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Sydney Dahl

SFU Student Undergraduate
Communication, Art + Technology › Communication
Co-operative Education

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Every hour you spend working for a company, you are adding value to it in the same way that the company is providing you with knowledge and experience. It is perfectly okay to be assertive, and ask for more

In my last article, “4 Reasons You Won’t Regret Working in Customer Service”, I described 4 ways I grew both personally and professionally through customer service. One of which was the confidence and ability to ask for and negotiate promotions or raises.  

7 months prior to my first ever promotion, I was a workaholic. I would regularly work overtime, pick up shifts and take on additional responsibilities. This is pretty normal if you truly enjoy what you’re doing, are very goal-oriented, or maybe, you have trouble saying no. If you’re anything like me, you’re all of the above. 

My first ever promotion, with my first, ever raise came alongside a feeling of euphoria. Hard work pays off more than monetarily. I had feelings of accomplishment, fulfillment and pride. Within three months, I was promoted again! But, this time, without pay. Understandably so, as I had just got a raise! But, with the extra hours I already put in myself, and the extra responsibilities that were bestowed upon me… I started to feel a little burnt out. So, I decided to ask for another raise. 

Now, your situation is likely a lot different from mine if you’re coming to the OLC. You’re likely a co-op student seeking or working in a position related to your field of study, or to an academic field of your choosing. You’re probably working in a position for experience, and genuinely enjoy every hour worked, every task added, and every challenge faced. It may be difficult to think about asking for a raise or promotion - or even, just a break.

But, the following strategy provided can be moulded to many different situations. Whether you want to ask for a work-term extension or permanent employment offer, negotiate a wage raise or ask for time off, this strategy is one way you can approach these scenarios. 

1. Research and Record 

You cannot go into a meeting about raises or promotions if you have done zero research. You need to ensure that you have built your case, and are ready to defend your honour. Plus, not only will you feel confident having facts and figures prepared, but your supervisor will greatly appreciate the initiative you’ve put in organizing such a well-facilitated meeting. 

Research the average wage of someone in your position, and the position you want to move into. Sometimes you’ll get a cut and dry answer, and others you’ll get a range so I recommend checking a few websites. Platforms that I’ve used are Glassdoor, Quora, Indeed and Reddit. Places like Quora and Reddit offer honest, transparent (sometimes unfiltered) advice from knowledgeable people within the industry that you can direct message if you feel comfortable doing so. After getting an idea of the average wage, formulate a plan for your negotiation using the BATNA method in step 4. 

Lastly, you’re going to do a little self-research. Take some time to index the skills you’ve learned or developed on the job, and how you’ve applied them in specific situations. One way to do this is by using the STAR method. Additionally, you should take some time to reflect on the areas you need to improve. Then, create SMART goals that you can share with your supervisor to let them know you are aware of these improvements and that you have a prepared plan. If you were recently given feedback, take those points (whether positive or negative) and use them to demonstrate how you’ve grown since that meeting, the steps you took to do so, and how you plan to continue growing thereafter. 

2. Preparing for the Meeting

Take a deep breath. And another one. This is a difficult conversation to have, and it can be very stressful. This is similar to preparing for an interview. Practice the conversation with friends, a mentor that you trust, a co-op coordinator, career peer or, career advisor. You can also record yourself talking to the camera, reflect on the video, and correct accordingly. 

A great tool for this is Interview Stream. The interview stream has multiple resources regarding self-evaluations, self-elevator pitches, and an “Umm Like” Guide - a guide that teaches you to remove filler words such as “umm” and “like” from your sentences.

3. Scheduling the Meeting

Managers and supervisors are busy - really busy. They not only have a list of tasks to manage, but they also have an entire team of people, and those people’s tasks, to supervise on top of that. 

Depending on your relationship with your manager (friendly or strictly professional), curate a polite message asking them if they have some time to spare to discuss your position within the company. You can do this in-person (if you’re working in an environment that permits this), or you can send them a message on their preferred platform of communication. I’d recommend choosing the day and time, as well as offering them a list of options that could potentially work for you. Basically, be as flexible as possible. Here’s a sample message you can use: 

Hey/Hi/Hello [Name], 

As you know, I’ve been with the company for [amount of time]. I have enjoyed my time thus far, and have learned a lot, I would appreciate the opportunity to have a conversation with you about my position/responsibilities/compensation. I am available [day and time], but can also accommodate [list of other dates and times] as I know you are very busy. 

