Asking for a Raise

Members from the PSP Career Networking Group weigh in on how to ask for more money in your current position.

 

Tips across the industry:

Corporate Law

Media

 

Corporate Law

"The corporate legal industry is quite different from the law firm world, as you clearly already know by having identified it that way.  While the corporate legal folks try to align their hiring and compensation practices to the law firm world (e.g., seeing years out of law school as a way to identify seniority), most companies really try hard to wean the Chief Legal Officer from this thinking and approach.

Most companies, and thus their legal departments, typically consider salary increases annually.  The vast majority of firms, especially larger companies, do this on an annual basis, and do it at the same point in time during the year vs. anniversary of an individual's hire date.  While anniversary date may feel more logical to the employee, it is an administrative nightmare, especially for organizations who seek to pay for performance.  Most companies will just have rules around the timing of a raise, e.g., you need to have been at a company at least 6 months to receive a raise, and the raise may be pro-rated if you've been at a company for less than a year.

OK, so that addresses part of your timing question.  On to the amount.  These days, merit pools are pretty solidly at 3%.  This usually includes money for salary increases, promotions, cost of living adjustments and market adjustments.  You'll see this number be smaller (including 0%) at companies that are struggling and you'll see this number be higher at companies that are struggling to retain employees.  Some companies may allocate more dollars to specific departments and functions.

Now that you know what amount the company may be targeting for a potential salary raise for you, on to when you should ask for it.  First, are you asking within the context of, "I've been here so and so long and I'm ready?"  If yes, then read the above about the annual merit cycle.  Theoretically your company should have made some sort of annual communication about this process, in which case, the time to ask for a raise is during the performance evaluation process, when you are sure your boss thinks you are the cat's pajamas.  If you are asking because your job responsibilities have expanded, then, really, the best time to ask is when those responsibilities are added.  And many companies have specific policies about compensation decisions that are made "off cycle" - some do it quarterly, some do it as they come up and some only when there's a competing offer on the table.

Regardless of all the above, the amount is ideally dependent on a variety of factors:  your performance, how you are paid relative to the competitive market, how hard it would be to replace you and what the overall budget is for increases.  Of course, it also comes down to psychology - companies of course what to pay you as little as possible to do as much work as possible and you would like the exact reverse.  Somewhere in there is a range of acceptable pay for you and your company!

Lastly, I'll note that there has been a lot of noise in the press about the glut of legal minds available in the market, looking for work.  Not to dissuade you from asking, because no matter what the job, a good employee is a good employee and companies are willing to pay for talent, in any market.  Just something to think about.

I hope this helps and sorry for the lengthy answer (I'm a comp consultant and spend altogether too much time thinking about exactly these questions, so it is always top of mind)."

Media

"I once discussed with with a friend who is a senior manager at A Big Media company.  He told me that when his staff ask for raises he tells them to start interviewing elsewhere and to then present him with what the offer letter and new salary.
He says this serves two purposes:
One, for the employer it shows them what is competitive in the industry.  H can then go to his higher ups and demand they keep this employee (who has demonstrated that they are "talent") and deserve to be paid more.
Two, it show the employee what is realistic in the marketplace. For example, he said many employees think they deserve a raise when really they don't.  Having them go through the job hunt can keep them in check of what is "fair."

Just food for thought in the debate! Don't know if I agree with this method - but he told me it's been the only tactic that has worked for him when his staff come to him asking for more."

Asking for a Raise

The corporate legal industry is quite different from the law firm world, as you clearly already know by having identified it that way.  While the corporate legal folks try to align their hiring and compensation practices to the law firm world (e.g., seeing years out of law school as a way to identify seniority), most companies really try hard to wean the Chief Legal Officer from this thinking and approach.

Most companies, and thus their legal departments, typically consider salary increases annually.  The vast majority of firms, especially larger companies, do this on an annual basis, and do it at the same point in time during the year vs. anniversary of an individual's hire date.  While anniversary date may feel more logical to the employee, it is an administrative nightmare, especially for organizations who seek to pay for performance.  Most companies will just have rules around the timing of a raise, e.g., you need to have been at a company at least 6 months to receive a raise, and the raise may be pro-rated if you've been at a company for less than a year.

OK, so that addresses part of your timing question.  On to the amount.  These days, merit pools are pretty solidly at 3%.  This usually includes money for salary increases, promotions, cost of living adjustments and market adjustments.  You'll see this number be smaller (including 0%) at companies that are struggling and you'll see this number be higher at companies that are struggling to retain employees.  Some companies may allocate more dollars to specific departments and functions.

Now that you know what amount the company may be targeting for a potential salary raise for you, on to when you should ask for it.  First, are you asking within the context of, "I've been here so and so long and I'm ready?"  If yes, then read the above about the annual merit cycle.  Theoretically your company should have made some sort of annual communication about this process, in which case, the time to ask for a raise is during the performance evaluation process, when you are sure your boss thinks you are the cat's pajamas.  If you are asking because your job responsibilities have expanded, then, really, the best time to ask is when those responsibilities are added.  And many companies have specific policies about compensation decisions that are made "off cycle" - some do it quarterly, some do it as they come up and some only when there's a competing offer on the table.

Regardless of all the above, the amount is ideally dependent on a variety of factors:  your performance, how you are paid relative to the competitive market, how hard it would be to replace you and what the overall budget is for increases.  Of course, it also comes down to psychology - companies of course what to pay you as little as possible to do as much work as possible and you would like the exact reverse.  Somewhere in there is a range of acceptable pay for you and your company!

Lastly, I'll note that there has been a lot of noise in the press about the glut of legal minds available in the market, looking for work.  Not to dissuade you from asking, because no matter what the job, a good employee is a good employee and companies are willing to pay for talent, in any market.  Just something to think about.

I hope this helps and sorry for the lengthy answer (I'm a comp consultant and spend altogether too much time thinking about exactly these questions, so it is always top of mind).  Best of luck!