Little Victories: asking for a raise

I did it! I did it! I asked for more money!

Remember when I wrote this post about how women almost never ask for more money? Apparently we don’t. Apparently we often keep quiet instead. And I understand why. I mentioned that the thought of asking for a raise is really scary for me. That usually when someone pays me for work I’ve done, I am thinking, “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you so much!” as opposed to “Seriously? I am worth more than that!” Even if I’m worth more than that. It’s hard to tell, sometimes, how much I’m worth in money. I mean, maybe I think I’m worth a million dollars, but I’m a writer. No one is going to give me a million dollars. No one is going to give me very much at all. So it’s more a “every little bit counts” type thing than a “I can’t believe they don’t value me more” type thing.

That is no excuse not to ask for more money.

But even after I wrote that post, I didn’t notice that I had an opportunity to ask for a raise, in my own life, right then. I was thinking more abstractly– like, women, out there in the world– other people– you guys should think about this…I should probably think about it too, later…

And then something funny happened. I found out that someone I know who does work for one of the same companies I do was being paid more than me. She mentioned it casually, and suddenly I was furious. And embarrassed. Here I was, writing about raises instead of asking for them. I felt like I was falling behind. I felt like I’d been sleeping and oblivious and possibly still wearing suspenders that had gone out of style five years ago (what? Are people not wearing suspenders these days? No one?).


I took a lot of deep breaths. I composed five versions of an email. The last one said “I think my work is high quality.” Sound confident. Sound like you think you deserve it. I thought I deserved it. I hit send.

They gave me a raise. It wasn’t what I asked for. It still wasn’t very much money. But it was more money. I thought that maybe I should fight for more– push them. But then I accepted. Enough for one day. The “thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” was coming back.

Bear bragged about my raise to his family. I kept saying, “Not  that it matters! It’s not like I make enough money for it to even matter!

But it does matter. Being able to ask for a raise is a big deal. It’s scary. It’s vulnerable. It’s important to learn how. Maybe one day I’ll even have to try it face to face. And after I die of awkwardness and fright and pee my pants and make the wrong facial expressions and clear my throat fifty times, maybe I’ll give it a shot.

I think this is progress.

*  *  *

Past Little Victories series posts: being schlumpy, my breasts

What have you done that’s really brave recently? And if it was asking for a raise, do tell! And if it wasn’t, tell me anyway.

Unroast: Today I love the way I look in this picture:

Even though I sort of look like I’m from another planet. I miss my buzz cut sometimes.

P.S. Someone told me they asked for a raise after reading my post about it. HELL YEAH.



Kate on January 19th 2012 in fear, life, Little Victories

23 Responses to “Little Victories: asking for a raise”

  1. Alii responded on 19 Jan 2012 at 1:11 pm #

    Congrats! :D That’s wonderful. ^_^

  2. San D responded on 19 Jan 2012 at 1:16 pm #

    Good for you! That is what being a grown up is all about, finding your worth, and declaring it to everyone. My profession (public school teacher) didn’t allow for raise asking and was predicated on a complicated formula which involved taxpayer’s money. It also didn’t single anyone out as being better than anyone else. So my “reward” would be self generated, as it were. And believe me there were plenty of rewards all through my career from smiling faces to parents dropping off recycle ricotta containers of “gravy” for me.

  3. Diana responded on 19 Jan 2012 at 1:18 pm #

    Congratulations on your raise! Kudos to you! And yes, it matters.

    What have I done recently that was brave? Can I write it here? Um, I showed my husband how to do new intimate things . . . in bed with me. I had read some things, suggested some things, confirmed we wanted to try some new things, and he did, and I did, and whoo-hoo, it worked. So there. A brave new moment for us. I hope there are a few more.

  4. Krystina responded on 19 Jan 2012 at 1:20 pm #

    I’m become more bolder. I use to be really shy and quiet. Not anymore. I’m loud, bold and always laughing. I think I realized what other people think about me does not matter. I’m here. I made it past some pretty scary shit. I go to the front of zumba class, I talk to complete strangers, I ask questions, I dance by myself, I gave my number to an amish guy ( do they even have phones!?! LOL ) but I am living without regrets right now. I kinda miss the way my buzz cut felt too.