Thank you for your time, 

[Your Name]

4. The Discussion

This knowledge is brought to you in part by BUS 272 with Chris Zatzick. In this class, we learned about negotiating and how to use it in your career. The Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA) method describes the various areas that comprise a negotiation. Each party has a target and resistance point, which overlap to create the bargaining zone, or Zone of Potential Agreement.

The target point (desired case) describes the amount you are seeking. The resistance point (worst case) is the lowest you will go. Lastly, the bargaining zone is between either party’s resistance point and is the area in which you should be able to come to an agreement. Here’s an example: 

You are currently working for $18/hour, and want $25/hour. $25 is your target point. Imagine that the ideal amount your manager is willing to raise your wage to is $19/hour. $19 is your manager’s target point. You refuse to accept a $1 raise, so your resistance point becomes $20/hour. The manager’s resistance point, and you may never know the real answer, is $23/hour. That means, your wage can be negotiated anywhere between $20-$23. 

This method is useful because it gives you a realistic idea of what to expect. Although we may believe we deserve $5-$10 raises (if you are working hourly), it is not always a realistic outcome. However, it is not unrealistic to ask so as long as you’ve been with the company longer than 4-6 months (after the probation period). Prepare this diagram during your research stage so you can confidently ask for the wage you want. You never know, if you mention your target point, maybe your manager will agree! But if not, at least you have an idea of where to go next. You can also use this method to negotiate a different wage during the interview stage, if you already have prior experience in the position. 

Now, with this knowledge in mind, how do you ask for the raise, or negotiate an equivalent? Combine all of your research, and come up with an elevator pitch describing why you deserve the raise, extension, or time off. Here are some easy-to-follow steps on how to create the pitch: 

  1. Always start off by building rapport. This allows both you and your manager to become comfortable. 

  2. Speak to your commitment and value to the company. Discuss the skills you’ve developed and responsibilities you’ve taken by using the STAR method created in the research stage.

  3. State what you want by using an active voice: “I would like to discuss a work-term extension/permanent employment/raise/time off”. Be sure to be clear about the raised amount (BATNA method) or the amount of time off desired. If you are asking for additional responsibilities or promotion, clearly outline what that would look like. 

  4. Invite their opinion, and thank them for their time. 

After providing your manager with this knowledge, it is up to them to confirm or contradict your plan. As long as you remain confident and ensure you have all of your facts and figures in order, you should have no reason to feel nervous or lacklustre. At the very least, your manager will appreciate the initiative you have taken. 

5. Adapt, Overcome and Try Again

If you can secure a raise or promotion on your first ask, congratulations! That is incredible. It is such an empowering feeling. But, sometimes, despite our best efforts, we do not rise to the occasion. In either case, this is an opportunity to adapt, overcome and try again. 

One reason you may not have been able to get that raise or promotion is because of a lack of money to fund it. This is common with startups and smaller companies. It can be frustrating, but it is not your fault. If this is the case for you, it may be time to weigh the pros and cons of staying on with the company in question. It is okay to leave if you feel as though you are not getting what you need. It is also okay to stay on with the company because you enjoy the atmosphere, work or people (or, they’ve given you a timeline to wait). If you do, you can always ask for some time off in the near future, flexible hours or, even research possible grants or funds that may be available to support your salary. Whatever you decide, just ensure you have your own best interest at heart and not the companies. 

Another reason you may have not been able to secure a raise or promotion is that you still have areas to improve in. If this is the case, ensure you’ve asked your manager exactly where and how you can improve. Then, organize these improvements into SMART goals. By doing so, you will have a realistic timeframe in which you can make your improvements and start the negotiation process over again. 

Promoting yourself, and asking for a wage or promotion can be very difficult, especially if it is something you’ve never done before. However, if you are feeling overworked, underutilized or underpaid, there is no harm in talking to your supervisor about what you need. Remember, every hour you spend working for a company, you are adding value to it in the same way that the company is providing you with knowledge and experience. It is perfectly okay to be assertive, and ask for more. I hope these tips gave you the power to speak to your supervisors with confidence about your abilities and needs. I wish you the best of luck! 


Sydney Dahl

SFU Student Undergraduate
Communication, Art + Technology › Communication
Co-operative Education

Sydney is a Communication's Co-op student in her first work term as an Editor and Feature Writer for the OLC. She is a fourth-year Communications and Business student focused on critical race studies, popular culture and labour studies. Sydney is passionate about community building, advocacy and outreach. She hopes to use her knowledge in both academic fields with skills acquired from the OLC to create her own blog and community. Connect with Sydney via LinkedIn

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Mar 18, 2021

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