Are You Asking For A Raise…Or Putting Your Company On Notice?

Many 40-something women wish they had been better at asking for raises.  Especially for those who weathered the recession in the early 1990s, the thinking was, “They’re asking me to do more but I can’t ask for money. I just need to be thankful.”

If recent stats that women are significantly less likely to negotiate their first salary than men holds true, (57% of men negotiate a higher salary for their first job out of college, while only 7 % of women do the same) women today may be headed in the same direction.

I asked one 40-something human resource director at a technology company if she notices a difference in the way men vs. women ask for raises. Her answer:

“Not all women but yes, some women are softer. It can sometimes come across that they’re not taking it seriously.”

Yikes. So back to the thread of how do we amplify women’s voices?  So first …get the ask for “the ask” right. As Tara Sophia Mohr pointed out in this interview about how women can undermine themselves, women often downplay the importance of what they are asking. Don’t say “do you have a minute that I can talk to you about something”.  Say there is something important you would need to talk about and schedule the time.

Now, here are some 40-something “lessons learned” about asking for and getting a raise.

Some women gain gumption with a few years under their belt. This woman asked for what she wanted after a few years of coasting. Her sister, who worked at the same company at the time, called her lucky for getting what she wanted. She calls it being willing to try a new way, and being willing to walk away.

 “I asked myself, can I do it this way instead?” I thought, “Can I have this instead?” Then I was able to go back and say, “You know what? I need work. I want to do this. If you can’t give it to me, fine I’ll leave. But this is what I want and this is why I think I deserve it.” – 40-something, Phoenix, AZ

The human resource director agreed. Her advice to women was to not be afraid of the “NO”.

“You can approach it by saying, “This is what I’m worth and here’s what I want”. Then you negotiate.  If they say no, they’re just saying no.  So what? I know rejection sucks but that’s a whole other book. If you’re worth something, be confident. You don’t have to be perfect in everything that you offer but if you add value, you should be confident and just ask.  So the downside is they might say no but then at least you’ll know where you stand and hopefully you’ll have a good manager who can tell you where their are gaps if the answer is no or the answer is we’ll talk at the end of the year.”

Another woman suggests that asking for raises is something to prepare for . . . not in listing your accomplishments but investing time in developing self-confidence.

“I’m not saying I’ve completely mastered it but I would try “your ask” out on a friend or find any possible way to practice it to the point that you do feel comfortable. Read books. Take a course on negotiation. It’s worth it. At the end of the road you’re doing this for yourself. You’re the only person who can ask for raises and job opportunities. It’s so valuable to rehearse.  Understand that it is a skill that you can learn. It’s not that some women are so gifted that they born being able to negotiate or feel great about themselves. Some people are fortunate but I also think it’s something you can learn.” – 40-something, Cleveland, OH

Many women say the key is to have documentation and to respect yourself — if you don’t it will show.

Go for what you think you truly deserve. If you don’t think you deserve it then don’t go in there. You have to believe it. Then have back up for what you’re asking for. Have documentation for what you do. Don’t just go in there and say, ‘I think you need to pay me more money.’ Document your goals and your accomplishments and your worth to the company.  You have to be your own best advocate. Your immediate boss might know your worth and go to bat for you, but all in all, especially in this economy, be your own best advocate.” – 40-something, Detroit, MI

But is there more to it? I often think women and men approach things differently and strive to give women’s voice’s power. So I recently asked a man who runs his own company for his perspective. He said that men are just as afraid to talk about money as women are. But they do accept less ambiguity. His advice? First know exactly what the practices and policies are for raises. Then put the company on notice.

“At my company we only give raises at the end of the year and for promotions. Everyone understands that. So first ascertain what your expectations can be. Then yes, go in and do your brag roll…that is your job. If they say no, then at least you know where you stand. Then you have to figure out what the triggers for a raise will be. If they say you are not ready, find out what will make you ready.  If they say they are not giving out raises because of the economy, that is your reality for now. But even if they say they don’t know when they will be giving raises you still have to ask for the trigger.  Ask them what will trigger a raise for you when they do start giving out raises again. Don’t just accept it and think you will bring it up again later when the pay freeze is over. Then they will know you will always work for less that you are worth. If you go in there with purpose and ask for triggers, then your manager knows the company is vulnerable to losing you.”

Great advice all!

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