I didn’t negotiate salary until age 26.
And the first time I asked for a raise was at age 28.
Don’t do that, guys.
I actually don’t really regret not negotiating my first couple of job offers. Why? Well, they fell into the categories described here on Ask A Manager.
But I do regret not asking for a raise earlier. The job that I held the longest? Prime opportunity! And sadly, a missed one.
3 (bad) reasons I didn’t push for more
I justified not asking for a raise or higher salary to myself for years. But you don’t get what you don’t ask for, and who doesn’t want more money?
I didn’t feel underpaid
I feel fortunate to have earned market rates. I never felt lowballed. I’ve never been through the wringer of learning that a co-worker made tons more money than me for doing the same job. And so I’ve never felt that particular burning motivation.
Sure, I felt I was getting fairly paid … but would more money have hurt? Definitely not.
And I think, in hindsight, there’s a fair chance I could’ve gotten more if I’d only asked.
Not having HR, not having reviews or any sort of structure around performance … none of that is a good excuse. But also…
I was scared to ask
Asserting myself doesn’t come naturally, and unlike my parents who have no shame in bargaining for a deal, I can’t even bring myself to haggle at markets where it’s expected.
And my anchor points, deep down, I think skew low (baselining off things like the hourly rates at my first part-time jobs, the low-paying field I then went into, what my parents earned when I was growing up etc).
I just wanted to fly under the radar and do a good job, in a dying industry. I didn’t want to draw attention to myself. Ugh.
I thought it just seemed like a bad idea
Being employed in a industry struggling to make a profit, I felt lucky to have a job at all. I felt competent, but not outstanding.
I didn’t think that I had any concrete reasons to point to that proved why I deserved more; no ammo with which to back up a request for a raise.
The former may have been true, but what’s the worst that could have happened?
As for the latter, I’m pretty sure that was just imposter syndrome talking.
I can’t even tell you how searingly awkward it was to negotiate that first salary offer (err, and the next one…) and ask for that first raise. I wince when I recall them! But I was crazy proud of myself afterwards, not to mention a little bit richer.
And if you’re stuck in the cycle of underearning, breaking out will mean getting comfortable with asking for more.
Not that you need them, but just quickly…
3 good reasons to ask for more
Literally a couple of (painful, awkward) minutes could net you thousands more a year, and that compounds over time.
Their budgets are bigger than yours
A few grand might make a big difference in your life, but probably won’t affect their bottom line to the same degree. There’s usually some wiggle room, and you know what? Employers won’t be surprised if you negotiate – they expect you to advocate for yourself.
It sets a precedent for the future
Raises build on what’s come before. The more you earn now, the bigger those 2%, 3%, 5%, 10% bumps will be later on.
Raises aren’t a sure thing
You can’t count 100% on regular raises once you’re in. You’ve got the most leverage at the offer stage, so that’s the time to make the most of it.
Need more help on this front? Head over to The Luxe Strategist’s epic post on negotiating for yourself.
*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on brokeGIRLrich.*