The Salary Negotiation Advice That Changed My Life

My dad acted like it was no big deal.He was so casual about it. So matter-of-fact.We had been talking about my new promotion and, after a few minutes, he asked: “How much of a raise are you getting?”I said I hadn’t asked.It wasn’t too late, he said. And then, he explained how to ask for a raise as simply as if he were telling me how to change a tire, something he’d also once explained to me, successfully, over the phone.Today is Equal Pay Day, a time for you to learn more about the wage gap, more about how to ask for equal pay for equal work, and more about how this disparity in wages impacts women’s lives.Research shows most Millennial women don’t negotiate their salaries effectively. Or much at all. In fact, most women don’t. This is why CEO Ellen Pao ended salary negotiations for all new hires at Reddit recently.I was almost one of the women. But, my dad is one of those dads who offers managerial advice like it’s totally normal father-daughter chit-chat. So practical! So thorough! So… useful, apparently, years later when you’re actually in the workforce!Years before that moment, I had been hired after my internship. So when I did get raises, they were based on intern wages.

But as I took on more responsibilities, my low starting salary started to feel like an absurd thing to base my raises on. I was doing different tasks, with sterling annual reviews. I felt good about my work, and felt like my bosses valued me. Now, my dad, who’d worked as a manager in the steel industry for years, was explaining that I needed to ask for money to back that up.This was his advice:

  1. Make an appointment with your human resources person.
  2. Ask him or her to show you the salary band—the high and low wage range—for the job title you have/are being promoted into. Is your salary even in the band? At the top? Bottom? Middle?
  3. Ask the HR person to show you the job description for the relevant title.
  4. Compare your actual responsibilities with those associated with the title.
  5. Make an appointment with your manager and make a case for why you should get a raise to move you up in the salary band. Or make a case for why you need a new title and raise to accurately reflect your real-life responsibilities.

For my dad, who experiences almost no self-doubt or existential fear and seems to live without a neurotic inner monologue, this process was matter-of-fact. This is why he presented it to me like it was so no-big-deal.He didn’t freight the process with fear, ego, or self-doubt, so neither did I. I just did what he told me to. And even though I have a tendency to take things personally, and to make a big deal about just about everything, I didn’t do that here.I listened to my dad when he said to be calm and professional. He explained that my bosses might not know or remember where I was in the salary range. I needed to be my own advocate (no one else was earning my retirement savings). He reminded me that I was making a business proposition about the work I was doing, not about the person I was.This was a totally liberating thought. So I followed his instructions and met with my manager. I was 27.I got the raise.Now, it wasn’t a huge raise. And it wasn’t all at once.But over the next few months, my wages were stepped up incrementally until I was in the upper-middle range of the salary band for the job I was doing.This process changed my life. I’ve done it a handful of times since then, and while the conversations don’t (always, or often) result in an immediate raise, they’re useful moments to remind my managers about what I do, how I do it, and where I am in the salary band.And today, I feel fairly compensated for a job I love.By the way, my dad’s name is Mike. If you follow his five steps, tell me, and I’ll let you know where to send his thank-you note!