six months earlier. What I got was a PowerPoint presentation entitled: Why I Deserve A Raise. It was impressive, and yes, a little disarming. But she had her facts straight, she had done her homework — assessing her value on the open market — she knew she was doing good work, as we had recently lost a team member and reshuffled the deck, she figured there was money in the budget. She got much, not all, of what she asked for and now earns more than she was before.
As has been often reported, the coronavirus pandemic has reshaped the way we spend our money and live our lives. Some companies and industries — restaurants and travel of course, but also co-working spaces, retailers that sell traditional work clothes, etc. — have suffered tremendously. But others — many of which focus on helping us do everything we want to do (eat, work, be entertained, enjoy our environments) from home — have thrived. The need their workforce to step up. They need you. And there lies opportunity.
REQUEST A RAISE
While asking for more money can feel uncomfortable for many of us, doing so is a life skill that will literally pay off for you for the rest of your life. Also, you have to remember that raises are a little like compound interest. Each one tends to build off the one you’ve had before. So, yes, asking can be worth it.
First, make sure you deserve it, based on what you’re paid now. Do research on sites like Glassdoor and Payscale to get a sense of what other workers at your level get paid. “Going into your meeting with some data on what the market is paying for your role is really valuable,” says Andrew Challenger, vice president of outplacement firm Challenger Gray & Christmas.
Prepare your case now, making a list of your achievements in 2020 and collecting evidence of accomplishments that you can bring to a meeting with your boss to talk about the raise. If you’ll be presenting this virtually, consider whether a presentation that you can screen share will resonate. Then, practice your pitch for a friend or even in front of a mirror. It can help calm your nerves.
GET A NEW JOB
You asked for the raise and they turned you down? Or if you can tell that you’re not going to be able to earn significantly more at your current company, it may be time to move on.
Update your resume so it’s ready for the new year while you have some time off over the holidays. Spend some time reaching out to your network to get a sense of roles that might be available and a good fit.
With unemployment rates at record lows, it’s a great time to be in the job market—and to negotiate for a competitive salary. Remember that most employers expect workers to negotiate—whether it’s for a higher salary, more vacation time or even equity in the company—no matter what their first offer is, ask for more.
“It’s very rare for employers to start their offer at the top of the scale,” says Laura DeCarlo, executive director and president of Career Directors International. “I’d respond with ‘Thank you for the offer. I’m incredibly interested. With what I bring to the table, is there any room for negotiation?’”
GET A SIDE HUSTLE (OR A FEW)
The growing gig economy means that there are more options than ever to earn more money, outside of your 9-to-5 job. The amount of time and money you invest in your side hustle will depend on whether you’re thinking of it as a quick way to make some extra cash, or as a stepping stone to a full-time freelance business.
“Figure out what you can do for hours and hours and not get bored,” says Anna Runyan, founder and CEO at ClassyCareerGirl.com. “You’re going to make more money doing something that you’re passionate about.”
Both types of gigs are valuable, and it’s possible for the former to evolve into the latter. Whether you’re gigging once in a while or on an ongoing basis, make sure to keep detailed records. You’ll need them at tax time, but they’ll also show you exactly how much money you’re making after expenses, which will help you evaluate whether the gig itself is worth it.
OF COURSE, TAKE ANY FREE MONEY OFFERED
Increasing your 401(k) contributions at work to get the full match offered by your company is an easy way to give yourself an instant raise. The company match on your 401(k) or HSA is free money that increases your total compensation.
Yes, that money is going into a retirement account that you can’t immediately access, but it’s still your money. That money will grow tax free and, thanks to the magic of compound interest, it will be worth even more by the time you’re ready to tap into it in retirement.
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With reporting from Beth Braverman