Overworked? Get a Raise

Overqualified and taking in $12 an hour as tech support? It’s not unheard of in this economy.

One More AggravationEqually unheard of is the speed with which managers in an organization will quickly transform you into an in-house Web developer, network administrator, or basic jack-of-all-IT-trades as soon as they get wind of your extensive skill set — and continue to pay you $12 an hour.

It doesn’t necessarily have to be that way, say career advisers and recruiters. They’ve outlined some tips on how to negotiate a pay increase without losing your job, as well as getting your everything-but-the-kitchen-sink resume ready should you wish to leave.

“We tell our candidates that if it is one or two requests, then it’s best to do the work rather than say ‘it’s out of my job description,'” says David Chie, chief operating officer for recruiting firm Palo Alto Staffing Technology. “But if you see repetition, then it’s clear that they need these additional skills on a permanent basis. That’s when you may want to have an open dialogue with the manager for a pay increase.”

Navigating the Land Mines

Before broaching the topic of a pay increase, you’ll have to make a judgment call on how well it may be received. For example, if the last two jack-of-all-trades people were fired shortly after they popped the question, then reconsider how you’re going to move forward, the way in which you make the request — and whether you should still ask for a raise in the first place. However, getting fired for asking for a raise probably doesn’t happen as much as rumors may lead you to believe.

“I know it’s a concern of our users. But in talking to over 100 HR people from big to small companies, all of them say they’ve never heard of this happening,” says Matt Wallaert, co-founder of the free compensation-evaluation site GetRaised. “I’m not saying it’s never happened somewhere, sometime, but bosses tend to rate employees higher when they’ve asked for a raise and have shown them their value.”

That said, if a manager has a pattern of firing employees who ask for more money, Wallaert says it’s time to leave whether you’re underpaid or not.

Chie holds a similar view. “If someone is taking advantage of you, they are less likely to have that conversation with you about a pay increase, and it’s less likely to be successful,” he says. “But if you can have that conversation and still walk away with your job, then it’s worth the risk.”

Taking the Risk

If you plan to forge ahead with asking for an increase based on the additional tasks you’re being asked to do, you should come armed with research on comparable salaries, Chie says.

Because the manager isn’t typically the one who approves the budget, bring salary research data that can be shared with the holder of the purse strings. Here are a couple of places to turn to for the data:

  • Jobs boards
  • Internet searches using a comparable job title and the keyword “salary”
  • Robert Half Technology’s free 2013 salary guide
  • Salary.com and PayScale.com
  • GetRaised.com

“Bosses don’t like discussing raises either, so the more factual points you can make, the more it will help,” Wallaert says. He adds two points to include in your research efforts and pitch:

  • Show the average wage for your particular role, or roles, in your geographic area
  • Provide examples of what these jobs currently pay on the open market

“Also, talk about how your role has changed from the last time you talked about salary, and a third point to make is how you’d like to help the business grow over the next six months and the ways you would be able to help,” Wallaert advises.

Alternative Paths

If an employer wants you to put those additional skills to work over the next six months, but says there is no additional money available, there are several paths to take.

One is to ask that the idea of a raise be revisited in six months, possibly when more money is available because your efforts have helped save costs or generated revenue. Or, ask for a title increase to reflect your additional roles. Another idea: Ask for intangible benefits like working from home certain days of the week.

“People who put in 110 percent tend to be at the front of the line for when things turn around,” Wallaert notes. But for those whose employers are still not willing to recognize good work, it’s fine to put the boss on notice — in a non-threatening fashion — that when the economy turns around you may be looking to deploy your skills elsewhere.

But If You Decide to Leave…

Even though you’ve been a jack-of-all-trades, it’s still important to have a focused resume, Chie says. If it’s a Web development position you’re seeking, list your last position as “Web Development/Tech support” if that was the skill set you used in addition to tech support.

“If you were doing Web development, emphasize that aspect of the work in your resume, versus tech support,” he says. “Obviously, you’ll still want to list tech support in your resume, in case anyone does a reference check. But there are ways to add or reduce the emphasis to make it clearer what your job function was.”

Image: One More Aggravation [Bigstock]

14 Responses to “Overworked? Get a Raise”

  1. Some years ago a coworker lamented the stingy raise received. I asked “how many hours a week are you working as a salaried employee?”. 50-60 hours was the response. My suggestion was to cut back to 40 hours.

