I didn’t really have a job before Sophomore year of college. Sure, I tried bussing tables at a local restaurant once before, but… it wasn’t really for me (I lasted three whole days). Sending the wrong food to the wrong tables and cleaning up unfinished meals one too many times was a little discouraging, to say the least. Related: 11 Smart Tips For Finding A Job After College But Sophomore year, I needed money. And I needed it badly. So, I applied to any job I could find, including the infamous call center that required students to call about a hundred alumni each night to ask for donations to the school. No one wanted the job, so it was easy to get an interview. And I got one - a phone interview, of course. Now, I’ll let you in on a little secret: I’ve never been good on the phone. In fact, when I was little, I used to have my brothers and sister call our friends so I wouldn’t have to talk to their parents if they happened to answer the phone (ugh, sooo awkward). Anyway, when I was called, I was in the middle of driving around town with a friend - unprepared and off guard. Needless to say, I was pretty awkward during the phone interview and didn’t get the job. I won’t lie, I was slightly relieved, but I still needed a job. Then, on my birthday, I got a call from the call center. They needed to hire a bunch of students fast (a lot of people had recently quit), and they wanted me to come in to fill out paperwork. Of course, I ran across campus to learn more. After a very informal interview with the boss, I got the job. I was thrilled - Woo! I’m going to make money AND get some work experience, I told myself. But deep down, I knew I’d want to quit after my first night working there. And I was right. It wasn’t an easy job. Calling up complete strangers and begging them for money they didn’t have was HARD. It was awkward. It just felt wrong. I talked to so many different kinds of people - some of them were wonderful to talk with, others were not. I talked to rich people, poor people, interesting people, boring people, successful people, unsuccessful people, people who loved my school, and people who wished they’d never gone to my school. I had mothers and grandmothers try to set me up with their sons and grandsons, I received ALL KINDS of advice, and I talked with some fairly prestigious alumni. I had to talk with sick people, or family members of passed away alumni, and people who didn’t have a problem yelling through the phone at innocent callers who were just doing their jobs. Those were the hardest calls. It wasn’t uncommon for callers to step out for 15 minutes to collect themselves, cry a little, or get some air. It was a difficult job, and our boss knew that. I loved my boss. He was one of the sweetest old men I’d ever met. He was always understanding and trying to make everyone’s job a little easier. He tried his best to make things fun for the callers, and to help us out in any way he could. He respected us. Despite everyone hating the job, we all loved him. And he loved his job. Despite wanting to quit after every almost every shift, I stayed at that job for two years. I knew it would give me the experience I needed to start my career (and the money I needed to go drinking on Friday nights). But I also stayed because I eventually got good at the job and I felt like I’d let my boss down if I quit. Then, during my second semester of junior year, my boss left. Our boss was the only reason many of us decided to stay there for so long. The guy who replaced him didn’t care about us, the alumni, or the school. He just sat around and gave orders to everyone as if we were mindless robots. Then, one day, our new boss came up to me and asked if I wanted to be a manager for the call center. Every caller dreamed of being a manager. You didn’t have to make calls, you just had to monitor the callers, come up with fun games for breaks, and create incentives. Plus, you got paid more. I had enough experience and had been working toward that job since Day One. He basically gave me the job - no applications, no competition, no nothing, yet I just couldn’t bring myself to accept it. Of all of the terrible, uncomfortable calls I had to deal with throughout those two years, I’d rather be doing that than taking orders from someone who had absolutely zero respect for me or the rest of the callers. Not only that, it was time for me to take the next step in my career development path - to find a writing internship. And so, I declined the offer and, along with many others, finally quit working at the call center. I’m extremely glad I decided to stay at the call center for so long. I met some amazing people, developed skills I wouldn’t have learned in class, and learned how to work with people. I used the skills I had developed to land all of my internships, including my final internship that turned into a full-time gig.
Maybe you like your job, but you’re just not where you want to be financially. What do you do? Apply for a position with a different company? Or approach your boss and ask for a salary increase?
The ability to negotiate a salary increase can place you in a better financial position: extra money can help you qualify for mortgage loans or refinancing, or if you’re trying to build a rainy day fund, a raise can jump-start these efforts. However, it’s important to research and know your value before approaching your boss.
In other words, you can only approach the conversation with a fair number in mind—based on the average salary for professionals in your industry with your experience and skill set. Of course, it isn’t enough to only research your value. You need to know the best ways to approach your boss.
Here are four things you should never say when asking for a raise:
1. Don’t Threaten To Quit
Some employees think they can get the upper hand by threatening to quit their job. However, this isn’t recommended, even if you’re prepared to follow through with the threat. Remember, the goal is to get on your manager’s good side, not tick them off. If you approach the meeting with an abrupt or aggressive attitude, your boss may not respond favorably—they may actually call your bluff!
A better approach is to explain how much you enjoy your work. Let your boss know that you're interested in growing with the company. Next, state your argument for a salary increase. Be professional and keep your negotiations brief.
2. Don’t Mention A Co-Worker’s Salary
If you learn that a co-worker in a similar position earns more than you, don’t mention this when speaking with your boss. There may be valid reasons why your co-worker earns more. Maybe they have an advanced degree, or maybe they took additional courses to improve their skill set. Then again, maybe they have more experience than you. Don’t immediately assume that your employer is giving you the short end of the stick.
Rather than bring up a co-worker's salary, you could say:
"I've been researching the going rate for this position, and the average salary for workers with my education and experience is _____. I feel that I've been doing a great job and would like to discuss increasing my salary."
3. Don't Choose The Wrong Time
Don’t ask your boss for a raise out of the blue, and you certainly shouldn’t ask during a meeting on an unrelated topic. Once you’ve completed your research, schedule an appointment to meet with your boss privately. Additionally, prepare for this meeting by practicing responses. In all likelihood, your boss will question why you want a salary increase. The way you answer this question can determine the outcome.
Prior to this meeting, compile a list of all your accomplishments during the last 12 months. When your boss questions your reasons, be ready to run down this list and mention any other selling points. For example, you can mention any classes you've recently taken, and if it's been years since your last raise, bring this to your manager's attention.
4. Don’t Whine About Your Personal Problems
Do you have debt? Do you need to complete repairs around your house? Was your spouse laid off? These are all valid reasons to negotiate a salary increase. Understand, however, that your personal problems are not your manager’s problems. They no doubt will empathize or sympathize with your situation, but you shouldn’t expect them to automatically fix your problems by increasing your salary. Not that you shouldn’t ask for a higher salary, but keep the focus on your performance.
You could say:
"In the past ___ months I've taken on several new responsibilities (list them), and I know that you were satisfied with many of my suggestions and changes."
Getting paid your worth can improve job satisfaction. And if you’re already completing assignments outside your job description, why not take a chance and approach your boss? They just might comply with your request. Just remember to avoid making these four mistakes when asking for the raise you deserve!
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This article was originally published at an earlier date.