  5. Kate responded on 19 Jan 2012 at 1:21 pm #

    @San D
    That’s good, too. I think that environment would make me more comfortable in many ways.

  6. Kate responded on 19 Jan 2012 at 1:22 pm #

    Congratulations!!! I’m glad it worked, but even more importantly, it’s awesome that you tried it! :-)

  7. Emily Merkle responded on 19 Jan 2012 at 1:35 pm #

    Yay Kate! Great to hear!
    Wanted to share the way I try to position myself in past performance reviews, when I was up for potential compensation adjustments. If you can, try to tie your performance on the job as it were to anything concrete. Marrying what you contribute on the job to solid, measurable parameters makes “selling” yourself to the powers that be much easier. For example, I used to work for the NBA selling advertising. When I put together a big deal I had been working on for 6 months with Paramount Pictures for Mission: Impossible III, I gathered all the press the deal got, first. Then I ran the numbers on how much revenue I brought in + the added oomph of the free PR. I compared money in v. money out (to me) and the ratio I used to make the case for a performance-based raise.
    It worked. Point: if you can tie your contribution to any quantitative variable that has value, the convo about your worth is much easier to have – and is based in logic.

  8. Melanie responded on 19 Jan 2012 at 1:37 pm #

    Yay you! That is a huge deal and getting any sort of raise you asked for is great in my opinion. I love that picture of you too!

    The brave thing I’ve been doing lately is forcing myself to face situations that cause me great anxiety: having people over to my house, being in crowds, and eating dinner past 7 pm. I know they all sound weird but for my OCD head, these are all extremely difficult things.

  9. Kate responded on 19 Jan 2012 at 1:40 pm #

    That sounds so much more impressive than anything I can imagine doing! I have a friend like this, though, she compiles all the numbers and goes in with cold, hard data. I am bad at this. Which is not to say that I can’t get better. But currently, I’m quite bad at it.

  10. Jess responded on 19 Jan 2012 at 3:10 pm #

    Congrats! Thats a huge thing to get over! Right now I’m having a hard time asking for a *job*, but to be fair, the jobs I’m looking for are significant pay improvements over my last one, because I’m worth more.

    And I still wear suspenders! Wear them too! I support your lack of buzz cut from a purely seasonal/practical perspective. It looks fantastic, but its definitely a warm weather haircut, and you need a winter coat like anything with fur– but I expect to see it back around spring thaw, young lady.

  11. Kate responded on 19 Jan 2012 at 3:17 pm #

    Keep trying! You’ll find something! I know that sounds empty, but it’s probably true.

    And hooray, about the suspenders!

    And yes, about the buzz cut.

  12. craftosaurus responded on 19 Jan 2012 at 3:29 pm #

    YEAH! Rock, ON, lady!

  13. Lynn responded on 19 Jan 2012 at 3:53 pm #


  14. Elena responded on 19 Jan 2012 at 5:07 pm #

    First of all: Congraaats!!! : ) I think doing what you did takes a lot of self-confidence!

    I did not ask for any raise lately, nor ever in my life. And I remember that when I worked in a private academy teaching English, I had to ask my boss for my regular pay, since she always “forgot” and I felt utterly embarrased even if I was just reminding her to give me what was already mine, according to the terms of our initial agreement, and I had already won with my work.

    But now I’m doing better. I started working in a new place last september, and although at first I was too embarrased to speak out in our meetings, now I do. I even gave my boss a something I wrote not long ago and now she said she’s sponsoring me to get published! I guess it always takes a little time to get some confidence about your work being good enough, or being even great, but if you achieve that then you can go much further and be much happier : )

    Congrats again!

  15. Christina McPants responded on 19 Jan 2012 at 9:37 pm #

    I quit my job of three and a half years last week. I’m starting a new one soon and before I accepted, I requested a higher salary than they initially offered. It was hard. It was really hard. I was incredibly nervous. They said yes.