  2. Yeah right.

    Maybe the author hasn’t heard that there are 2 million Indian H1Bs
    in this country right now, replacing US IT folk, at a very rapid rate.

    When you are given more work to do, you bend over and say ‘Thank you sir, may I have another’.

    Or else you will be replaced so fast by Rajiv or Sanjeep in a New York minute.

    • 2000000 H1bs ? you must have failed in maths or exaggerating. US govt gives 65,000 h1b visas every year. out of that only 40% are from india. now do the math. there are other countries in this world. people look same. just like your ancestors are from Europe, there are american citizens whose ancestors are from india. don’t be a racist. before commenting on some other race, think about native Americans or indians. what happened to them. why they don’t exist anymore.

    • So many IT companies are either hiring H1Bs or they are outsourcing to overseas companies outright. The job market is so limited that many IT professionals are choosing to stay where they are and take whatever salary they are lucky enough to get. My husband has been looking for work for almost a year now. After 15 years in the Tech Support/IT industry, he still has to take jobs that offer minimum wage to $10/hour. His last IT job paid $9.50 an hour with no benefits and that was after salary negotiations. The economy is just that tough right now.

  3. As an architect consultant, I was working on SOA/WCF project for a client. In the middle of this project, SOA partner started dragging their feet. Since I had free time on my plate – client gave me some routine asp.net/web dev work. I did that to keep this contract going. But when I realized that I am doing much more than what is originally agreed in the hiring contract – I decided to ask for 10% raise or leave. And yes, I was allowed to leave…

  4. Tom Tucker

    The people who get big raises give them to themselves. If you’re worth more money, then you go out and get it. Your boss doesn’t have the power to make anything happen for you because of corporate red tape, and the HR weenies will point to some corporate document that caps raises or salaries or time off or whatever you’re asking for to what you already have.

    If you ask for a raise the answer *may* be some mollifying amount, but if you have that letter and you ask to be matched against your current offer, the answer is already yes, hopefully two. Then you get to pick who’s yes you will accept.

    Personally, I would set the bar for my current employer at 10% over any competing offer because you’re already going to be putting in minimum 10% more effort as an integrated member of a team with several responsibilities.

    And while I’m posting, I see “woe is me, the Indians are taking all the IT jobs in the country” responses all the time. Sharpen up your skill set, keep learning, and get used to 45+ hour weeks and you will have work. Stand on your merit, not your citizenship. Tech isn’t union. It pays well, but expects much. Get used to it.

  5. You know you could replace IT with paralegal, editor, writer, or really any other profession. It’s the same name of the game no matter where you go and what you do right now. It’s not you, the Indians , but it IS the economy. Hope it improves for you all too soon enough, but instead of looking for money, look at how many more expenses you can cut. 🙁 Sorry to share it that way, but it stinks no matter where you are and asking for a raise does FLAG you as a potential whiner, who may have to be let go in the near future. Uh, the HB1 issue is actually a problem with our government. The US has such a shortfall of IT people (it’s true, whether you believe it or not) that companies need anyone from foreign countries to come in to help. The issue is the US government who is dragging its feet and capping the number of people who can come in to help us. Instead, these same companies use it as an opportunity to GO TO other countries to outsource. It’s become a terrible cycle and I’m sorry you are all having to deal with that.


  6. Lawrence Weinzimer

    Unless you’re a civil servant, the for-profit corporate world never wants to hear, ‘it’s not in my job description.’
    That adage strongly implies limitation in the individuals’ experiential working knowledge, curtailed coalesecence with other departments and managers, static, even repetitive thinking with unwillingness to innovate better technocratic procedures, a shirk ethic away from an potential increase in service volume which sh in valued measureable output. When the metrics are looking good, partcularly at review time – customarily in January – should offer a meet with your boss. With carefully worded presentation, you must advise of your enhanced contributions that had been overlooked. Remember, managers look at summaries and demonstated metric results, much less the particulars.

  7. After graduating from college I took a low paying job, i the hopes that gaining experience would allow me to earn more down the road. Now, five years later I make .33 an hour more than I did then. Tech is a dead field. I’m going back to school for Engineering. If I would have know I could be making more working construction than working in tech, I wouldn’t have bothered with that degree at all.

