Discover more from Evil Witches Newsletter
Money making money money making
Some tips from witches on how to ask for more
You are probably not getting paid enough (this applies in particular to the stay-at-home parents, but that’s another discussion.) I am lucky to know some witches who have experience negotiating for raises and better pay and, even better, are happy to share advice on how to do so. Hope some of this advice helps you out the next time you ask for more money, which should be soon!
From Stevie Kuenn, director of marketing at Pat Tillman Foundation—
If you deserve it, prove it, and ask for it. Actually, ask for more. And then stop talking.
I’m a believer in talking data when it comes to asking for a raise. People say, “I don't have any data about what I did.” That's not true. If you did anything in the last year, and you went to work and accomplished things, yes, you have data. What your boss really values from you is what benefits your company. In one of my recent jobs, I was brought in to build up a company’s content marketing. They had been doing some, but they were chronically understaffed and their blog was updated monthly. I established an editorial calendar so we’d produce two days a week. I saw an opportunity to launch a podcast to drive content to our website that also created a piece of content our sales team could use with prospects. This company got sold before I could advocate for my raise, but what I would have done when meeting with my manager is that I’d say “I want a raise of this amount this year because I created this podcast.” If they replied, “So what?” I’d say “You hired me to create content that was really compelling. I created a podcast that created an additional blog post every week that drew in an increase of X% of traffic to our site and was used as a piece of sales collateral in X number of appeals that resulted in $X of dollars.” Take what you do and connect it to what it does for the company.
One thing that I see consistently is that women never want to ask for money. They always feel like they’re doing something wrong. But a company’s job is to get the best talent they can for the best price they can. You have to stop thinking that the best price they can offer is your worth.
Just because a job says it pays a certain amount doesn’t mean it’s the real amount. A lot of companies value the importance of culture fit. If you are a great fit who can push your company forward and is fun to be around and you know you’re the missing link for what they need next, they’ll find the money.
When you think about the salary you really want, always ask for $5-$10,000 more. The best-case scenario is that you’ll get that. The worst case is that they’ll say “We can’t do that” but they'll come up a little. Finding good talent is so hard. The costs of hiring the wrong person are outstanding.
People should get comfortable talking to their peers and other people about real numbers. I was horribly underpaid for a long time because I worked at an organization that didn’t value its employees. When I went to the next place I worked, I got a life-changing increase in salary, 25% more than I ever made before. Once I got in there I began developing relationships and it became apparent, I was still underpaid, particularly in relation to my new coworkers. I would have never had any idea if we didn’t talk about it. After I left a few years later I was having dinner with an old colleague who had also left. We had similar roles, and he made $30K more than me a year. This was a wakeup call that I can’t just assume that my past salary experience is good guidance for my future salary.
The one thing I can’t emphasize enough is that if you feel like you deserve more, you probably do, but ask. If you don’t ask, it’s not going to change and if you’re feeling underappreciated in any way, you're just going to get resentful and that’s not good either.
As soon as you make your salary request, stop talking. Let them react. I think a lot of people, especially women, will say, “My rate is $140 an hour.” I will then pinch myself because what ends up happening next is “But, I could do it for $120.” People talk themselves out of it. You have to pause and let them take the next step.”
From Jennifer, who works in advertising in the Chicago area—
Write it out, make it deliverable to a higher-up, and make a plan if they say no
When you’re at a point in your career where you think “I’ve done a lot” or “It’s been a few years” or “My job has grown,” the first thing is to reflect on what you've actually accomplished. I love that part of it. “Wow, I do a lot of cool stuff!” I never go into a meeting with a boss or a supervisor to ask for a raise or a promotion without having things really written out. I basically write a review of what I’ve done and present it like an argument. “These are the reasons why and my proof behind it.” A lot of people go in and spitball it: “Hey, I’ve been here for 5 years: I want to grow.” Not only is it important that you do the homework to prove yourself worthy to that individual and that there needs to be a change, keep in mind that that person is most likely has to go to someone else. If they're a good boss, they should be an advocate to make that case for you. I try to make a tight argument as if I were going to court and then present that in a formal way and think, “How is this person I’m speaking to going to communicate to whoever else that this needs to happen?”
