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TLDR: I think I deserve a big raise for my skills, but I've only been in this company since 1.5 years ago.

Background

I studied to become a mecatronic engineer. After 5 years in a first company, I spent 3 years as a self-employed consultant. I joined this new company (selling Engineer services to the pharmaceutical industry) in 2020.

The salary I asked for was, according to my company, near the limit between junior and the next level. I also had no previous experience in the pharmaceutical industry nor in this particular field.

Events

After 1 year comes my first performance review. My manager tells me that I overachieved on all expected goals, that our main customer specifically recommended me to keep on working with them. I was also nominated for some internal awards in my company, and I got a bonus of 1/3 of a months wage.

Seeing that everybody seems to be happy with my skills, I asked my manager about an eventual future meeting to negotiate a raise, I suspect my salary to be at best near the median.

At this point he seemed taken aback, told me to schedule a meeting for 5 months later, that it could only affect my salary after the first of January 2022, (so a total of 10 months later), that I should expect a raise between 1% and 3%, and that I should not forget that I am also getting compensation ('Spesen' in German) for travelling to the customer.

My questions

This left me wondering about a few questions:

  • Is this correct of my manager to talk about travel compensation when discussing a raise?
  • I was expecting a bigger 'exceptional' raise of 6-10% to align my salary to the one of other well-performing people, since I proved I can do a good job in this field and the fact that I have 8 years of experience in another (kind of related) industry.
  • Since my manager brought those numbers up before I could set my expectations, is it even worth mentioning when I get my meeting with him?
  • How to bring up the fact, that I would be open to let this raise on the side for now if I can get more responsibilities/better title in order to justify a raise later on?

And more importantly:

  • Am I trying to go too fast?
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  • I think you are asking the wrong questions. I believe you want a raise but you are probably going about in a suboptimal way since a lot of what you are currently asking isn't actually relevant. I recommend asking "what's the best approach for getting a raise in my situation"
    – Hilmar
    Aug 3 at 12:55
  • Have you considered going back into your "self-employed consultant" status, and do consulting work for this company or, even better, for that client which seem to like you? That could solve the money question quite easily, discussing a rate is so much easier than discussing a salary package...
    – Laurent S.
    Aug 3 at 14:24
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    I started in my current company as a minimum wage junior analyst. 5 years later my salary was up 250%. If you include the value of my equity, more like 400%. There’s no such thing as “too fast”. Only how much you can persuade someone to pay you, and how willing you are to go somewhere else if they don’t.
    – Kaz
    Aug 3 at 15:31
  • And how likeable you are while doing it. It's too easy for too many people to sound pushy, angry or generally unpalatable while trying to do that. Aug 4 at 7:28
  • The sad truth is that "big" raises mostly happen when you change jobs, externally or at least internally. Getting substantially more money when you have already demonstrated that you are in principle willing to work for less is mostly a pipe dream.
    – xLeitix
    Aug 4 at 8:42
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Your boss basically told you that there are no relevant(!) salary raises for you in the future.

I would suggest to look for jobs at other companies. A 1-3% percent increase is just an adjustment for inflation. It does not reflect overachieving goals or an increase in seniority.

If you want to bring it up, you have to clearly state what you want (like 10%) and be ready to leave the company if they do not meet these requirements. If you are not willing to leave, you are basically powerless in salary negotiations. However, given that your manager pushed you back 5 months, I would not wait for that to play out and just start looking.

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"and I got a bonus of 1/3 of a months wage."

This is almost insultingly low and no real bonus for overachieving on all goals.

"that I should expect a raise between 1% and 3%"

Which means that your 'raise' is almost lower than the inflation rate, so you can't buy more than before.

Your manager just pushed your first raise more than two years after your start date and told you that you won't have more money even after a potential(!) 'raise'.

'travel compensation' is required by law, so it's rather a red flag.

So in total: You are not going too fast, talking about a raise after a great review is the right time and your manager tried to downplay you.

