Andrew Saenz had never asked for a raise before.
“I thought it was going to blow up right in my face,” the 25-year-old Lincoln Park resident said. “It was my first time negotiating for anything like that (in) all my life.”
Saenz had done part-time contract work at a small public relations firm for about two years before his bosses offered him a full-time position. But he had asked around, and he figured that the salary they were offering was a bit low. And so, for the first time ever, he asked for a pay bump.
“I decided to take a risk, saying, I feel with my two years’ time spent with this company, I know a lot of the clients, they know who I am, they’re comfortable working with me ... people see my name on the email and know what kind of news to expect from me,” he said. “I thought that was a particular advantage. I thought I deserved a little bit more salary based on that.”
And it worked — after a bit of negotiation. Saenz will be getting about 5 percent more per year than he was originally offered.
Research shows that the millennial generation expects raises, and often. Nearly half of them see pay bumps as a right, rather than a reward, according to a recent survey from Addison Group. More than a third of the survey’s millennial respondents said they were currently seeking a raise.
Maybe you’re among them: When finances get tight, asking for a raise could be the way to go. But the path to more money can be tricky — you have to play your cards just right. Here’s what experts have to say about how to get that extra cash.
Timing is keyKeep your ear to the ground about company finances, advises Judi Lansky, president of Lansky Career Consultants in Chicago. If things are going well, feel free to take advantage of that. But if you ask for a raise right after the boss lost a big account, for example, you’re going to seem tone-deaf.
“You don’t ask Mom to increase your allowance when Dad just lost his job,” Lansky said.
And don’t ask too soon after joining the team.
“I hear a lot of people with their first job out of college, they think, ‘I’ll go and work there for six months, and I’ll ask for a raise and after one year I’ll get a promotion,’” said Suzanne Lucas, the “Evil HR Lady” of advice site evilhrlady.org. “It makes you look a little naive.”
If you’ve recently completed a huge project or brought the company a bunch of money, then you’re in a great position to ask for a raise — just don’t do it too quickly, says Adam Ochstein, the CEO of human resources services company StratEx. It might look like you did the good work just to get the raise.
“Employers begin to question employee motives. They should wait a month or two after an accomplishment, while it’s still fresh in the manager’s mind, rather than directly after,” Ochstein said.
If you know when your company generally sets its annual budget, time your raise request three or so months before that budget is finalized, recommends Lucas. Sometimes, she said, “once they’ve divided up that money there’s no more money.”
Do your homeworkDon’t ever expect a raise just because you’ve been at your job for a certain amount of time, Ochstein says.
“That’s not necessarily the case,” he said. “There needs to be an argument built around why the raise is deserved, and that’s why preparation before asking is essential.”
Lansky recommends keeping a “job journal” to keep track of your accomplishments to remind yourself — and your boss — how valuable you are.
“I would go back over the year and look at what you’ve contributed to the company (before asking for a raise),” Lansky said. “That will be much easier if you’ve kept a job journal and spent five minutes on Friday of every week and wrote down, ‘What did I accomplish this week?’”
Know how much you’re worthThere are plenty of websites that can tell you approximate salaries for someone with your job in your city. If you’re going to ask co-workers how much they make, tread very, very lightly.
“Employees should never ask around internally of what others are making,” Ochstein said.
But remember, it is illegal for your boss to prohibit employees from talking about salaries. The prohibition on talking about money is just a social taboo.
“There’s nothing legally keeping your salary from being shared, but culturally (people) just don’t do it,” Lucas said.
Take your boss’ temperatureNot literally. But company culture and your manager’s personality make a huge difference. What worked on your old boss may not work on the new guy.
“In the world of dealing with managers, there is never a perfect or even a best way to do things,” Lucas said. “Different managers have such different personalities and such different ideas on what is and what is not appropriate that it really does come down to understanding your manager and making sure that your request fits within their ideals.”
Employment attitudesChicago-based staffing company Addison Group released results of a workplace survey recently that gauged attitudes about employment across different age groups. Here’s how millennials answered:
* 31 percent expect to get a bonus this year.
* 34 percent are actively seeking a raise.
* 53 percent see a raise as a reward.
* 47 percent see a raise as a right.
* 24 percent think it’s reasonable to get a raise more than once a year.
* 54 percent think it’s reasonable to get a raise once a year.