HELL TO THE YES finally a new exclusive story by our favorite writer: LISA GORDON!!!!!!!!! A Violet Fog favorite author and she is back for the first time in over 6 months! I’m so excited. Enjoy this story on asking for that raise. It’s so good.
Lately, I can’t seem to stop thinking about money. Specifically, my salary, and even more specifically, what I am worth. When my rent was raised a few months ago (Boston), it was a serious kick in the butt to analyze my finances and make some real decisions about what I could afford, and exactly what “afford” means to me. Afford, to me, means “have enough money to pay for”—that’s all.
Depending on how you look at it, you can afford lots of things you want. It’s being disciplined, and hard on yourself when you have to be, when your definition of “afford” might start to change.
I’ve never been too motivated by money (for better or worse). I wanted a job that I liked well enough, that paid me well enough. Admittedly, I didn’t do enough research when I entered the workforce about what “well enough” really means, but even if I had, how much of a difference would it really have made?
My first job out of college was in publishing—my desired field at the time. As an entry-level editorial assistant in 2005, I made $27,000 a year. It was enough to pay my rent, go out to dinner with my friends more or less when I wanted to, and pay for most essentials. But still—when I think about that number now, I shudder a little bit. I was young, I was making a paycheck, and I believed I had the rest of my life to worry about money.
Well, the rest of my life is hurdling toward me. And yeah, I’m worried about money.
I’ve certainly moved on from that publishing job and do indeed make more money now (thankfully). I’ve had many jobs since then that have bolstered my skill set and established myself as a professional with experience I am proud of. I’ve made some good decisions—401k, some investments; I pay off my credit card every month, etc.—but still.
I can “afford” my essentials and a fair number of non-essentials every month. I like my life. But still. Still. That money issue nags at me. I feel that I am not being paid what I am worth. I did market research to corroborate this. I inquired with my HR department for more information about the salary ranges for individuals at my level. And thus it was clear: I had to ask for a raise.
So I did. I was nervous. That was a year ago. And then the next year came around, and I asked again.
What I’m trying to say is not “ask and ye shall receive.” You may not. I may not. (In full disclosure, at the time of this writing, I haven’t received a response yet.) You all know why it’s important, especially for women these days, to be paid properly, and to voice your opinions on this matter, especially to your managers. But what I took away from this asking, this putting-of-myself-out-there, this realization that I am worth more, was almost as important as what I hope, in the end to gain financially. What I earned was deeper self-respect.
I don’t like to think of my salary as a number indicating how much I’m worth. So much of what goes into salary determinations is arguably out of our control. But they do assign a financial amount to what we do, each and every day, when we are at work. The tasks we perform, big or small. The decisions we make, big or small. If I added up every little thing I did at work on any given day, I’d have a hard time coming up with a representative figure. No, what’s inherent in a salary is your collective knowledge and experience, and all the traits that have contributed to that knowledge and experience, culminating, eventually (if you’re not already there yet), in expertise and indispensability.
There are a lot of people out there who wouldn’t do my job as well as I do. And while I’m sure there’s someone, somewhere, who could do my job better than I can, they wouldn’t do it the way I do it. And that’s worth something. At least to me.
What it tells me, that deeper self-respect I found in asking for a raise I feel I deserve, is that, if I don’t receive it, I’ll be staying at a job that doesn’t believe I’m worth what I think I’m worth. (It may be worth mentioning here that what I am asking for, raise-wise, is nothing outrageous.) And I wouldn’t want to be in that position. I wouldn’t want that reminder every day. So hopefully, it will align where I want it to. And if it doesn’t, I’ll likely have to go searching elsewhere. Either way, it’ll be a learning experience. And I’m better for having asked.
(Check out Lisa’s other work here)