Over the last two episodes of Millennial Wealth Builders Series, the 12-part audio docuseries I co-produce with Acquania Escarne, our guests (Athena Valentine Lent and Minda Harts) shared practical strategies you can use to increase your salary and advocate for yourself at work. Athena Valentine Lent is a nationally recognized youth development expert and certified trauma specialist. She is also the founder of Money Smart Latina, a website educating Latinas about personal finance. Minda Harts is the award-winning and bestselling author of The Memo, a career book for women of color. She also hosts Secure The Seat, a podcast that shares the stories of everyday women of color leaning into the workforce.
Increasing your salary is one of the fastest ways to grow your income and build wealth. As Athena Valentine Lent says, “You can’t save what you don’t earn.”
Speaking from experience, I negotiated a $12,000 salary increase and a work-from-home arrangement when I became a manager a few years ago. This bump in pay allowed me to increase my savings rate and max out my 403b retirement contribution.
If you are wondering how to increase your income, here are six tips for negotiating a pay raise including how to showcase your value and highlight your track record.
6 Practical Tips To Increase Your Salary
1. Keep a ‘Win File’
Athena Valentine Lent: Keep a ‘win file’ — it’s much easier to go back and look at the things you’ve accomplished over the year if you have them all written down in one place.
Interestingly enough, this is something that I’ve done at work for years, but I did not have a name for it.
Whenever I accomplish a significant task or receive a compliment from a colleague or stakeholder throughout the year, I save the conversation in a dedicated folder. When it’s time for my annual review, most of my accomplishments, which I may have forgotten about, will all be in one place.
2. Document What You’re Working On
Minda Harts: If we never negotiate our salary, then it will be very hard to obtain the wealth that we want with those incremental raises or none at all. And so we really have to make sure that we are doing our due diligence, doing the research, and making sure that we’re documenting what we’re working on. We may not get what we want, or we might. Ask yourself…what if?
3. Research Opportunities
Athena Valentine Lent: Research other opportunities and see what companies are paying. Go on places like Glassdoor and Indeed to see who’s hiring — that way, you know to go and negotiate for it.
LinkedIn is another resource to see what comparable job opportunities are out there. Many positions post either a starting salary or a range which can be extremely helpful. On LinkedIn, you can search by title, skill, or company. You can even see a detailed breakdown of salaries by job title and location.
Consider also asking your HR representative for the salary range for your current position. This will help you know if your current salary is on par or competitive.
4. Ask Others What They Make
Athena Valentine Lent: Don’t be afraid to ask other people what they make. I was able to help somebody negotiate their salary. They didn’t know I was making $20,000 more than them.
I know a lot of companies are saying, “Oh, it’s taboo to talk about your salary. You need to keep your salary confidential. You need to do this. You need to do that.” Mmm… I don’t think so. Especially as the pay gap widens, I don’t think so.
I’m a Latina. I make 53 cents statistically to every white man’s dollar. I cannot save what I do not earn. So I will ask everyone, I’m going to ask you, whatever I feel like asking you. You can tell me if you don’t want to answer it. But I’m still going to ask.
Drop the mic. Yep, enough said.
5. Articulate Your Value
Minda Harts: Yes, you should have a strong work ethic, but there are so many other things happening in the workplace that you’re not always going to be ‘seen’ in the ways you need to be. You need to be able to articulate your value and quantify your worth.
For the full interview with Minda Harts, listen to How Women of Color Advance in the Workplace.
This goes back to maintaining a win file and preparing to ask your boss for a raise. Highlight your accomplishments, skills, and how you’ve met or exceeded expectations. Continuously express your interest in growing your skills and consider what you need to do to reach the next level in your career. That may mean attending conferences, taking classes, or pursuing certifications. Or it may mean educating your manager and other higher-ups about what you do and how you’re meeting company objectives.
6. Be Willing To Accept Another Job Offer
Sometimes the best thing you can do for your career is to attempt to leave your current department or employer. While there’s no guarantee that this will work, I found success a few years ago using this strategy.
After getting another job offer which included a promotion and a pay increase, I approached my manager with the proposal. They countered with a title match, a salary match, and the ability to work-from-home several days a week (something I really wanted). In addition to the compensation, I would take on more responsibility, and gain supervisory experience. Considering the pros and cons of both positions, I decided to stay — I was confident that I was ready for a promotion.
While I’m not sure how long it would have taken me to get this promotion without a competitive offer, attempting to leave sped up the process.
How do you advocate for yourself at work? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
For more salary negotiation tips, listen to Millennial Wealth Builders Series via The Thought Card Podcast, specifically how to negotiate a pay raise and how women of color advance in the workplace with Minda Harts.
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Danielle Desir is a financially savvy traveler, 4x author, and podcaster. She paid off $63,000 of student loan debt in 4 years, bought a house at 27, and has traveled to 27 countries. She refuses to let her financial responsibilities hold her back from living life on her terms. Listen to The Thought Card Podcast here which has over 80,000 podcast downloads.