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Some context - I have been studying as a software engineer for two years (foundation degree) and at the start of this year, I got a job as a full-stack web developer. The role was a paid internship/work placement role which was to last 3 months. After the three months was up, I had essentially finished my course at University and my employer on work placement offered me a job. I was over the moon to even have a job at this stage, due to covid outbreak and this was in the height of lockdown in the UK I got offered the job, however the job was for minimum wage (roughly 17k salary). I didn't want to negotiate much as I was just happy to be offered a job during those times. In June, I received a letter to say I had graduated with distinction from my course, hence making me a qualified software engineer. Now, most jobs in my city for software engineers and web dev at junior level range from 25-35k salaries, which is making me wonder if it is worth holding on to my job currently. This is my first ever professional job and I'm not sure how to approach the situation of asking for a pay rise. I really enjoy my job and working where I work, but I'm not sure if asking for more is right at the moment as I feel like I am holding onto this job... and not a lot of companies are employing currently! It is highly unmotivating working 40 hours a week and still barely paying my bills etc. especially when I could be making more money working in a supermarket! I'm hoping someone could offer me some advice on how to approach the situation, or how to essentially ask for a pay rise and use my graduation/new qualification as leverage... Thanks!!

  • does your contract say when your pay will be reviewed or anything like that? – Kilisi Sep 29 at 13:04
  • @Kilisi I just had a look, no there is no mention of any reviews or anything in my contract – Johnny McClorey Sep 29 at 13:09
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    A bit of advice that always worked for me is "Never ask for a rise, change job instead", two times I was in the process of leaving for a new job, and for two times they offered a better deal than the newer, maybe in the next week will come the third :) – Skelethos Sep 29 at 13:30
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    @Skelethos good point! My friend also suggested this, he was in the same situation as me a couple of years ago and his employer wouldn't offer him a pay rise, so he moved somewhere else and was jumped from 17 to about 23k salary. – Johnny McClorey Sep 29 at 14:18
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    Does this answer your question? How should I properly approach my boss if I'm feeling underpaid? – LP154 Sep 29 at 14:56
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What changed now that you have this graduation? Did you become a better developer overnight? While I understand where you are coming from, I don't think that the sole fact of having a degree entitles you to a better salary.

Now - given that they offered a job after the intership they were happy with your work. That is what you should use when you are asking for a pay rise. There are loads of questions here on the Workplace regarding how to approach a situation for a pay rise, so I'd suggest you take a look at those (start here). But the step from 17K to 25K+ seems like it's not something that will happen easily, that's almost 50% increase in salary.

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    Thanks for the answer! Yes, I can see where you are coming from. Since I started working there they have trusted me with larger projects and I have never let them down on anything, maybe my performance in the job may be a better point to work with as opposed to my qualifications. I will have a look at the link you provided thanks! – Johnny McClorey Sep 29 at 13:04
  • I don’t think that the % based increase is relevant here. It is an $8k increase which is not particularly large - especially considering it is raising you from minimum wage. At the moment in this tough economic climate it might be worth holding off pushing too hard for promotion based on the risks but when you are at the lower end of the salary scale I don’t think saying it’s a 50% increase provides the full picture – simon_smiley Sep 30 at 11:08
  • @simon_smiley My experience (mainlaind Europe, so your mileage might vary for UK) is that companies often revert back their company-defined salary framework that says that any junior only gets X% increase based on performance. Now I do think that there's always room to negotiate more, but my experience is that even then it's always calculated back to X% increase, and X > 20 is hard to get, even if the actual amount is relatively low. – Jeroen Sep 30 at 11:19
  • I agree - I also think that it sounds like they have gone in at a rate not even on the ladder - more like a continuation of the intern rate. In this sense you have the choice: accept it and get 5% or 10% increases for the next few years or push back and try to get a reasonable starting salary for the position hired for. At my company it would be unheard of for someone to be a salaried employee (eg not an intern) and to be on minimum wage. – simon_smiley Sep 30 at 11:22
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I think you got seriously low-balled and/or sold you yourself short when you accepted a job as full-stack web developer for minimum wage, or as you expressed yourself "when I could be making more money working in a supermarket!".

