Here’s What Not Asking for a Raise Is *Really* Costing You
Susie Moore is a hustler—in the very best sense of the word (in fact, she wrote a book on the topic). She didn't go to business school, and yet she's helped build three successful startups. She didn't go to journalism school, and yet she's a bestselling author with bylines at some of the top publications in the country. She's the kind of person you can't imagine saying no to. But early in her career, she says, she spent a year silently working at a job when she knew she was underpaid. Here, the career and confidence shares how she gathered the courage to ask for the salary she deserved—and why she wishes she had done so a lot sooner.
In my early twenties, I worked with a guy named Michael who was a little older and far more confident than I was. He was performing at my same professional level (sometimes below), but unlike me, he was always late to work and made sloppy mistakes. Infuriatingly, something in my bones knew he was being paid more than I was.
It bothered me for more than a year (during which time I complained about my hunch to anyone who's listen) before I had the courage to do something about it. I did some internal (and external) research in the form of searching career websites and talking to industry friends and I soon realized I was on the lower end of the pay scale. And it wasn't just Michael, either: Other women in my office were making more, too. The people who knew their worth and asked for it had higher salaries.
Rather than continue to feel discontent and frustrated, I accepted my compensation fully as *my* responsibility. I worked up the strength to ask for more and in the years since I've repeated the same exercise. I've felt accountable for my income ever since that frustrating year. Because how much you earn is up to you. Yes, really.
Keep reading to learn how to manifest your raise—and why doing so is so important.
The cost of *not* asking for more
It's obvious that getting paid more means just that: You get paid more! But have you ever heard of compounding interest? It's crazy not to get every penny you're entitled to.
Hear me out: Forgoing a pay raise has an effect that goes far beyond the initial boost in your paycheck. In the book Women Don’t Ask, authors Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever report that women who "consistently negotiate their salary have increased earnings of at least $1 million more during their careers than women who don't.”
Women who consistently negotiate their salary have increased earnings of at least $1 million more during their careers than women who don’t.
Yep. A million bucks.
And yet, many of my clients actually feel that asking for a pay raise isn’t worth the awkward conversation. Let’s use a fictional woman named Katie as an example. She’s in her late twenties, she earns $75,000 per year as an account executive, pays 35 percent in taxes, and feels that she is due for a $5,000 (6.67 percent) pay raise. What does that $5,000 really mean for Katie over a 10-year period?
If she were to put this additional $5,000 directly into a savings account or invest it and earn 2.5 percent interest on it per year, she would have over $35,000 after 10 years! Or, if she were making a 7.5 percent return based on where she placed her income—a high-yield savings account, perhaps real estate or stocks—she would have more than $45,000.
And let’s remember that this number doesn’t even include additional pay raises after the fact. Each additional pay raise will be a percentage increase on the already elevated income level. The very simple way of thinking about compounding is interest upon interest, which makes your money grow at a much faster rate.
Even if Katie didn’t want to save, this kind of pay raise could mean it's time to finally take that transformational retreat. Or to purchase a new, suped-up MacBook. Or to splurge on three months of personal training… You get the idea.
All the other reasons why you need that raise now
Numbers, of course, talk. But what else is not asking for a raise costing you? Consider your personal sense of self-worth. Here are just three reasons you need to stand up and ask:
- Your self-esteem can suffer if you feel stuck and powerless. Your voice matters and when you don’t use it, it can feel pretty crappy.
- You delay career acceleration—people who ask and speak up have more opportunities for promotion, progression, and future career planning. Advocating for yourself opens up a dialogue for deeper, broader career discussions.
- Your visibility suffers. Highlighting your skills and value makes them more noticeable—just drawing attention to them allows your input to be more visible and your time, talent, and skills better appreciated.
Nothing feels quite like the elation and pride of getting the raise you know you deserve—especially if you initiated the ask and made the deal. You *need* to experience this in your career.
And another benefit? Going out and working on your own behalf will also help to stop you from complaining. You'll be happier if you speak up. In my coaching we speak a lot about the confidence and competence loop. The more you do something, the more confident you become in it. And then the more you continue to do it. It’s an awesome cycle.
Asking builds your confidence, which then leads you to greater things. And—this is a key thing to know—your manager is likely wondering if you want more money; losing a valued employee is hard, frustrating, and expensive. (Think of all the lost knowledge, time spent recruiting, risk of a new hire… the list goes on.)
So, is it time for you to ask?
If you're trying to get ahead in your career, don't forget to track your wins. And if you're still searching for your niche, here’s the best career path for you according to your Myers-Briggs personality type.
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