Impatient for the Life Ahead of Us

I have a preeettty good salary at my current job. However, it mostly rewards me with autonomy, excellent benefits, flexibility and familiarity. I am full-time, salaried, and unionised, but I could earn more cash elsewhere (with worse conditions).

My husband, our two kids and I need to buy a family home and in order to make that happen we are going to need more cash. Right now, it’s about earning more money. I want to stay in my current job with its attendant flexibility, and ideally I want to be paid more. I just am really dreading talking to my boss about a raise.

My position is tied to a pay scale from 1 to 8. The idea is that you start at 1 and move up annually until you’re at an 8. I was brought in at a 2, and after one year made a case to move up to a 5. This month I’ll be moved up to a 6. But I want to be an 8! I want to be an 8 so badly I can taste it. Once I’m at an 8, I know that I will have maxed out my money-getting opportunities here, and my choices will be to stay and shut up, or go. I have some reasons to think this isn’t totally unlikely. I am overqualified. I do an excellent job. I got a rating of “well exceeds expectations” on my last performance review. I think that less qualified/not as good employees as me are getting paid more than me, in my team, in my company, and in the industry. However, most of them were brought in at a time when everything was a bit more flush.

My department is a bit strapped for cash. Everyone new who has been hired is part-time or working as a contractor. I’m in a company that’s not especially strapped for cash, but I’m in an industry that is strapped for cash, and in a country that has just elected a government that is especially hostile to this industry.

There is a possible restructuring of my department in the next six months, which could lead to a better opportunity for me. The restructuring will be due to the retirement of an executive and the decision to save the cost of his salary by pushing his work out to some managers and maybe creating one or more new positions that are higher up the order than my current job—which I could go for. What should I do? How do I talk to my boss about getting more money? Is now the right time? All I can think about is cash, and houses, and how if I wait six months, I am losing salary that could be compounded. — P.

If I’m reading this correctly, your goal is for you and your family to buy a house. You make a “pretty good salary” at your current job—a job that gives you excellent benefits and flexibility, but you want more money and to be paid at the top of the pay scale at your company.

If you feel like you have a good case for yourself to get a raise (besides just wanting more money), set up a meeting with your boss and ask for it (some tips here).

To be frank, I think your main problem here is that you’ve set some goals for yourself and are feeling impatient about reaching those goals. So many of us would kill for a job with a good salary with excellent benefits near the higher end of the pay scale at a company (a 6 out of 8, as you say). We’d all like to earn more money; we’d all like to hit our savings goals as soon as we can so we can buy houses or have weddings or go on trips or feel good about our retirement savings.

When I was six, my parents, my two brothers and I lived in a one-bedroom apartment in a not-so-great neighborhood. My folks also felt the need to buy a house for our family—to have a bedroom of their own and a backyard for the kids to run around in instead of the parking lot of the apartment complex my brothers and I made into our own play space. We slept on mattresses on the floor, and my parents scraped together their savings while we ate instant noodles with hot dogs cut up into it, or Kraft macaroni and cheese dinners, or plain white rice with scrambled eggs. My father worked as a mechanic for the Ford Motor Company, and my mother cut hair at a salon. There was no asking for more money—just saving what they could. It took a few years, but they did it—they saved up enough for a down payment on a house and moved us all in.

The reason I’m telling this story is not to privilege check you, but to say: Things will eventually work out—just give it time. The house may not come next month, but it will come. Keep socking away as much cash as you can. Sit down with your husband and go over your expenses—perhaps you’ll find areas where you can cut back and throw more money into savings.

If a better position does open up after the restructuring and you feel qualified for it, go after it. Tell your boss you want the job and be prepared to explain why you’re experienced enough to take on the position. Have a salary figure in mind. Be prepared to negotiate. Stop worrying about a losing a salary that could be compounded—you can’t lose what you don’t yet have.

 

Photo: A Guy Taking Pictures

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5 Comments / Post A Comment

samburger (#5,489)

I disagree with Mike. I don’t hear impatience so much as I hear job dissatisfaction. Although LW has a pretty good salary, most of her compensation comes in perks. What I’m hearing in this letter is “I take a pay cut for these perks and I wish I didn’t.”

LW, it’s ok to look for a job that pays you more AND treats you well. Your current workplace is not the only one with perks (why does everyone with a good job believe that?). And you say you’re overqualified. Being overqualified and underpaid is SO frustrating, so just reaaaal casually start browsing for a job that can maybe challenge and pay you enough while you wait for the new opportunity to open up in your office.

thegirlieshow (#5,285)

Feeling over-qualified/under-paid and being over-qualified/under-paid are different. It’s unclear to me which one the LW is.

gyip (#4,192)

“instant noodles with hot dogs cut up into it, or Kraft macaroni and cheese dinners, or plain white rice with scrambled eggs”

Oh, wow, Mike. We had the same meals. Less KD, but more of the rice with fried eggs, and a bit of soy sauce. I still make this on weekends when I’m by myself.

My parents didn’t get to just ask for more money either. It’s sobering to know not everyone has this luxury.

It’s hard to know with the few details we get here, but I would counsel the writer to think long and hard before trading perks, comfort, and flexibility for more money. At the very least, it’s important to make an attempt to catalog, ahead of time, the things you’ll gain and the things you’ll give up if you make that trade-off, because if you find yourself miserable but with more money, well, I being miserable sucks and happiness is hard to price. It’s personal, obviously, but people tend to underestimate the value of flexible hours, shorter commutes, good benefits, etc., until they don’t have them.

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