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Listener Question: Josh Asks About Getting A Raise

Published 11/28/2016

In today's episode, we talk about Josh's question regarding negotiating a raise.

Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
Hey everyone and welcome to Developer Tea. My name is Jonathan Cutrell and in today's episode I'm answering listener question from Josh. Josh wrote in and said, hello Jonathan, I wanted to say thank you for your podcast. I may not listen to every episode because some don't really seem relevant to me, but I have learned from it. I recently decided to apply for a lead dev position that is open in the company I have been working for nine years. I have done the interview and just awaiting the results of it, expecting some sort of results in early December, mostly some leadership meetings get moved around due to the holidays and people's time off. Now a slight rant. Years ago when leaving school and finding my first real job, I ended up at the company I'm at currently. I was hired cheaply. I just didn't know it at the time. I also know that normally that employers don't hand out extra pay increases without some kind of justification or company growth. I've been slowly climbing up the pay scale, but not to my expectations. And with that, my expenses have gone up as well. Over the course of about seven years, my income has increased by about 50% of my original salary, but with my original salary being very low, it still feels like there's a lot of room left to grow. So I either need to take on the new role of lead developer and try to push for another raise or I won't be able to stay at the same job and it will be time for me to work harder on finding a different job. Now I don't want to come up as too arrogant. I believe I have a 90% chance of being offered the position though. Only one of the coworker has applied and they have been working at the same company for two years and haven't led any projects yet. I really do want to stay at the same company, but I find myself struggling at times to sell myself and push myself to get higher salaries. Any words of wisdom of what I can do to help make sure that I can negotiate a higher salary effectively. Even if you don't respond, I do want to say I have learned more about making sure I can be a better leader and making sure I develop my team to make a better product for our end users. Thanks, Josh. Josh, this is a really interesting email. There's a lot of really cool things in here that I want to discuss. First of all, I want to address something that you said very early in the email and that is that you don't listen to every episode of Developer Tea. Just want to take a moment and say that's absolutely fine. If you're listening to this podcast and you feel some sort of guilt over not listening to every episode, this podcast isn't something where you have to listen to every episode to really be able to listen to any one episode. If you miss an episode, it really isn't a big deal. That's part of the reason we chose a shorter format. We aren't doing our two hour long episodes. We do a lot of smaller episodes so that if you do miss, this is one of the reasons. If you do miss an episode, that's totally fine. If you're not interested in an episode, that's totally fine as well. Go and listen to one of the many other fantastic podcasts out there or go spend your time doing something completely different. You don't have to listen to every episode of Developer Tea. Of course, if you do like every episode, that's totally fine too, but we engineered it in such a way that people like Josh, when they see an episode, they don't really care about, that's not a problem at all. It's kind of a meta side note here. You should also view other things in your life the same way. You don't have to jump onto, for example, every new awesome feature that comes out with ES6. You don't have to jump onto every single new thing that comes out that other developers are saying is cool or useful. It's important that you take in the things that you need to take in, that you practice this idea. We talked about it a long time ago on the show, the media consumption diet, that you don't try to inundate yourself with everything out there. You don't have the time. You don't have the energy. You're not going to be able to process all of that information. You're certainly not going to be able to learn every single thing that you try to learn if you're just trying to consume it all. Make sure you are moderating that. Don't listen to every episode of Developer Teabecause you have some ingrained sense of responsibility. This is the same reason we go through our inboxes and try to get to inbox zero. Sometimes the best thing we can do with our inbox is click unsubscribe. I just wanted to make that note. Josh, you brought it up. I figured it was the perfect time to address that, this podcast and pretty much every other media outlet in your life. You have control. You have the moderation tools at your disposal. You shouldn't feel the need to listen to every single episode. Thank you to those who do listen to this show on a regular basis, but I want you to feel free to not be stressed out by this podcast. Certainly not by this podcast, but also by other things in your life, those media elements that are out there. Please don't be stressed out by those. You have other more important things going on that you can spend your time on fewer things with more focus. Generally, that leads to better results. But getting down to the meat here and in Josh's question, what we're really talking about here is a couple of different elements in Josh's situation. First, the first element is the idea of going into a job super early in your career and not really having an awareness of your pay scale. In other words, going into a job very early, very young in your career and taking a very low compensation amount. Josh shared with me the number. I'm not going to share it on air. It is a relatively low number for the industry. Certainly not an unreasonable number, certainly not an unlivable number, especially if he is kind of the sole occupant of his residence or if he has roommates or something like that. Certainly a doable number. So I don't think