  16. Alpana Trivedi responded on 19 Jan 2012 at 9:40 pm #

    It’s funny, I’ve always considered myself an aggressive person. I always say how I feel (okay, almost always). I ask for phone calls, e-mails, messages, etc. without worrying that I’ll seem too needy. In fact, I admit when I’m emotionally needy and I make no apologies for it. I even told one of my best friends when I had romantic feelings for him.

    But for some reason, I can’t seem to ask for money, even when it’s my due. For example, if someone borrows a dollar here or there, I consider it gone, because I don’t want to ask for it back. When it comes to raises and pay, I guess because I don’t like the idea of putting a number on myself. I feel I’m a unique person and that putting numerical value on myself is somehow selling out. Intellectually, I know that it’s not, but emotionally, I feel that way. That’s my perspective.

    Good for you, Kate, for asking for the raise. I was just mirroring that “thank you, thank you” feeling you were talking about. I think we all feel it from time to time, especially when we get told that we should be grateful for what we have.

  17. Anna responded on 20 Jan 2012 at 1:27 am #

    I recently told off someone who used to be like a sister to me but suddenly stopped talking to me. I wasn’t very bothered by this (I found my life was happier without her, so I actually don’t care that we have nothing to do with each other; I’ve actually been told by people she was the only reason they didn’t talk to me last year, because she’s so stand-offish.)

    But, in recent weeks she has been having her sister tell people that I’ve been pushing her around and insulting her all the time (the worst thing I’ve done to her was accidentally hit her with my bag while grabbing something, so this was seriously making me mad.) So, this girl decides to make a scene telling me I ‘am such a f*cking b*tch who should get the f*ck out of her life’ and that I caused her life to be ‘f*cked up for a year and a half’ my response? ‘And just which year and a half of our 3-year relationship was that? The time I bought you an entire new wardrobe? The times I paid your utilities so you had electricity and water for five months? The times I gave you money so you could get glasses, even though you spent it on shoes? How about when I introduced you to your fiancee? Or the fact that I’m the only reason you got into this school**? Really, I’m so sorry my friendship held you down for so long!’ I feel like I may have gone overboard, but I was so sick of her trying to play herself out like the victim, like I was the big, bad, evil person in her life that was dragging her down.

    I’m proud of the fact that she’s probably still trying to figure out just what the hell to say in response to this, since she was expecting me to run off crying, because I normally can’t do confrontation.

    **I did all of her admissions work, and yes, I do mean ALL of it.

  18. claire responded on 20 Jan 2012 at 11:26 am #

    congratulations, my very brave, and smart special person. When I was employed, and asked for a raise, after much fear, and the amount was offered, I very stupidly said no you can give me less. (very stupid), but that was my youth talking. CRF

  19. Abby responded on 20 Jan 2012 at 2:09 pm #

    Congratulations on being awesome!!! I’ve never been in that position, and likely won’t for a while…but I feel like I would be incredibly nervous. So three cheers for the ever wonderful you!

    Something brave that I’ve done…well, this might sound weird. But I was with my family, and my oldest sister(I have two older sisters) started talking about how my middle sister got “the good nose” of the family. Now, my oldest sister and I have often lamented our noses together(we both inherited a rather wide, “fat” nose)…but this time, I said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. My nose is fabulous!”

    It sounds dorky and strange, but it’s the first time I’ve ever challenged my sister’s assumption that I, like her, must hate my nose. And each time I say it, it seems true now–my nose IS fabulous. It fits my face, just like my middle sister has her own fabulous nose. I love my sister…but I realized that I can’t let her negativity about herself affect me anymore. We are three uniquely beautiful and wonderful women, and to compare ourselves does nothing but cause more dissatisfaction. So, I don’t know if it counts as brave…but I feel brave for finally taking that step.

  20. Kate responded on 21 Jan 2012 at 12:14 am #

    Thank you, guys!!!

  21. Mandy responded on 21 Jan 2012 at 5:57 pm #

    Woo-hoo! You are awesome, sweetie!

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