Over at LinkedIn, Citi's Women & Co Connect discussion group recently faced a question: what's your career resolution for 2013? Of the 5 available options, the most commonly chosen (at the time I looked) was "Find a new job" (36%). The runner-up was "Learn new career skills" (29%) and then "Build my network" (25%). Only 2% of respondents resolved to ask for a raise.
I find it interesting that the number is that low. One of the reasons people look for a new job is to make more money, and one reason to learn new career skills is to boost your earning potential. Building your network can help bring in more work (and more money). So why is asking for more money directly so unpopular?
Partly because the economy is rough, and many people feel lucky to have a job (or multiple steady gigs). But also because it's awkward. While our society is obsessed with money, there's not much transparency about it. Unless you work for an organization with a salary scale, figuring out what people in similar positions earn involves a lot of intelligence gathering. We have lots of taboos about talking about money, but this serves to keep people in the dark. And when people are in the dark, we tend to revert to cultural assumptions. As I wrote in my post The Princess Problem, women in particular seem prone to believe that the company will choose what to pay us, and this is what we are worth. Men, on the other hand, are more likely to have a certain number they'd like to earn, and then view it as their responsibility to get an organization to pay that over time.
So what to do? I'm a big fan of professional networks in this case. I belong to the American Society of Journalists and Authors, and one of their services is regular paycheck reports that share what different publications pay. This can help in negotiations.
You can also be always a little bit on the market (or in the case of freelancers, be willing to say no). Nothing induces an employer to cough up a raise like the possibility of seeing a valued employee walk out the door.
There are also parallels to discussing other taboo subjects. Sexuality educators tell parents not to focus on one big Talk with their children about the birds and the bees, because this can be overwhelming and awkward. Instead, you work the subject into regular conversations so that it's on the table. Likewise, any performance review can feature a conversation of what you need to do to earn a raise by your next performance review. Regular check-ins with a supervisor can focus on questions like "how can I best add value to this department? What do you see as most important?" This lays the groundwork for focusing on these things and then being able to show, directly, how you've brought in more revenue or saved your organization cash.
Have you ever asked for a raise?
In other news:
I had a column in yesterday's USA Today called "New Virtual, Flex Workforce Stands Ready." The gist is that labor force participation has been falling, but the line between workers and non-workers is less stark than it seems, and some people not currently in the workforce would be willing to work under other conditions (like telecommuting).
I enjoyed a post over at Strangers in Slippers on receiving an engagement MacBook Air — a much more useful engagement gift than a ring, if you think about it. (Hat tip to Jamie of Light and Momentary).
Cali Williams Yost's new book, Tweak It: Make What Matters to You Happen Every Day, is on sale this week. It looks at how to make small changes (getting more exercise, building your career capital) in order to make work and life work better together.