  8. This writer is about 20 years out of date. It happens ALL THE TIME that the person getting paid more gets the boot. The MBA crew does not understand value – they think only in terms of dollar cost.

  9. dinghaorensheng

    Employers get away with exploiting their employees in a bad economy because they know they are getting away with it. Lets face it, the massive layoffs in 2008-2009 created a talent glut. Employers can pick and choose “best of” and pay peanuts. They are having their cake and eating it too. Low, uniform pay within the tech sector is cartel-like behavior akin to price fixing. Some things stand out here as obvious to me. I wonder why nobody else seems to notice them. Firstly, income inequality has reached an extreme level in the United States. Corporations are reporting record profits even amidst the bad economy, but all of the money in an organization rushes to two places: Senior Management(C-level positions) and shareholders. If there is any money left over, it is stretched out amongst the people that created that wealth. It doesn’t really make sense to work for an employer anymore. Secondly, doesn’t it make sense that if corporations were aware that they could leverage a bad economy and a talent glut to boost their profits that they would be inclined to cause those conditions? Everybody just lays off their best and brightest(read: well paid) employees, leaves them to stew in joblessness until they are desperate and then hires cheap, cheap labor from that desperate unemployed pool. The employer still gets the same work from the employee, but oftentimes these days at well below 50% of what they were originally paying. I am speaking from personal experience there. Further, we as the employed are tolerating it with an “I guess I’ve just got to take what I’m given” attitude. People have been so dependent on ‘jobs’ for so long that they no longer know how to support themselves outside of the context of employment. Employers know that people need to feed their families and pay the mortgage and they are cashing in on the situation with the attitude of “Well, if you want any money, you’ll settle for the few coins I feel like flinging at you after I am done flaunting mine.” We as the talent – the wealth creaters are more than than the people causing the mess, but we are so disjoint that each of us seems to be somewhat powerless as an individual. If we adopt two behaviors, employers will be forced to respect us as a force to be reckoned with rather than cash cows to be milked: Independance – an enterprising person does not need to go look for some employer’s job to make his or her life. You have the talent – go directly to your customer. You get paid for being a benefit to other people. Just benefit a lot of people. Unity – Employers exhibit cartel-like behavior, talent should adopt that behavior too. I’m not saying that it’s honorable or right, but when you’re in a war and the other side is fighting dirty, you can’t afford to fight fair. Starve the employer and see how they behave when they are getting desperate. As a group, we can refuse to supply our talent to people that disrespect it so much as to devalue it to the point that it no longer benefits us as the supplier. The face of employment in the US is changing and those changes can be either positive or negative depending on our actions. We can end up as a bunch of slaves working for only as much as it costs us to supply the labor while the ones that employ us live like sultans on the wealth we created or we can stand on our own feet for a change and revoke their free meal ticket. Again – we can choose if we want to. Stand together. Do not accept the conditions of those that would exploit you. Make THEM work for a living for a change. I know that the box that I am typing in right now says “Comment” and this is more like a “Rant”, but this is my opinion, like it or not. I appreciate hearing your comments as well, positive or negative. Thanks.

  10. I am SO tired of hearing “we have to hire H1B’s because there aren’t enough trained US workers”. B.S!

    Nobody offers training on new software anymore, you have to seek it out and pay for it yourself. OK, fine, it’s an investment. However, training costs on average here are $20,000.00 while the H1B’s can fly home to India for 3 months, and get the same training for $1,000.00 US.

    US employers know this. Plus, they have the added benefit of hiring them for 3 months as contractors with no benefits, and then they will happily move along to the next 3-6 month assignment clear across the country. They are willing to live like this for 5 or 6 years, make their money, then go back home to live as wealthy people.

    They actually have co-ops across the country where Indian business men who are permanent residents will rent apartments in their names and sublet to these transient workers. How do I know? I live right next door to one! I have complained to management that there is a constant rotation of people moving in and out of there, and that none of the people living there are actually on the lease. Management does nothing because they say they can’t prove that, and they get their money every month. It is a one bedroom apartment, and sometimes there are up to 14 people staying there (I have counted) sleeping on mats on the floor!

    US workers with mortgages, and families can’t compete with that. They can’t spend half a year’s pay for training with little to no wage compensation, and uproot themselves every 3 months. This CORPORATE GREED has to STOP, or there won’t be a single decent job left in America. THEN who will pay taxes!!!??? Certainly not the H1B’s!