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I was hired by an established tech startup straight out of college, along with a handful of other college hires. I was given a salary of 50K (which I knew was a drop low for that industry), but they refused to negotiate on the offer and the company/job was appealing enough for me to take it.

I've been here for nearly 1.5 years now - and I'm doing high level work that is 100% NOT entry-level work. One of my more senior coworkers even commented to me once privately that the company is ripping up off by paying us entry level salary and giving us mid-level work.

I've gotten plenty of feedback from both co-workers and my manager to know that I'm exceeding all expectations and performing unusually well. However, at this point I've been there a year and a half without a raise. (Company policy is only to give raises in December, and I didn't get anything my first year since I joined a couple of months before December and was still fairly new).

Because of the low salary (again, relative to the work I'm doing, location, and the industry), almost all of the other college hires have left to go work at other companies. I've heard they are getting between 70K-90K... And I know I could get the same thing if I went to work at other companies.

The thing is - I really like the company & the job. I don't want to leave, and I know for sure that my boss doesn't want me to leave either. Also we are a bit short-staffed for my position now that many other college hires have left over the last few months, so I know that it would be a bit of a blow to lose me (from a department staffing level - and from a team morale level). But I am willing to leave because the salary is so ridiculously low.

I had many conversations with my boss about this when I hit the 1-year mark, and I agreed to wait till December (based on lots of other reasons that are irrelevant here). I know that I'm up for a promotion then, too.

Basically, my questions are:

  • How much I can ask for when I negotiate it in December? I honestly feel I deserve 75K or 80K. They trained me to do the same work that 8-year experienced professionals are doing - and I'm still considered a fairly high performer when compared to many of those co-workers. However... from a percentage standpoint, that's a 50% raise - which sounds ridiculous. Will it be counter-productive to say I'm looking for 80K (or more, since I assume that they'll try to lower down whatever number that I say)? I don't want them to laugh in my face and think I'm being ridiculous or greedy.

  • How open should I be about the fact that I want to stay? My boss knows that I like the company. But if I am completely transparent that I love my job, will they be less likely to give me the raise I'm looking for (since they might just say - oh he anyways isn't serious about leaving, so we'll bump him up a drop but not majorly)? Again, I am serious about leaving due to the salary but it would be a major decision on my part - which I don't want to make until I see what they offer in December.

UPDATE - One last note - It's worth pointing out that all other level of employees seem to be compensated very fairly. The company devotes a lot of effort into their compensation approach and making it transparent to employees. This salary issue seems to be an issue isolated to college hires - which is a fairly new program for this company. Apparently they have plans underway to change their compensation approach for future rounds of college hires, but I don't know what that means. It clearly isn't going to affect anything for me retroactively, though.

UPDATE 2 - After seeing feedback about a possible duplicate question, I removed one of my questions for "how to ask". The remaining questions are different since it's focusing on the general "is it going to sound ridiculous to ask for 50%" and on the very specific part about "how transparent I should be" - which wasn't asked in that other post.

Thanks!

marked as duplicate by gnat, Seth R, Philip Kendall, paparazzo, Jim G. Oct 21 at 5:31

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

  • @SethR I edited and explained why it's not a duplicate – giraffe36 Oct 19 at 6:11
  • 5
    Ask for a promotion to a mid-level position with appropriate payment. This is not the same as a raise and could be used to sidestep the "50 % raise" argument. – Roland Oct 19 at 8:07
up vote 14 down vote accepted

Well, you did your homework, so did they. Companies always try to get the most benefits (work performed for them) for the least cost, but they also know the average salary for jobs they offer. If you don't negotiate for more money, they're very happy to have you work for them. If you perform well but ask for more money, they're still happy you work for them. All that's left is you entering the negotiation with the necessary self-confidence and the right arguments.

  • Prepare a (mental or paper) list of all mid-level work you do and responsibilities you have that are above your current pay level
  • Have a similar list of all accomplishments and positive performance evaluations to remind them that you are worth more than they're paying
  • State your honest expected salary based on these facts
  • Honestly state that you feel your current pay is way too low
  • Don't argue about percentatges, argue about adjusting your salary to your performed services.
  • Be carefull when comparing your salary to that of others. This negotiation is exclusively about you, not about other people and their salary. Of course you can mention how much you could earn in another company, but avoid arguments like "Bob at Company X earns 80k so I want 80k as well".
  • 4
    Your last point is very important. – JimmyB Oct 19 at 13:21
  • However, the salary you'd expect to get if you went elsewhere is relevant to the negotiation process. It's also presumably the salary the company would have to pay to replace you, and that's significant. If the company would have to pay $80K to replace you, it's a good deal for them to pay you $80K, since they don't have to go out and find someone else and bring them up to speed. – David Thornley Oct 19 at 18:21
  • It's definitely about what other people with comparable skills are being paid. The market determines what is a fair salary, and it has nothing to do with what he is currently being paid. They can either pay him the market rate or expect him to soon leave for a better offer. – kevin cline Oct 20 at 6:26

If they're ripping you off they'll be unlikely to give you a %50 raise. They've already shown that by being the kind of people who treated you this way.

They'll most likely have the mentality of "lets find another junior (or immigrant who needs local experience and is happy to settle for lower wages for a while) and keep paying junior wages.

But still, don't leave until you've secured another position, then ask for the %50.

