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We all know that tech is a pretty good career money-wise. Still, you can do yourself a disservice by sticking to lower pay than one company might offer. Even a tiny difference in pay becomes an impressive amount when you multiply it by 12 months in a year and all the years you’ll be working. Let’s ensure that you don’t miss out on financial opportunities.
The way talking about money is perceived depends on the culture. I grew up in Poland, and talking about my income felt like boasting to me for a long time. You could see this being the case if a well-paid specialist were to talk about their income to people who are stuck in minimum wage jobs. On the other hand, for people who work in similar jobs, the possible outcomes are:
- there is a minimal difference in compensation
- someone—maybe you—might realize that they are underpaid. There are a few reasons this could happen:
- you lack some technical skill that has a significant impact on pay
- you lack negotiating skills
- the company you work for has no budget to pay better
And the people who learn that they are paid better? They lose nothing.
Besides the cultural taboo, the only reason not to talk about money would be if you are more invested in the company’s bottom line than in your and your colleagues’ welfare. For example, this could be the case if your share of company ownership is more significant than your part of the total payroll, or you believe fully in your employer’s mission.
If you are like me, your focus on your career fluctuates a lot over the years. Sometimes I spend a lot of time learning new stuff, engaging with tech communities, and sometimes I have months when I do nothing IT-related besides my day job. There are always changes in the job market: new technologies rising in popularity, new companies in the local market offering better conditions, or far away companies opening up for remote candidates. It’s a good idea to make an appointment with yourself to regularly check up on those changes. At a minimum, setting aside one afternoon a year for searching for job offers should make you aware of how things are going outside your current company.
The company you work for is interested in maintaining their operations undisturbed. Maybe your manager’s evaluation depends on how many resign from their team, but this gives them only a small incentive to keep your salary in line with the market. This incentive will be even smaller if you convince them that you like your work and you are not searching for anything else at the moment. If the company has a policy of regular pay raises, it will most likely just match inflation, not the IT job market changes. If you are promoted to a different salary bracket that comes with a raise, it looks like an improvement, but it may be that you are placed at the bottom of this new bracket.
In 2019 I bought myself Fearless Salary Negotiation as a birthday gift. It was the greatest gift I ever got, and it paid back for itself in no time. The book gives much practical advice—step-by-step guides for what to do before negotiating the salary. Dealing with a new company is a big part of it, but there are many things that’ll be useful in a more general context, and one chapter is dedicated to promotions and pay raises.
If you are on a budget, the book author generously offers it for free as well. You can get his advice from his website, in the bite-size piece: how to write an email to your manager starting the conversation.
Bringing up the topic of compensation with your manager can be stressful. The proper preparation should help you achieve your target and help you with the stress. You can look at it from another perspective—a reasonable manager should appreciate that you talk about your issue with the salary with them first, instead of going directly to the competition. And if they turn out to be unreasonable? It will mean that talking with other companies is a good idea.
Once you secure your raise, you can let your colleagues know! The standard industry practice of jumping from job to job to get better compensation means that your experienced colleague could be replaced one day by somebody who knows nothing about your project, making you carry a more significant workload. Sharing your good news can inspire other team members to try doing the same, improving morale and making sure they stay longer in the project. In the end, this will make your job easier and more pleasant.
It’s great that you are reflecting on your career and trying to get the best deal for yourself. Since you made it this far, how about figuring out whether your current workplace is right for you? Here you have a guide to evaluating your current company. If you have questions, I’m still accepting people for free mentoring in JS & programming—feel free to reach out to me!