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The Best Career Advice I’ve Ever Received

As an ambitious, career-driven twenty-something, I’m constantly trying to one up myself and push myself to the limits so I can ensure my growth at my current job. (Also to climb up the ladder ...) When I was younger, I thought that skill and brilliance alone will get me to the top, but as I grow older I realize that there are subtle unspoken tests and tricks one is expected to pick up along the way, without which success is almost a guaranteed impossibility. 

In the coming weeks, I plan on sharing tips and tricks that I’ve learned from my mentors, colleagues and even boss’s. But today, I want to share two gems of advice I received recently about negotiating a raise.

How to: Ask for a raise
I made a parallel move to my current job a year and half ago because of which I’ve been at the same base-salary for three years now. I was at dinner with a very young SVP of a top advertising agency recently. I’ve worked briefly with him and we often try to collaborate on freelance projects. Needless to say, I hold him in high esteem and value his advice. We were chatting about the workplace and the industry in general and I told him how I’d been stuck in this salary-gap for the last three years. He asked me, “So what are you doing about it?”

“Well,” I stammered, “I’ve done some research about my market-rate and I just plan on going on with a list of accomplishments at this job and make a strong case as to why I deserve a raise.”

He took a bite of his Pad-Thai and said, “You know, you don’t always need to justify why you want more money.”

That is odd, I thought to myself.

“Don’t get me wrong,” he continued. “You are not going about this the wrong way. You’ve done your research and it would be very foolish to ask for a higher salary without it. But just having a frank conversation, that you need to be making more money—at the very least your competitive market rate—is good enough.”

I was skeptical. In this economy, how can I just waltz into my boss’s office and say, Yo! I need more money ?

Almost as if he heard my thoughts, my friend said, “Also a raise always isn’t about more money. If your boss plays you the economy card, do you have a response to that?”

Umm. I didn’t.

“Ask for a better title. And ask for more vacation time. Don’t walk away with nothing.”

Oh, right.

Lesson learned:
1) You don’t ALWAYS need to justify why you want more money. As women, we tend to do it more often than men. Of course, let’s not barge into our supervisor’s office demanding more money, but let’s remember that we are hard-working professionals and not children trying to negotiate another piece of candy from our mothers.

2) When negotiating a raise (or even a salary) remember that it is not always monetary. An extra week of vacation or even a better title (Jr. to Sr? Manager to Director?! Sure, I’ll take it) holds a lot of value.

My boss did play the economy card but promised to reevaluate me in another six months (coming up in November) But he did give me an extra week of paid time off for this winter (I’m getting married! In India!)

I won’t say I was thrilled, but at least I didn’t walk out empty handed.

It was a small victory for me.