There’s been a few times where I’ve gone to a supervisor and said “These are the reasons why I deserve more money” and they said, “Now isn't the time” and I’ll push. ”What do I need to do? Help me get there.” That has also helped me understand my supervisor better because there have been a few that they haven’t had a reason. If you don't have a reason, how can I grow? It opens communication.
I pretty much have a rule that I don’t want a raise without a promotion. I usually don't say it right away. I usually have a first conversation to feel them out and a good boss should say, “What are your hopes?” I say, “I’ve done some research; this is what I think is fair.” I’ve found it to be successful when it’s about the money but also about wanting to move ahead, wanting to have a bigger role or a bigger title. “I'm ready for the next step” or “I’ve done the work and I haven’t been promoted yet.”
I’ve pumped myself up that I could get another job if my manager didn’t proceed as I wish. I’ve never had to say that, but this last opportunity, I’d come to her early and she said it wasn’t a good time. I came back the next year she accepted it. She said, “I knew you’d want to talk about this again.” I was prepared. I told my husband, “If she says no, I’m done.” What did I have to lose at that point? It gave me confidence. Every little argument she had, I said, “No actually, I have an answer to that.” I wrote it down and formally sent it to her.
If your boss says no to your request, find out why. Do they need something from you for the raise to come together? Is it a money thing? If it’s a money thing, I would come back 6 months later and ask “Do you have it now?” Making it about performance makes it harder to come back quickly. If it's about resources, it's easier to come back sooner.
From Keaton O’Neal, vice president of legal in Austin, TX —
Make lateral moves and agitate for whole company salary benchmarking
I started out practicing law around the 2008 recession at a fairly depressed salary in order to get into the Austin market, which is very competitive, and moved into tech at a startup. When you're working in tech, merit raises and cost of living raises are very small. The way I was able to make any big moves happen was through lateral hires. That’s when I started seeing swings in the $10-15K range. You’re able to negotiate big swings when you're moving to a new company because you’ve amassed a certain level of skill. You get title changes and commensurate salary bumps. It’s unfortunate that even when you have a lot of tenure and a lot of knowledge, you just get those 3-5% raises.
The way I’ve gotten my biggest raises at the same company is through salary benchmarking—that’s when someone through HR purchases a third-party salary benchmarking study, like through Gartner. That was when I realized that I was grossly underpaid for the role I had in my commensurate experience and that getting these 3-5% bumps had not made up for the fact that I’d started out really low.
The great part about pushing for a benchmarking report is that the rising tide lifts all boats. The studies help a lot of people—they help out women, people of color, it helps people who didn’t come out of Ivy League institutions or who don’t come from a Big Four accounting firm. They help out everybody except the white man! It adds an air of objectivity to it— “Hey, someone who is an eight-year engineer or lawyer shouldn’t be making $83,000 they should be making $110,000.” That's when you see something happen.
One of the responsibilities you have, as you move upmarket in your career, is not only to advocate for yourself but people below you and across your organization, the people who don’t negotiate like a mediocre white man. The people who say “I’m happy for this job, thank you.”
When it comes to lateral movies, those always come with pay increases. It can be up to 20%, because that's when somebody wants you to come with them, especially if you get recruited over. We’ve come a long way since the IBM days where you work there for 50 years and retired with a pension. I was never going to be able to scale that next mountain at my next job. I was not able to get that next step without moving to another company.
You talk about those bumps at the interview stage. “What’s the growth potential in this job?” I said in one interview, “I’m not interested in moving without a few things guaranteed here.” Because I was making a move during COVID, I negotiated severance. They let me go within the first couple of months. It’s not worth the pain of re-learning all the politics, unless you’re miserable at your current job if a new job doesn’t come with a pretty significant salary bump and an opportunity to grow.