Josh that you were short-changed necessarily in your situation, but it is a low number and you would hope to see a large increase perhaps something on the order of a 100% increase from this particular number eventually in your career, especially after seven years. So I just wanted to put that out there so that we all know that your concern for your pay scale is well-founded, although you were not started out and you didn't start out at a pay scale that would make me think that your employer just fundamentally doesn't respect you as a worker. So it's not really as much of a problem as it is just the reality of your scenario. So it's very difficult to jump a massive leap in your pay scale, especially if people have known you for a very long time. It may be difficult for some of those people to remove the image of you as that early inexperienced worker. I know I have personally experienced this phenomenon where somebody that I work with and I have worked with for a long time, I look at their work and I realize that they have grown so much in their tenure at the company that I work at. And it's my duty as a leader to recognize the growth and recognize that they are no longer the person that I hired so many years ago, but rather that they have grown, their skills have grown and I need to update my perspective of that person. So at the end of Josh's email he asked me if I had any tips for the salary negotiation process and I absolutely do have some things to say about that. But first, what we have to do is start thinking from the perspective of the person who has the opportunity or the power to give you a raise. Josh, that person, if you don't know who that person is by the way, that's kind of the step one of this is to figure out who it is that will be making that decision to give you the raise. Of course, you've been working in this company for seven years and consistently getting raises over the course of that seven years. So that is a good sign. It looks like they are relatively willing to move your salary no matter how many points they're moving it by. They do seem to consistently be moving your salary in some cases multiple times per year. So that's a very positive, a positive sign in your favor here. But let's put ourselves in their shoes, of course, we said previously that you've been there long enough now that it's very easy to still view you in the perspective of who you were when you came into this company. It's difficult for someone to actively update who you are, your skill set, what your capabilities are, what your output is. It's difficult for someone to actually do that actively, especially if they're responsible for doing that across a larger group of people. If you don't have someone who is only responsible for you, your direct supervisor, if they have many people that they have to keep tabs on, then they may not really be thinking about how far you have advanced or what your skill growth looks like and has looked like over the course of you being at the company. So the first thing that you have to do is understand what it means to deserve a raise. And when we say the word deserve, we're not talking about the merit that you believe you have, right? A raise is coming from the company and the company determines who deserves a raise. And in a company where they are not giving out raises, then in their view, no one deserves a raise. That's a good company that probably, and apparently you do not work at that kind of company, Josh, according to the data that you sent me about your salary increases. So certainly there is motion there, but more than likely, people all over this country, all over the world are getting paid salaries that they don't deserve in one direction or the other. Maybe they're overpaid, maybe they're underpaid, but most of the time, the amount of money that a person quote unquote deserves based on their own merit or based on the value they produce. Usually, they're not matching up exactly in their salary. A company determines how much to pay someone based on whatever system they have in place. So it's your job, Josh, to understand what that system is. Some companies have a system of increasing pay over time for life expenses. As you mentioned, Josh, some companies don't. So you have to understand if your company has a policy or a regular pattern of doing that, then that is in your favor. Once again, you've mentioned that your life expenses have increased. Of course, if the company is normally willing to compensate for that, then it may be a simple. As you mentioning that to that person who is directly responsible for evaluating how much your expenses have increased and then putting that through the system so you get that pay increase. But here's the thing. My intuition is telling me, Josh, that we aren't really talking about whether or not you can get those small pay increases every time you're bill from your cable company increases. That's not what we're talking about here. What we're talking about is having your pay jump in a major way, not in a life expense increase way, but rather in a way that reflects the value that you believe you are providing to the company. So Josh, yes, absolutely. You are at the most optimum point in time to pursue this pay increase. This change of position going to a lead developer role. This is the optimum time to have a conversation with your direct supervisor. And what you can do is in this process of applying for this job position. First of all, don't assume that it will come with a raise. There are some title changes that come with no raise. Some of them come with benefits changes or maybe they are just a lateral move. Sometimes you may even see a pay decrease. Usually you won't see a pay decrease. But if your new title, for example, has some kind of benefits rolled into a profit sharing program or if you're going from a customer support position to a sales position, you may see a pay decrease that is eventually compensated by your sales commissions. But generally speaking, a job title change does come with a pay increase, but you shouldn't walk into that meeting with your boss and think that, well, obviously this is going to come with a pay increase. That kind of assumption that sets you out with the wrong