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  • 7
    In Switzerland, inflation averaged to 0.14% over the last 5 years ...
    – meriton
    Aug 3 at 14:06
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    @EdwinBuck I'm not sure it's even that much. Based on what op wrote the travel could be within Switzerland and for travel within Switzerland companies often just pay for a public transport subscription which is a flat rate and can also be used for private travel, but there is no way to "pocket the rest" (and it would probably be worth around 1/2 month's salary).
    – Nobody
    Aug 3 at 20:03
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    I disagree that a 1/3 of a month's salary of a junior engineer is insulting. As a junior i would have killed for a bonus like that.
    – Donald
    Aug 3 at 22:00
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    @Donald This is regionally very different. In Austria for instance, performance-based, variable-sized "bonuses" are not a thing for most jobs (outside of sales and higher management), so a bonus of 1/3 of a monthly salary for an engineer may indeed be seen as rather generous. Since it's a neighbouring country I suspect the same is true in Switzerland, where OP is located.
    – xLeitix
    Aug 4 at 8:40
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    For what it's worth, I do agree with that answer in the sense that it's a really bad sign that OP's manager is trying to distract OP with these minor financial sideshows (small bonuses, travel expenses). That really, really does not indicate that a 6% - 10% raise is anywhere on the horizon, because a small one-time payment would simply not factor into this question.
    – xLeitix
    Aug 4 at 8:52
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When is it 'too soon' to ask for a high raise?

When you're not confident you have the leverage to successfully get it or don't have a strategy planned if it's refused. Any time you ask for more money out of the ordinary, there is an implication that you may leave if not satisfied. This can get employers searching for a replacement or looking negatively at your work. And, any time a request is put off or fails completely it weakens your future negotiating stance.

If you are confident and in a position to take a small risk then by all means go for gold.

In your case you have already been put off once, you can either take whatever is given or hold out for more. Personally I'd want a big raise as I have already had to wait 5 months. But, I would have spent the 5 months looking for other job options.

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    What a great answer. Waiting until you need the raise might make it a good time to receive one, but the only good time to ask for one is when your ability to walk out of the company is combined with the company's desire to keep you in it. Any other time is a bad time to ask.
    – Edwin Buck
    Aug 3 at 14:07
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Another tactic is to go to your boss and talk to him/her about getting a promotion. Bring up the fact that you are now 5 years into your career and are in no way "junior"; young engineers, 5 years into their career should be beginning their upward climb. Be sure to point out that you now have nearly two years experience in the Pharmaceutical industry -- emphasizing that that was what held back your initial position. Also bring up the awards, the customer testimonials, etc.

Talk positively about how you enjoy working for the company and are continuing to grow in your job, but how you really want to get to the next level and contribute more to the company.

For the last 40 years it's been very hard to get solid raises without changing jobs. But, promotions are always there to help you "change jobs" internally.

Always be positive - until you are ready to not be positive. When you get to that stage you need to be ready to call your boss's bluff.

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Just to address your first point to complete the otherwise great other answers:

Is this correct of my manager to talk about travel compensation when discussing raise?

If travel is part of the job then the compensation is not technically part of your salary. It is a minimum that you be reimbursed your work related travel expenses. (But I admit it is not mandatory everywhere unfortunately.) So no, it has nothing to do with your raise negotiation and as the others mentioned, your manager is finding excuses not to give you a raise.

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    I was looking for an answer that picked up on this. To add to that, if the Spesen should be regarded as part of the salary that's one thing but let's not forget that in contrast to your salary your employer does not contribute to your penseion (Rentenversicherung) for Spesen or travel reimbursements...
    – idkfa
    Aug 4 at 7:08
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    For road warriors travel expenses can be a good source of additional income, but it also comes with higher costs and a lot more stress. So it should not really influence the way to think about base salary. Especially not if you don’t want or can’t keep the travels up.
    – eckes
    Aug 4 at 7:27
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Bigger companies have strict rules huch much raise is possible and how raises are distributed. The main problem is, that you are a junior, you should try to get a promotion. But this is usually also a difficult way in bigger companies.

Check with other employers what your real market value is. You also can tell you boss that you are unhappy with the potential income development; that should be enough to send the message, that you might consider leaving him - this could include a different job within the same company.

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