Two, three, four years is a long time at a company in tech. If you haven’t moved up to the next level in that time period it’s time to leave and find something else. All of the opportunities where I’ve made pretty significant jumps, it wasn't just applying for another job, I had a connection through networking and they wanted me to come interview.
I had one woman who reported to me, come to me and say, “You said you’d have a salary review with me at six months.” I said, “I can give you 5%.” She said, “I want a minimum of 10, and here is all the data I’ve brought to you: here is the Robert Half legal survey that says that for corporate counsel in Chicago, here’s where I should be. Here are three job postings and the salary range for those.” I was able to get her the $110,000 she asked for. Six months after that, she came to me and said “I’ve got another job offer and I’m getting your title and $150,000” and I said “Congratulations.” It kind of impressed me. She was ballsy. I’ve got 5 years’ experience on her at the same salary because she had the guts to ask.
From a witch in the entertainment industry—
A pandemic is not a reason not to ask for what you deserve
“Oh boy did I ask for a raise during a pandemic! For the first half of this mess, my lovely bosses got completely absorbed in the election and their crippling anxiety and basically ghosted the business. My work husband and I took on all of it. We acted as therapists to the artists while trying to sort out how to manage a completely remote office. It was A LOT as we both have young children at home. I felt overwhelmed but also terrible at my job. At the end of the year, I made everyone do employee reviews, and my bosses had to participate in each one. They saw what we had all been dealing with and understood that while we were all incredibly grateful to have jobs especially jobs that allowed the flexibility we all needed, it had been a freaking slog. We all got raises, but I think even more than the raise, everyone just wanted the acknowledgment that keeping the office fires blazing had been hard. And we did it. I learned so much about work and how to manage people more effectively. As we talk about going back to the office when we are all vaccinated, I know it is going to look different. I am really grateful for being forced to get out of my own way with stupid work assumptions. I told my aforementioned work husband that I have become accustomed to seeing my children more and I am not going to be willing to give that up completely to go back to the way things were. We'll see! He said he is feeling his feelings about going back to work in the office, too. What a weird world we are about to return to!”
And here is one from me—Your hourly rate is an hourly rate for a reason
When not doing witches and being the world’s best mama and wifey, I am a freelance writer/editor/consultant who has a set hourly rate. A few months ago a new agency client asked me about doing some rush work over a weekend. When I gave him my rate, he suggested a lower one, saying that the work would be easy and straightforward. (I didn’t say this, but that’s for me, not him, to decide.) I said, “That might be true, but the time is the time. Whether it’s two hours of ‘easy’ work or ‘hard’ work, that’s still two hours out of my weekend.” He said, “I didn’t think of it that way.” They met my rate. And the project, for the record, took 14.5 hours of deep work and I can’t say much about the agency’s client but they were not, let’s say, a nonprofit and could definitely afford me. Glad I stuck by my $150 per hour rate.
I hope you enjoyed this issue of Evil Witches, a newsletter for people who happen to be mothers who for some reason still care about their careers despite already having ~*the most important job of all*~. Some other future topics include tales from working in higher ed and stories of car crashes that immediately followed receiving one’s driver’s license, if you have any stories.
If you like this newsletter and haven’t yet, please consider supporting this independent, nonsponsored work and joining the subscription level, which gives you extra context and access to fun honest witchy discussion threads talking about things like if we have the time to read and awful times we got hit on (would you rather be picked up six weeks postpartum or 8 months pregnant?)
If you have already subscribed, thank you. I am getting my second vaccination dose on Wednesday so this may be the only issue that comes out this week depending on how it treats me. If you have any questions, feedback, or suggestions for the newsletter you can reply right to this email. You can follow us on Instagram here and talk to other witches on Twitter, too.
As always we appreciate shout outs like this!