I better not belabor this. When you put a title out there like “How to Make More Money…”, people want you to cut to the chase. So, let’s save the fluff for later on. Maybe then, I’ll pontificate on the government shutdown or my indecision over what board games to stock in our Airbnb…
For now, let’s talk some Rich People Skills — How to make more moolah in cubicle land!
Negotiating Starting Pay
The first thing you need to do, when starting out in the job hunt, is to negotiate your salary. Kind of a no-brainer. That means not showing your cards during the screening process. If asked, give a wide range (such as, “Somewhere in the range of 90K to 120K would be ideal.”)
Negotiations shouldn’t be too difficult. Remember, by this stage, the hiring company has exhausted the interview process and has gone out of its way to pick YOU. This is the point where you hold the most leverage, so use it!
You’ll get offered an initial pay amount, and now it’s your turn to tell them you want more. Go ahead and ask for 15% more than what you’re being offered. Nine times out of ten, they’ll come back with at least 7% more.
The reason you want to negotiate coming in is obvious. But the long-term implications are worth your attention. If you start low, your percentage raises will be lower in real dollars. E.g., Say you make 80K and get a whopping 2% raise, you’ll be taking home $1,600 more per year (before taxes of course.)
If you negotiated your way to 90K, that 2% raise earns you $1,800. Two hundred bucks is better than a stick in your eye. But look what happens after ten years on the job:
Getting Bigger Raises
Those 10% raises, and even 5’ers look pretty good in the exhibit above, don’t they? The way you get bigger raises comes down to three factors: Company Financial Health, Your Performance, and Your Boss’s Awareness that you want to be paid more.
It’s very important to start from a solid foundation. If you’re at a company in a struggling industry, or the company itself is circling the bowl, forget raises. You might want to pry yourself out of there before you get unceremoniously dumped.
There are sectors performing quite well that are worth looking into, and healthcare almost always is a sure bet. Understanding your sector of employment is key. The retail sector, for example, is in a constant struggle to maintain margins and beat out the competition, including the online giants like Amazon.com.
Multinationals can be lucrative (e.g., large firms that pilfer natural resources to produce some value added product like fuel or food or other manufactured goods.) Banking is typically solid as well. Look no further than the Wall Street bonuses paid-out to hedge fund managers and big bank execs.
Once you’ve landed in a healthy company in a healthy sector, you can focus on delivering results. Job performance is the second key ingredient and you need to polish those turds like no other.
My own personal mantra is to deliver on the objective no matter what. But in doing so, taking care not to piss anyone off in the process. If you do, make sure you use those “bullets” sparingly. There are future projects with many the same people and you don’t get to choose your cohorts (in most cases.)
Be the following and you will be among the top 10% performers on your team. I guaran-frickin’-tee it:
- a good communicator. You pick up the phone when there’s a disagreement on something. Long email chains annoy the hell out of managers. Be empathetic and be a good LISTENER. Don’t try to impress with name dropping and buzz words. That’s equally annoying as hell.
- presentable. Show up looking like you give a shit. If everyone else is dressed up nice, then you need to as well. Show up. And show up in clothes that fit, in shoes that are polished, and socks that match.
- willing to go the extra mile. Occasionally, if not often, put in extra hours, even a few weekend hours WHEN NECESSARY. DO NOT stick around for face-time to impress your managers. We want you to have a work life balance, and we know when the fires are burning and projects need the extra support. Don’t be slinging goddamned worthless emails at 10PM to make a statement when no deadlines are imminent.
- open to change. The worst thing you can do is put up resistance when a new process or other new change is foisted upon you or your team. Suck it up. Deal with it internally. But don’t openly gripe, bitch and moan about it. Your attitude is the single most important factor to whether your leaders like you or not. Fuck that up by being a pessimistic, Negative Nancy, and you might as well kiss any raises or promotions good-bye.
Finally, Show Me the Money!
You’ll never know if you never ask. Ever heard that one before? Well it’s true. I finally got wise to this halfway into my current gig, maybe a half-dozen years ago. If you know you’ve been performing well, and you know you’ve got room in your pay band, why not have a little chat with your boss?
As a manager, I appreciate it when my direct reports bring this topic to my attention. I can’t snap my fingers and make up raises on the spot, but come review time, if they’ve hit their targets, I’ll look at equity across the team and guess what? If you put it in my mind that your pay is a priority, I will consciously look to bump your raise. Sometimes it may not be more than a percent or two, but every bit counts.
I have gone out of my way to let each of my last three managers know that I expected to be paid more. I made sure to perform up to and exceeding expectations. Come review time, boom, good raises followed. Had I not asked or respectfully pushed for more, I doubt I’d have gotten as much. All I did was share at least once during the year my concern about my pay. That kind of thing sticks in a manager’s head come review time.
Be a Home Run Hitter
This concept is all about finding the right work assignments within your company. Basically, you want to be attached to the bigger, more important projects, if at all possible.
I’ve been pretty fortunate throughout my most recent stint to have been attached to some highly visible projects. There are trade-offs of course. Those extra hours and weekends can be taxing, especially if you’ve just started a family. Heck, that very scenario is why I began pursuing early retirement.
Nevertheless, if you want the big bucks, you have to put your neck on the line, so to speak. Resilience is important to see the job through. Get that project “across the line” and your managers and customers will take notice.
If you are okay with small projects and delivering well as a singles hitter, there’s nothing wrong with that. But the pay and rewards will reflect the level of intensity and visibility of the assignment.
Make your move
The environment today is pretty good for finding a decent paying job. Innovation is on (almost) everyone’s mind in the corporate boardroom. Many of the few smart execs have been reading up on their Elon Musk and are looking to implement their own lean way of delivering.
Which leads me to the final tip: If all else fails, and you are simply not getting what you need, jump ship. Switching companies if often the single most effective way to boost your pay. But be careful – too much movement can actually backfire in the long-term. Recent studies have shown that tenure is often a better indicator of high compensation.
And finally, the corporate / business tax cut recently passed in Washington is substantial, and should drive better pay and bonuses. It’s not a guarantee, but your odds of finding healthier companies willing and able to pay more have just improved a notch.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. What tips or tricks have you used to garner more pay in your career?