by Jack Chapman
Salary Guru Jack Chapman is one of our Quintessential Careers Career Masterminds.
“No raises this year,” read the memo in Jim’s company — still, he got enough additional money to buy a new car.
“Salary freeze,” was the word where Lisa worked. She boosted her income by $3,500.
Would you like to squeeze more money out of the company into your bank account? Here’s how. First, start by changing your “scarcity” mindset, then use the suggestions below to beef up your paycheck.
People think recession is the worst time to ask for more money; they’re in “scarcity thinking” like, I should just count myself lucky to have a job; I’ll forego the raise. But hard times can be the best times to get a raise! Here’s why.
In good times, money flows freely, and it’s hard to find good people because unemployment rate is low. So companies staff up with marginal people who can do the job, but they’re not really excited about them. When times get tough again, employers trim their staff and the first people they let go are those marginal people.
Then the employers are really in trouble! They still have to get a lot of work done, but not quite enough people to do it. However, precisely because of layoffs, they have freed up three or four salaries-worth of money. So they’re desperately looking for good people, now, not marginal ones, and they have the money to pay them.
If you’re one of the “survivors,” and have taken over extra responsibilities, even if there’s a freeze, they are counting on you more than ever, so you have leverage to ask for more.
But what if the money is just not there! Well, even when there’s serious “belt tightening,” and there might not be “cash on the barrel head” available, you can use alternative ways to sweeten the pot that won’t cost employers cash out of their pockets. Those ways are easier for them to swallow,” and can provide real extra income to you.
The biggest one, and often the sweetest one of all, is time.
When I was growing up in the 1950s, there was a debate about the “leisure society” — could people cope with all free time from all the labor-saving devices that were coming down the line. What free time? The 4-day work week never came to pass. We’re more efficient now, yes, but we just produce twice as much.
So time is a really valuable commodity. If you can’t get a cash raise, why not ask for more vacation? One week more of vacation can mean a 2 percent raise. Two weeks is 4 percent. If you arrange it all correctly, you can still do the work you need to do, and take the time off, too!
An interesting example of time negotiation happened with a client of mine who wanted to earn $60,000 a year doing library work. She was interviewed for a position that paid $30,000 a year. Instead of turning down the interview, she spent time finding out the specialty library’s needs and found a way to be paid the full $30,000 but only work 20 hours a week.
She discovered that they needed total reorganization, computerization, security, and better access for their patrons. She noted that they actually needed more 80-hour/week coverage and planned to handle that need by having a librarian there 40 hours and using $8/hour clerks for the balance of the time.
She proposed that she take on the project and
–1) work only twenty hours a week on the higher-skilled tasks, and
–2) train the two clerks to do higher-level library work besides just clerical tasks. Once these clerks were trained, the library would have 80 man-hours of SKILLED coverage instead of the 40 hours skilled plus 80 hours clerical that they had been using originally.
Net result? She got paid the equivalent of $70,000: working for $35,000, but only half time. The library was happy, too, because with the team of three, they had better coverage all-in-all than even a full-time librarian could give them in a week.
Of course, it’s unlikely you can cut down to half-time for full pay, but note this example: I worked with a client who was putting in 10-14 hour days on the job. It was stressful, but he felt he needed to be there to do the ongoing problem solving.
Since he was putting in those days already, I coached him to go to his supervisors and propose a 4-day week of 10 hours each (knowing he’d put in 11-12, but no matter). They agreed! So he was able to take something he was doing already (long days) and negotiate a day off he never would otherwise have had.
There are plenty of other ways to negotiate time, too. There’s flextime, there are personal days, there’s payment for unused vacation time. Many people don’t negotiate “comp time” for days they spend at conventions, trade shows, late with customers, etc. By paying attention to getting compensated for that time (either by money, or more likely with comp time) you can increase your income dollars/per/hour.
Another clever way to make more money on the job is to gamble. Now, I don’t mean running a poker game in the cafeteria, I mean betting your boss that you will meet or exceed a target. Construction deadlines, production deadlines, sales quotas, customer satisfaction survey results, cleanliness awards, employee productivity measures, accident-free days, newsletter excellence award recognition–these are just a few of the things bosses like and will pay for.
These are called bonuses!
Discuss these compensation items with your boss at review time, or any time there is a change in your company’s operating procedures. Bosses like to reward excellence. Your job is to tie the excellence in to a measurable quantity and link some dollar compensation to it, not just a “nice going” letter. You want a specific dollar bonus for this type of work.
Sometimes these things can even get you a raise outside the normal channels. For instance, I worked with a client who had a boss who was receiving criticism from the board for the high turnover in the company. The boss’s compensation was tied to the overall profitability of the organization; high turnover wreaked havoc on profitability, since the organization was constantly training new people and cleaning up messes from people who dropped the ball when they left in the middle of a project.
Because she knew this mattered to him personally, not just as a company goal, my client was able to get a bonus for lowered turnover, she got a seminar in “employee retention” which she was able to turn into three days’ work and seven days’ vacation. And all this when the board had declared that the top raise would be 3 percent that year.
And our examples above? Jim got his car paid for by establishing a travel allowance of $365/month — more than paid for his car. And Lisa? The $3,500 was a combination of a $1,000 performance bonus, and getting the company to pay 100 percent of her family medical instead of 50 percent of her individual. To make it fair, the company had to actually change the policy and offer that as a perk to every employee with 10+ years with the company — but that turned out to be just Lisa!
When looking to increase your compensation, consider taking extra value in terms of time and bonuses. Both can enrich you outside the parameters of a traditional raise.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
Salary Guru and Quintessential Careers Career Mastermind Jack Chapman’s, Negotiating Your Salary: How to Make $1000 a Minute — first published in 1986, and now in its 7th edition — is a career best-seller. Jack Chapman of Lucrative Careers, Inc., and Salary Negotiations is a specialist in all aspects of salary and raise negotiations — from high-profile executive negotiations worth an additional $300,000, to strategies an hourly-wage worker can use to bargain for extra benefits or perks. He has personally assisted more than 2,000 individuals one-on-one in improving their careers through the challenges of job changes, career planning, and entrepreneurship, and has influenced countless others through his many seminars, courses, lectures, TV and radio appearances, and newspaper columns.
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