The email landed in my inbox unexpectedly. “We’re delighted with your performance,” read the message from our MD. “I’m therefore recommending that your salary be increased with immediate effect.”
Now that’s the kind of email you want from your MD, I thought. Nevertheless, I was cautious about what it meant. My role had recently changed to a much more senior position, but I had received only a job title change to reflect my new responsibilities, and not yet had a salary review. While the MD’s recommendation was welcomed, the salary increase proposed didn’t reflect my new role, neither by industry standards nor by my own opinion.
What to do? How could I speak up without sounding ungrateful? I wrote back to thank her, but also mentioned that I had been hoping to negotiate my salary at my upcoming pay review, and hoped that this gesture now didn’t mean I couldn’t do that. Thankfully, she assured me it didn’t. I felt it was important to lay out my intention now, and not lose the opportunity to negotiate later.
When the pay review came round, it was a crucial moment. With the economy in recession, incremental increases to salaries were small, so the only opportunity to secure a big step up was through a promotion. This was my one chance for the next few years to negotiate. I tackled it strategically, trying to quantify my contributions to the company – ideas generated, books acquired, sales figures, profits made – as well as qualify achievements, such as commendations from authors and reviews. I put all the information together in a formal letter to my manager, and proposed what I thought was a very high salary increase to reflect my new role – a quarter of my current pay.
I was nervous about how such a direct appeal would go down. In addition, beyond the money, there was something else at play: The company’s valuation of me was going to be vital in allowing me to climb further up the career ladder. After all, if your current company places a low value on you, it’s hard to persuade a future company that your contributions are significant. A salary is not just about take-home pay; it sends a message to all employers about your perceived worth. As such, the negotiation was about much more than just money – it was about my future career, too.
I was thrilled when my manager came back and said that not only had the company agreed to a pay raise, they would match the specific amount I’d asked for. The maxim “if you don’t ask, you don’t get” sprang immediately to mind.
I wasn’t the only winner here. The value the company placed on my contribution made me, in turn, feel more confident about my abilities – which led to me performing more strongly in my role.
When, about three years later, the time came to move on, I had the seniority and financial evidence to prove I was ready for the next step up.