What Are You Worth?
Even when you love your job, there's a bottom-line truth about work: Most of us are in it for the money.
Sure, if we're lucky we work in roles that offer more than the almighty paycheck: opportunities for personal growth, continued learning, helping other people, solving real-world problems, and the other big-picture things that can make jobs worth doing beyond financial reasons.
But, yeah, still: Most for-profit work comes down to money. Money might not be everything, but it's handy when you want to eat or pay rent, not to mention indulge your hobbies, side projects, and personal luxuries. Which is why "I got a raise!" -- after "I got the job!" -- might be the most the joyous phrase salaried and hourly workers can utter.
Getting a raise is easier said than done. Perhaps more than ever, convincing your employer that you're worth more tomorrow than you are today requires strategy, data, and good timing. Hoping, much less expecting, that your employer will magically decide to tack 20% onto your salary is a bit too optimistic for most business climates these days, especially in an IT environment where "do more with less" has become standard operating procedure.
"Don't just ask for a raise," said Hallie Yarger, recruiting director for tech recruiting firm Mondo. "Know that you deserve what you're asking for, show your boss why, and get them to agree that you deserve it."
There are smart ways and, um, not-so-smart ways to go about pursuing a salary increase in IT. To Yarger's point, there are plenty of things you can do to improve your odds. There are just as many "don'ts" that will sink them. That's what we're here for: With input from Yarger and from Kate Fairchild, recruiting manager in the IT practice at Addison Group, we've identified 10 dos and don'ts when it comes to getting a raise in IT.
The focus here is on earning a pay bump without leaving your current employer. You may have heard the career adage that the best way to increase your pay is to change companies. There's at least some anecdotal truth in that, but it's far from a guarantee. It can also steer you wrong if you play the counter-offer game and lose, just as ultimatums can backfire when asking for more money. Regardless, the intent here is to ensure you're properly rewarded by your current organization, rather than merely going for top dollar on the open market -- even if some of the guiding principles here will overlap those two scenarios.
Even when your skills and experience align well with the current "hot" fields in IT, a raise isn't a given. It's also relative: Maybe your background includes skills or experience so hard for hiring managers to find that you can walk into your boss' office and demand a raise right now. Good for you -- but how do you know you're asking for the right amount? Even elite talent can wear out its welcome with too many demands, too much re-negotiation, and too many headaches for the bosses. Again, strategy, data, and timing play a crucial role, even for the most sought-after skill sets.
Data, in particular, is worth spending an extra moment on: You that you're going to need information -- and the ability to use it wisely -- in order to command the right salary. "I'm a hard worker" is a nice sentiment that doesn't convey anything of value. Being able to explain, quantitatively and qualitatively, the business results of your hard work is crucial.
"Come to the table with your quantified contributions at the company," Fairchild said. "Demonstrate your value by detailing how your accomplishments ladder back to your manager’s goals or the company’s bottom line."
There are plenty of factors in whether you will or won't get a raise, including some beyond your control. Make sure you're minding the variables you can influence and giving yourself the best shot. Timing, for example, is a big deal. We'll kick off with a data-driven "do": Quantify your worth.
Read on for more about that, and 10 other dos and don'ts for earning a raise in IT.