Q: I’ve been working in the energy sector for almost two years and do good work, but I am underpaid compared to my colleagues. In retrospect, I did not negotiate the best salary when I joined the company, so I would like to fix it. What should I do?
A: Good for you. We should all actively manage our career, and that includes our compensation. Don’t shoot the messenger, but this one is tricky; it’s very hard to get a salary increase based on anything that has happened more than 12 months ago. I know several people who have tried to correct a bad “first salary” and it typically does not go well. Sometimes, you end up with problems you didn’t have before. Here’s the best way to proceed: first, do a quick inventory of your accomplishments – the efforts that you owned and advanced your department, division or the enterprise. Then, check the calendar. If your regular review is coming up in the next six months, get prepared for it and negotiate hard during that process (more on that in another column). If it’s more than six months away, informally test the waters with your boss. Every organization is different with regard to pay scales, promotion cultures, etc., but no matter where you work, your direct supervisor will hold the key to your success and your salary.
You might consider finding a formal situation, like a weekly one-on-one meeting, to emphasize that you enjoy your job and believe you have made big contributions to the department. You should also find an informal setting to ask for an opportunity to discuss compensation. And, you must be prepared for the response. If it’s positive, use it: ask for a meeting to talk about how you can help support the process. If it’s anything but positive, which includes unclear, ask your manager for a meeting to get some specific feedback on your performance and compensation.
Over the years, many people have asked me to help them get ahead in corporate America. Some are surprised when I stress the role a manager plays. Often, people suggest their work should speak for itself. No doubt. But, at work, you are part of a system, and your manager is a big part of it.
Lilyanne has worked in corporate America for 25 years and has supported eight CEOs. She wants to answer your career questions – so you can get ahead at work. Email your questions to Lilyanne@racetothetopcareers.com, firstname.lastname@example.org or at Forward Times, email@example.com