One of the reasons this could happen is probably because you didn't have a degree yet when you started working there. As another answer points out, having a degree doesn't automatically make you a better developer, however it is just a reality that often people are paid more, simply for having a degree.

So now you have a degree as well, you should definitely use it as an argument to ask for a (significant) raise. Especially when you are so grossly paid below average as you are. Off-course you should present the argument of having a degree now together with your successful track-record over last few months and if necessary the salaries of similar positions you found.

And finally, if a periodical salary-review isn't mentioned somewhere in your contract and/or in the employee manual you should bring it up as soon as possible.

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  • the last paragraph is important, there should always be a review process and probably is. – Kilisi Sep 30 at 0:17
  • Yeah I will definitely discuss the review process and get something organised. I know a team member who started after me has already had a review - which makes me feel as if I am still seen as an intern or not a proper employee. A bit unfair but it's up to me to organise it if my boss doesn't I guess. Thanks for the advice! – Johnny McClorey Sep 30 at 15:53
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I find a good perspective on these things are taking a value call. When you took the job at your current pay rate was it good value to you? You mention not being qualified (yet), and appreciating the opportunity. So from that I would take it as a yes. Having now qualified and proven yourself of the past numerous months in the job, your value has increased. Is there value to the company keeping you on your current pay rate, of course. They took a risk employing you and this is their reward. From here there are two potential directions, stay and try to negotiate a pay rise. Or move else where now your value as a developer has been proven.

My opinion is to stay for 6 - 12 months (total), that will give you time to build up your CV and make you more valuable, which will help you to achieve your best salary for your next move. It will also demonstrate a good level of loyalty (but not too much as seen to be someone to take advantage of).

Depending on how much longer that is, you could approach your boss and ask about career growth and promotion potentials. Be ready for limited to no response to that request as other will state, it is usually in the managements interest to keep salaries low as possible. This results is most peoples experiences being it is easier to get a raise and promotion by changing jobs.

Good luck and welcome to the career. Keep learning and building your value everyday and you will go far! There are lots of opportunities out there even at the moment, and always remember to get an offer and accept it before turning in your notice!

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    Thanks very much for the advice, you are a legend! I was thinking of staying for a year, have been there almost 9 months so it is probably worth staying and having a full years experience under my belt. I feel like a good place to start would be to discuss career growth as you mentioned, and if it doesn't interest me then more motivation to move elsewhere. – Johnny McClorey Sep 29 at 14:16
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Mileage will definitely vary on whether your company is willing to offer a raise simply because you got a degree. It certainly makes you more marketable on your next job, but the company that just offered you a job at a given rate may have assumed you would graduate when they made you the offer (in this situation, companies may even make an offer with a contingent condition).

The best way to figure out how to swing a raise within your company is to have a closed door conversation with your boss. It would be better to kick off with "how do raises work here? What is the timing/process on raises? What do you look for in awarding them" vs. "hey, now that I have a degree, when do I get a raise?".

At that time, if the boss is saying "Since you just accepted a permanent position, you won't see much until a year from now, etc" - then it IS fair to say "looking around, the going rate for this role with a degree (which I now have) is $$... does the low salary ever cause retention problems in this company?" - that's not a threat, it's a question.

You do want to avoid ultimatums here. It may well be that this company simply pays a low salary. In which case, as you've said, getting a new job is not a certainty - you probably want to have a job offer in hand before you quit... so the goal of this conversation is to see how likely a raise would be in this company before you start the effort of further job hunting.

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    Amazing advice, thanks very much! I will take this onboard and get a meeting scheduled with my boss soon – Johnny McClorey Sep 30 at 15:49

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