Like many professional women, I’m hungry for smart career advice, particularly when it can help increase my salary. But so much of the advice out there--like podcasts interviewing the founder of Spanx or a tech CEO--doesn’t speak to me. What about those of us in the rank and file? I’m a mid-entry level career coach in the educational tech space, not a VP. Then one day last fall, as I took a couple minutes to scan through my LinkedIn feed, something did resonate, and today, my paycheck is considerably higher as a result.
Jeannie Kim, the editorial director of The Muse, who I follow on LinkedIn, commented on a post about an interview with Wager’s CEO, Cindy Carson, that she’d read on The Talent Fairy. Cindy was formerly a recruiter, basing her advice on real-life experience. It wasn’t another “Go get ‘em!” career piece filled with generic points to remember in your next salary negotiation. Rather, Cindy was saying, “This is what we know to be true from conversations with real people.” Like me, Cindy also happened to be a returned Peace Corps Volunteer. After reading her interview, I immediately messaged her on LinkedIn and signed up for Wager’s newsletter.
The Email That Made Me Take Action
In the first newsletter I received, Cindy wrote, “The longer you wait to understand your worth in the market, the more resentful you will get.” My head bobbed in understanding. My salary had stagnated, and I feared I would reach that point of resentment soon. Then, the challenge. She asked, “What do you plan to do differently?”
In the course of my job, I ask my clients this question regularly, guiding them to the next level in their career. It was time to hold the mirror up to myself. I’d been in my role for a couple of years and knew I deserved to earn more, but six months prior, my boss had stepped down. I was doing good work, but I hadn’t really had anyone to make that case to. In September, my new boss and I had a conversation about my career aspirations, but I was reluctant to follow-up on it. After reading Cindy’s newsletter, I swung into action.
Making the Contribution-Based Case
I drafted an email to my boss and my boss’s boss, expressing that I would like to discuss the promotion they both had mentioned. I kept the focus on how my work contributed to the company’s success. I had taken a slight pay cut to come to this company (from $63k down to $61k), because I wanted to move into coaching students. I’d mentioned that previously to my boss, but that wasn’t her problem, and I knew that my own finances couldn’t be my focus. I wanted to be recognized for my work. I also wanted to make $70k.
My boss replied that she was working on it, so I stayed patient. Then about a month later, I logged into the paycheck system and saw that I’d received a promotion as well as an 11% raise--to exactly $70k!
What I Learned
I feel so valued--my contributions are recognized through my salary. I’m grateful and at the same time I recognize it’s normal to receive a significant raise when you’re performing well. I can be grateful while also knowing that I deserve this.
My salary adjustment has also helped me understand the importance of persistence and patience. You might see your contacts update their job titles on LinkedIn, and mistakenly think that promotions are just falling in their lap. I wish there was an asterisk under those title-change announcements saying, “I fought for 6 months for this job!” because it often takes that long or much longer, but it’s worth it.
This experience also taught me not to wait as long before having a conversation with my boss about my career development. These discussions shouldn’t be only semi-annual. They can--and should--be continual, because the more you talk about the direction of your career, including your salary, the more comfortable you become talking about it. Like most things in life, you only get better by practicing.