Career Advice

How To Ask for A Raise and Get the Feedback You Deserve During a Pandemic, According to Claire Wasserman

Kells McPhillips

Photo: Stephanie Geddes; Graphics: Well+Good Creative
While much of the desk-job workforce learned how to work in their pajamas and to cope emotionally with Zoom meetings in 2020, career-advice aficionado and pay parity advocate Claire Wasserman, founder of Ladies Get Paid, was writing her very first book, which was just released: Ladies Get Paid: Breaking Barriers, Owning Your Worth, and Taking Command of Your Career.

Within its pages, she offers readers tips about how to ask for a promotion, take on leadership roles, and (yes!) get paid what you're worth. And on the heels of a year that's perhaps best described as unprecedented (even if you're sick of hearing it), where many were forced to reimagine what success looks like and how to make a living in a remote work world, any and all advice is welcome.

Ahead, Wasserman shares wisdom on how to ask for a raise in a time when companies are cutting their budgets; how to keep your manager aware of your wins when you only see one another on impersonal video calls; and how to land your dream gig when the job market is seemingly scarce.

Well+Good: So many businesses have strapped budgets during the pandemic—but I feel like I've earned a raise. Will asking for one make it seem like I'm out of touch with the current job-market climate?

Claire Wasserman: What I remind everybody is if you do not ask, it's 100 percent guaranteed that you will not get more money. You have to ask, okay? There is no difference in how you would ask—whether it's a pandemic or not. That being said, I would definitely approach the question with empathy, and I would say something like, "It's weird to negotiate during this time, but I have to ask you..." Then you can offer statistics [about gender equality in the workplace] to indicate that this is bigger than you. Also, say that you believe that the work you've done is commensurate with the money that you're going to be asking for. I would not say the words, 'I know that times are tough, or I know that budgets may be limited,' because you're kind of giving your employer an easy out in doing so.

Start thinking about what's called helpful compensation, which are things that you can negotiate for that don't cost the company much money at all—but give you value.

I would also start thinking about what's called helpful compensation, which are things that you can negotiate for that don't cost the company much money at all—but give you value. Ask them to send you to an online conference, ask for flexibility if you don't already have it, or ask for an accelerated timetable to revisit [your salary]. Chances are, you may get a no [on the raise] but there are other things they can give you.

Remote working during the pandemic has made me realize that I'm more productive when I work from home. How can I ask my company to continue that flexibility even after it's safe to return to the office?

I've been urging women for years to negotiate for flexibility. If you have kids, and you're their primary caretaker, their schedule with school does not line up with the hours you're probably needing to be in the office. Also, the ability to have childcare is usually a privilege because it's so expensive. So I really encourage women, in general, to negotiate for flexibility so you don't get sidelined. That way you can do all of your work, and also be able to be home if you need to be. I don't want women to get pushed out of the workforce because they've had kids and they are having a hard time juggling the difference in hours between schooling and being in the office.

Before the conversation, think ahead. What are the reasons you might be told no? Proactively address those. I'm assuming the biggest concern [of most companies] would be that other people aren't going to be doing it. And if that's the case, tell them what kind of work you do and how you could be better focused at home. Does that mean that you work from home all the time? No, it could be one or two days a week, but come up with an ask and also be ready to negotiate it.

Working from home requires a lot of overhead for me: I have to pay for faster Wi-Fi and create a quiet space where I feel productive. Can I ask my company to pay for those WFH costs?

Be ready to make the case for why this is a benefit to [your company], and a benefit to the bottom line. That could include reasons like "I'll be more efficient, which saves time—and time is money." Talk about how this might impact the team as a whole, and practice making your case on a friend.

How can I make sure my boss sees my wins? I feel like they're acknowledged less when we're working online.

All throughout the year, you should be keeping track of your wins, particularly in comparison to your original job description. And if you were to write up a new job description for yourself, think about whether it's dramatically changed. Did you come up with new initiatives? What skills have you learned? With that perspective, you can say, 'Look, here's how I started, and here's where I'm at.'

Additionally, advocate for yourself constantly. Don't wait until your annual review to have a conversation about how you've done here. If you're looking to get some kind of raise or a larger promotion, let [your manager] know because budgets are decided at a certain point, and [afterward], their hands will be tied.

To constantly say what you're doing and make sure that they're aware of the excellent work that you're doing, to simply let them know.

To make sure your manager is aware of the excellent work that you're doing, to simply let them know. Send them a Slack message, or if you're doing a weekly check-in, say, "Hey, I did this thing, and I thought it was interesting because [blank]." Your success is their success, so you're reassuring them that you're doing a great job and you're showing them how you're helping the company.

I'm on the hunt for a new job right now, and I'm exhausted—what can I do to support myself through the process?

First of all, I want everyone to realize that applying for a job right now can be a reset. When you're applying, make sure you're not just doing what you've always done without reflecting on whether your career history lines up with what you actually want to do. I've had a number of women who did more self-reflection before jumping in and applying this year. I want folks who are able to do so to use this time for transition or a transformation—because perhaps there is another direction where they can use the skills they already have.

Next, take a look at your network. Are you reaching out to somebody at the company and not just submitting your application cold? What does your networking look like, knowing that this is partly a numbers game? Do you know enough folks in various industries and at companies where you might be interested in working? It's not just about submitting an application online—there's work you need to do before that. Ladies Get Paid has a Slack group of around 75,000 women, for example. You can just log on and say, 'Hey, guys, I'm having a hard time' and they'll encourage you [and help and connect you.

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