Why I Was 40-something Before I Asked for a Raise

I have been working (not including babysitting) since I was 16 years old. (Erie Zoo. I have stories.)

And up until February 3, 2014, I never asked for a raise.

Part of it is I never had to ask for a raise before. Like most American workers, I was subject to the annual review, which usually came with cost-of-living increases and/or merit-based increases. When I freelanced, I was confident when I named my price because I knew my scale and my experience. I usually received what I asked for. (Sometimes I didn’t get the job. Goes with the territory of freelancing.)

Because of a combination of the economy and the changes at my current company, it’s been years since I got a raise. When I was told in the past I wouldn’t be getting even a cost-of-living increase, I tried to bargain for other things (i.e. extra time off instead of a pay raise). Then two years went by where I wasn’t even reviewed. And my workload increased to the point where I was doing the work of three people.

You can have all the reasons in the world to ask for a raise — and believe me, I had a lot of them. But it’s still scary as all get out, in my opinion.

I was screwing up my courage to ask about a raise last summer. Some noise was made about getting us all in for annual reviews (we had just gotten a new director), so I decided to wait a little bit. But nothing came of it.

Like most middle-class Americans, I’ve been watching my wages stagnant while everything else got more expensive. I’ve read too many news reports about growing income inequality. My husband and I struggle under our (slowly decreasing) debt load.

I knew something needed to change.

So I wrote a letter about why I was asking for a raise, named a number, and justified it.

The actual asking part was a little anticlimactic. I scheduled a meeting with my boss, and when I sat down with him, basically said I was there to talk about getting a raise. His response? “Great! I already have that in the budget request for next fiscal year.” Then he continued, “I’m glad you were proactive about this.”

Now, I haven’t received the raise yet. I suppose it’s time to follow up with my boss to see if he has an idea of numbers. Our new fiscal year starts in about a month.

Did you ever have to “name your price”? What did you base it on? Did you feel like you had to psyche yourself up for it?