attitude and your boss will see that. They will detect that poor attitude. It comes across as a poor attitude because the idea of a pay increase going along with a job title that doesn't connect to the reality of the fiscal responsibility that the boss has. In other words, if you get a raise, it's because you are providing enough value to earn that raise. That's really the lens that you have to view this meeting through. You have to view a meeting about a salary negotiation through the perspective of, I want to walk in and find out what steps, if any, I can take to earn this number. That's the whole tone of this meeting. You're not walking in, demanding. You aren't walking in with a number and asking for that number. Instead, you're walking in and asking, how can I be valuable enough to this company to be compensated with this amount of money? The negotiation side of this where you may disagree with your boss, where you may have some discussion time is how much they are asking from you for that number. If you are, for example, if you are going to have to produce $5 million in sales, let's throw a crazy number out there in order to achieve the salary that you want, then that may be something that you can say, that seems out of bounds or that seems unbalanced. What if we cut that down to two million in sales or whatever that number is? Once again, I'm using crazy numbers on purpose because everybody's situation is a little bit different. Understand that the negotiation itself is about what kind of work will actually justify that salary. It may be that your boss tells you the exact things they need you to do and you are totally comfortable doing those things. Then you move forward. You sign on the dotted line and whatever it is that you have to do, you take those steps towards doing that thing and then you earn that raise. What you want to do in this meeting is walk out with a relatively clear plan, a relatively clear checkpoint in the future, evaluating your performance versus what you were asked to do for that particular raise. Another element to your attitude walking in, the lens that you are viewing this through, it's not just about asking how can I earn this, but it's also about stating your longer term intentions. You have a shorter term goal of achieving a particular raise and then you have a longer term intention of maybe achieving a particular title or some other kind of incentive. If you tell your boss that your goal is to achieve those things, your boss is going to now know a more clear path that you are intentionally walking down. This is kind of that reality check for them to recognize that you are no longer the person that you were when you started working at this company nine years ago, but rather you have grown, your skills have grown and you are intentionally progressing towards your goals, both short term and long term. Your boss will very likely appreciate the initiative that you're taking, especially once again, if you approach it with the correct attitude. I want to help make this company better. I want to add value. I want to add enough value that I'm compensated at this level. There's quite a few outcomes to a discussion like that. The first and the most unfortunate outcome would be if your boss quite simply looked at you and said, we are unable to ever get you to that level. You may still stay at the company. You may decide to change how you want to go about achieving that income level. You may decide that you want to leave the company altogether. This is probably the most undesirable outcome because generally speaking as a company grows, especially if you are a part, a key part of that growth, you will be rewarded or somehow compensated for helping that growth occur. Another possible outcome is the everyone-win scenario where your boss provides you with the exact steps that you need to take or certain performance markers that you need to hit in order to hit a particular income level. The third and more likely scenario is that your boss may come back to you with some kind of performance indicators or some kind of objectives that you feel are unreasonable or maybe you feel don't fit in with where you want to take your career or somehow they are out of bounds for you. I recommend that you be very careful here, be flexible in these scenarios, but remember not everything ends perfectly cleanly. Sometimes both sides have to give up a little bit in order to get to a reasonable compromise. Josh, I hope this has been helpful and I hope that as you go into these discussions with your boss and these negotiations, the salary and the title change, I really hope that all of this works out positively for you. This is the end of the season, the end of the year. A lot of people are probably going through some kind of job change, some kind of transition, some rounds of raises are probably going around. Please share these stories with me, share how Developer Teahas helped you. I'd love to hear from you towards the end of the year. Of course, as January rolls around, it's a very special time for me because on January 5th, we launched this podcast. This January will be two years ago that we launched Developer Tea, so it's a very important and special time for me and I love getting these stories from all of you. You can send those directly to me at Developer Teaat Gmail. Of course, you can send in a question just like Josh has at the same email, but email addresses developertea@gmail.com. Thank you so much for listening. Of course, all of this information, everything you hear on this show would not be possible without spec. Go and check out spec.fm. Spec.fm is about helping designers and developers level up. I don't know if you all know this. Of course, I helped start spec with the awesome guys from Design Details, Bren and Brian. This is such an important part of what we do. We are great friends, first of all, but we love connecting with the community of developers and designers that listen to the shows on spec.fm. So please come and join the Slack channel if you want to connect with us. It's at spec.fm slash slack. Of course, that is totally free for you to use forever as a spec.fm listener. Thank you so much for listening to this show and until next time, enjoy your tea.