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How to Get a Pay Rise

How to Get a Pay Rise

You can get rich faster by having more income to invest. Frances Cook explains how to get pay rises, how to be more valuable at work and how to be strategic, in this extract from her new book.

30 August 2022

A new job is the best time to get a pay rise.

You look for new opportunities, ones that sound like a good step up from where you are now. In the interview focus on the role and its responsibilities, and what you and the company can offer each other.

And then when you are (hopefully) offered the role, you negotiate a salary that’s nicely above what you’re getting now.

They’ve already offered you the job, so you know they want you.

Try to get them to offer you a figure first – they know more about industry rates than you do, and you don’t want to name a figure that sounds like a lot to you, only to find out later you could have got more.

Once they make you an offer, ask for something above that. Bear in mind, that’s how this dance goes every time.

They will make you that first offer expecting you to ask for more. They’ve offered you slightly less than they’re willing to give. If you take that first offer, you’re leaving money on the table.

When I was at journalism school, one of my lecturers told me about a job offer he had right when he was starting out. When he received the offer, he looked at the person and said, “Once I’ve been here six months, and have started talking to people, will I become unhappy with this offer?” They upped the offer.

So, get all the information that you can. It’s your best weapon. After that, here are some concrete strategies to use.

Ask for more

This is almost too obvious to include, and yet, so many of us fail at this.

For starters, always negotiate when you start a new job. It’s so much easier to negotiate a higher amount at the beginning than it is to ask for a raise once you’re there.

Once you’ve been offered a job, you then start negotiating how much you will earn for it.

And I promise you, they expect you to negotiate.

You also want to negotiate pay rises once you’re in a job, if you can.

I’ve always found it helpful to think of it as ‘arguing from the other person’s point of view’.

Don’t talk about why you personally want a pay rise. Your boss doesn’t care about that, not from a business perspective.

But if you think about what matters to them, and argue based on that, it’s much more persuasive to them.

Talk about what you’ve achieved for your boss or your company, how you’ve helped them achieve their goals, and why that should translate into more money for you.

It helps if you’ve kept a running ‘show-off file’ of your best work, which shows your wins or money that you’ve brought into the company.

Here’s a blueprint to start talking to your boss about salary.

Ask your manager for a meeting to talk about ‘career growth’. Then ask for some clear goals of what they would like from you over the next year.

Make sure it’s things that are solid, like a new skill they would like, so you can immediately go and sign up for a free online course and learn it.

Have these catch-ups with your boss regularly. Keep notes about the goals and how you’re achieving them. Then, when you want to talk to them about a raise, you have a solid case on how you’ve improved to hit their goals.

One of the ways you can start the conversation with your boss is what’s called a ‘gratitude sandwich’.

The first slice of gratitude bread is how much you enjoy working at the company. Then comes the meaty filling. You would like a pay rise, because of all the things you’ve been achieving and, according to your research, people doing that are usually paid X amount.

Then you finish it off with a last slice of gratitude bread; that you love working there and you appreciate them taking the time to have this conversation with you.

Become more valuable

A company is essentially paying for the value you give them. So if you can spot the valuable skills, particularly rare ones, and then learn them, you’re going to be worth more. Which should eventually translate into you being paid more.

If at all possible, it’s always best to upskill for free first, so that you don’t have to spend the extra money paying off what it took to get you there.

There’s an amazing number of places where you can learn new skills for free. The first, of course, is your workplace. Say “yes” when you’re asked to take on new roles, to fill in for people.

You’re getting experience to add to your CV, and maybe even lining yourself up for a promotion if the company ever needs a new person in that role or area. They already know that you know how it works.

It doesn’t even need to be filling in for roles that you’re interested in for the future.

At the beginning of my career, I had a rule that I didn’t say “no” if I was asked to take things on.

Even if I felt out of my depth, my rule was that I said “yes”, then did what I had to do to figure it out and do it well.

This saw me filling in as a producer, a news director, and on all sorts of reporting jobs. I knew very quickly that I had no interest in becoming a radio producer but I continued to fill in for them, because why not?

Eventually this led to having skills that I used in an entirely different area – hosting podcasts for the NZ Herald. I produced my own podcasts, as well as hosting them, and doing some of the audio engineering on them.

I was very much a one-woman band, which saw projects handed to me sometimes because there was simply nobody else to do them. It worked out well for me and became an important step up on my career ladder.

Other places to learn include the library, or tutorials on YouTube.

If you really want or need a course, there are free courses from Yale, MIT, Harvard and elsewhere, all online.

These can help you learn the skills to level up at home or at work, even if you don’t have a piece of paper to show at the end of it.

Be smart, be nice…

You have to show people what you’ve achieved for them. Success doesn’t come from quietly working hard – make sure people know it.

I’ve rarely got jobs through interviews – I’m terrible at them. People need to know you, know your work. It helps if you’re not a nightmare to be around.

But more than that, your work is only one of the factors that go into whether someone would hire you again or recommend you for other jobs.

The other one is how well you fit in with the team – and boy, I wish someone had told me this one earlier.

If you sit in the corner quietly, working hard, and then head home, the sad truth is that people will barely notice your work.

Being someone who knows how to make sure others on the team look good, who can lend a hand, or just share a joke, can get you surprisingly far.

So don’t be afraid to take opportunities for small talk; ask your co-workers if they want to grab lunch together or head to the pub.

This is how true alliances are made, and how new opportunities can come about.

And be strategic

Then find the roles in your current field for which people are paid more. Start moving yourself in that direction with the extra skills you pick up, the people you network with, and the extra work you take on.

I know, ‘networking’ is a horrible word that makes you sound slimy. It really just means getting to know the people working in that area. People like to hire a known quantity – so if they know you, and know you do good work, you’re already well ahead.

We all want to work with people who aren’t painful to be around. It’s amazing how far you can get by being a team player and being pleasant.

The flip side of this is that you also need to market yourself. Unfortunate but true – you’re not going to get credit for something if people don’t know you did it.

Make sure those you report to know what you’re achieving. And bite the bullet and go to a few industry events so that you can get to know others in your field. That’s how you find out about new opportunities before they even officially exist.

Be ready to walk away

Research shows that those who ‘job hop’ end up earning more money overall.

You don’t want to change too often, but every two years or so is often what employers see as acceptable – the median time for people to spend in any one job is between three and five years.

If you’ve gone to the effort of improving your skills, building good relationships and building up a good portfolio of work, you’ve made yourself an enticing prospect to other employers, too.

If you get another offer, then you can negotiate and see whether your current employer wants to offer more to keep you.

The one warning I would give here is, don’t bluff. If you tell your current workplace that you’ve had an offer and that you want them to match it, they could decide they’re fine with letting you walk.

Be well prepared and accept that you may need to take up the new offer.

This is an extract from Frances Cook’s book Your Money, Your Future (Penguin Books, RRP $35).

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