  • 1
    I just added more details into the post about the general compensation approach at the company. Based on what I've heard from more senior coworkers and from the leadership team, they truly try to compensation fairly. My impression is that they didn't devote time/effort into understanding the job & market range for college hires doing my type of work. – giraffe36 Oct 19 at 5:45

It's easy to feel you deserve 80K, but the real question is whether any employers agree. It's not impossible to get a 50% raise, but you will definitely need a good argument to convince them if you want to have a chance.

The best argument is to simply show them that other companies are willing to give you that kind of money. Try going to a few interviews for other positions, see if they are willing to extend an offer and see what they're willing to pay.

Then when you do your salary negotiation, bring up those offers. Tell them you really like their company a lot, but you don't like missing 30K per year in salary much. Think about how much you're willing to miss out on in order to work at a good company.

They might be willing to give you a 50% bump. They might not. Either way, you'll be making that 80K starting in January.

Of course you can ask for a raise.

When asking for a raise you need to phrase it in business terms. This is something that is difficult for us on the tech side (it was for me early in mky career) - us techies think in terms of the technology not how what we are doing helps the business meet their goal which is making money and turning a profit.

I would phrase as to emphasize what return your efforts have provided to the business. Something along the lines of "completed project flibbit on time and under budget resulting in $XX in new sales". If what you're doing doesn't directly effect the bottom line you should still be able to show what you're doing and how it meets timelines, etc.

When doing a negotiation of this type you should have several things to remember:

  • What is you desired salary?
  • What is 'drop-dead' amount - the minimum you find acceptable?
  • If you don't get to the minimum increase you're looking for what are you prepared to do? Find a new job? Sulk?

One thought, if the market rate for your skills in 50% more than you're currently earning then you can improve your financial situation by leaving if they don't meet their requirements. The company will then find that they can't replace your skills at what you are currently earning and they will have to train someone new so productivity will low for the new hire.

Good luck!!

  • The salaries his former classmates are earning are material to this discussion. – kevin cline Oct 20 at 6:27

You should definitely have a conversation with your manager but don't wait until December. By that time, they're likely to already have had the relevant budgeting round for comp and getting anything changed will be harder. Not necessarily impossible, depends on the company, but harder.

Should you be open about liking the company? Yes but be circumspect.

The way I'd pitch the discussion is something like:

  • you'd like to discuss your level and compensation
  • you believe you've had a successful 18 months in the company
  • you're close to a number of your peers and you're aware that your comp is markedly below theirs. To the tune of 25-30k
  • you like working for the company but you're ambitious and would like to know where you stand so you can plan your career accordingly

Then ask, flat out, does your manager's understanding of your situation gel with yours. And, if not, in what ways.

If your manager responds with specifics about you, your work, your comp, then these are good signs. It's also quite a good sign if they say they'll take specific actions away from the meeting.

If your manager doesn't address comp at all, is vague or talks about difficulties with the team, the company etc then you can reasonably assume that you'll be disappointed at year end.

If you're still not happy then the nuclear option is to get hired for a job that pays 75k+. Then go to your manager, say that you've been offered a job at that level but you like working there and you'd stay if they match. The downside, of course, is that they might say no.

Some people consider this a bit unethical, and that's fine, but it's very, very common. My view is that, if you've made a genuine attempt to get your market value via internal processes, and failed, then it's fair game. But YMMV.

  • The advice I've seen is that you should never get an offer from somewhere else and then accept a counteroffer from your current employer. It usually doesn't work out well. – David Thornley Oct 19 at 18:16
  • @DavidThornley Why? The advice in this answer seems perfectly logical to me. – Ertai87 Oct 19 at 18:41
  • @DavidThornley That’s not good general advice. Most of the time it will be fine. I have met managers who take things overly personally but they’re a small minority. The biggest, common, downside is that the employee is being paid substantially higher than their peers in the company. That can make later rises difficult. But if you’re underpaid even within your company this is usually less of an issue. – Alex Oct 20 at 7:54

You won't receive a 50% raise.

A lot of good comments here on how you should approach this, but realistically speaking, it's highly improbable for you to get a raise that high even if your arguments are great and you show great rhetorical skills.

You normally get the biggest raises when switching jobs, which explains why your former colleagues switched.

Also, you need to keep in mind that unfortunately, years of experience are frequently used as a proxy for proficiency. That's simplistic of course, but that's a fact. And it explains why it's so difficult to be paid like a person with 10 years of experience if you only have 3. Even if your performance is actually better.

Last but not least, if the company found it more important to keep talent than to spare a few dollars (euro? yen?), your former colleagues would still be working with you.

On a more personal note, if you work for a big international company, I might know which company you mean in your post. You included enough details. If I'm right, you will never ever receive a 50% raise there. The company is famous for the fact it employs plenty of graduates, who stay 1-3 years and then leave as a career progression is super difficult there.

  • 1
    If you're worth it and they can afford it, you have a good chance of getting a 50% raise. – Glen Pierce Oct 20 at 3:08
  • @385703 Not sure why you're jumping to conclusions about which company this is. As the author, I can tell you it actually does not sound like the company you reference. This scenario can happen in any company which hires college grads, and in my case it's not at all known as a place where career progression is hard. – giraffe36 Oct 21 at 1:28
  • @giraffe36. Still, the probability you will get a 50% raise is close to 0. – 385703 Oct 21 at 7:14

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