The Importance of Asking for a Raise
In the last week, we’ve all heard about Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s comments during a conference called the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing.
If you haven’t seen the news, Maria Klawe, Preisdent of Harvey Mudd College and Microsoft board member asked this question: “What do you advise women who are interested in advancing their careers but they’re not comfortable putting themselves up for promotions or advanced opportunities?”
Mr. Nadella’s answer has put him and women’s workplace issues in the spotlight this week. His response seems to suggest that he doesn’t encourage asking for a raise. Part of his response was this: “…it’s not really about asking for the raise but knowing and having faith that the system will actually give you the right raises as you go long. And that I think might be one of the additional “superpowers,” that quite frankly, women who don’t ask for a raise have. Because that’s good karma.”
Since this statement hit the news, I’ve been stopped multiple times with questions about what I think. People have asked both what about his answer and this issue in general. So, I wanted to share a few thoughts here.
A little background: As a woman who studied computer and systems engineering in undergraduate school, I’m used to being the first or the only. In college, I was one of the only women in my program. At multiple jobs in technology, I was also the only woman on the team.
When I got my first job, my loved ones strongly discouraged me from negotiating. I later found out I was the only person who did not receive relocation, and it was just because I didn’t ask for it. I write about this story in my e-book, Breaking The Rules and Getting The Job.
Although it was difficult, I learned an important lesson: negotiation is key. I have negotiated every job offer I’ve received since, and I’ve become both skilled at it, and comfortable doing it.
But, what I’ve learned working with my coaching clients is that everyone (both men and women) struggles with this issue. Most of the people I speak with have never negotiated for more money. They simply accept a job offer or reject it. They rarely spend much time on the grey area in between. It’s just too uncomfortable.
But really, that grey area is where the opportunity is. Did you know that most corporations have a huge band of pay for each position? For example, a project manager could make anywhere between $50,000 and $150,000 (although a company’s pay band is typically in the ballpark of $40,000 wide).
And, do you think that every person’s pay is a reflection of their true value? Or, of their experience? Does it say just how good they are at their job? Or, does it somehow reflect their education and credentials?
Absolutely not. Often, pay is a reflection on two things — how skilled you are at negotiation, and the minimum amount of money you’re willing to accept.
Have you ever noticed when you first start to interview at a new company, someone (usually from HR) asks you how much you currently make? There’s a good reason for that. They want to know just how little they have to pay you to get on board. In the long term, paying each employee a little less can save a company a lot of money.
Strategies around how to best answer this question — and how to negotiate an offer are something I work on with my clients. Because, at the end of the day, how much you’re making is rarely a reflection on your work. It’s typically a reflection on your negotiation skills.
It’s how you’re able to handle that uncomfortable ten minute conversation — with fear or fearlessly.
And back to Mr. Nadella’s comments… Man or woman– if you aren’t representing yourself and asking for more money, then who is? I can only assume that the person at the helm of such a powerful company has negotiated a few raises and job offers in his career. I can only assume karma didn’t land Mr. Nadella in the role of Microsoft CEO.
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Angela Copeland is Founder and Coach for Copeland Coaching, a great way to jump start your job search. Follow her on Twitter @CopelandCoach for tips on finding the perfect job for you.