Tag: jobs

On Asking For More Money

I have been terrible at negotiating rates. I haven’t been great at asking for raises. For years I made $10/hour as a pseudo-manager at my retail job, and found out much later that everybody in the same position was making at least three dollars more than me. Even now, when asked how much my rates are as a writer, I’m tempted to lowball myself, convinced I’ll come across as greedy or unappreciative if I toss out an amount that seems too high.

And yet, if you ask me how much you should charge for something, I’ll tell you to ask for as much as you really want. Why? Because the worst that can happen is a lower counter-offer. Also, because your work — and you — should be valued.

Growing up, I was raised to be grateful to even have a job, so I spent about 90% of my working life settling for the first dollar amount that came my way. I never thought to ask for more money in my ten years of customer service (see: fear of being fired), so by the time I started writing, I was settling for $2 or $5 per essay, convinced that if I asked for more I’d never write again. (Actually.)

Which was obviously never the case because that’s not how businesses work. Unless you live in a Dickens novel, asking for a pay increase — or even setting minimum rates when asked what you charge — won’t jeopardize your future or get you fired. You may be denied (and boy have I), but no reasonable employer will be aghast at your gall to better your financial situation. I mean, no:? do not march into an office or rattle off an email with a sense of entitlement and/or “fuck you” rhetoric, but to simply ask for more? Why wouldn’t you?

Still, it’s easier for me to say that than to actually do it. In fact, it was only within the last year that I started to decline work based on how much someone was willing to pay for the amount of writing that was required. And even then, I still felt the echoes of my early working life when I believed I should be grateful to even be asked. And that’s a confining way to live, especially since, if you’re a self-employed person, you’re your only advocate. In short, you’re the only person who’s going to stand up for you and make sure that you’re being treated fairly. You’re the only person who’s going to make sure that you’re being compensated in a way that allows you to survive. And if you’re too scared, you’re going to get screwed.

You’re the only person who’s going to stand up for you and make sure that you’re being treated fairly.

It took a friend of mine framing it that way to make me understand. As a writer herself, she told me that she asked for double the minimum she’d typically accept because the worst thing that could possibly happen would be to earn a rate she already felt comfortable with. And I was in awe. First, because I’d been too scared to say to my own editors, “I’ve been writing for you for a few years, so can I have more money?” and second, because she was so fearless. Or more specifically, she showed me there was nothing to be afraid of — particularly while reminding me that if an editor (or any employer) is going to get so angry at your request for more money that they fire you, they aren’t people you want to work for anyway.

But that fear still exists, especially if you need the money. When I got a writing job earning $10/piece, I couldn’t believe it would only take ten essays to earn a whole $100. And because I was so afraid writing would be taken away from me (the first job I actually loved), I accepted the lowest of low and figured it was on me to turn out freakish amounts of content to make sure I could pay my bills. I still couldn’t. And while there were a few extenuating circumstances that added to my financial issues, I now realize I could’ve also asked to make more for what I was putting out.

And that takes some getting used to — the idea you’re actually worth something. Especially if you’re working in an industry that’s undergoing its own transformation, or in an economy where work can feel like a privilege. So I started small. Where I’d been waiting to turn work in before asking what I’d be paid for it (I know), I began asking in the introductory emails what a publication’s going rates were. Then, if they were reasonable, I’d run with an idea. Or if they were low, I’d look at my schedule and any upcoming projects before deciding whether or not this extra assignment would add to my life or make me feel stressed.

Of course, I’d have to actively remind myself that I was worth being paid fairly for my work — and also that no one worth writing for would blacklist me for asking for a fair wage. Which I also learned easily:? upon asking an editor for a rate increase, she was honest and told me rates were fixed but we could talk about different types of work for more money. In short, everybody survived. And nobody lost their shit over me being greedy or unappreciative — because again, that’s not how (good) businesses work.

Plus, you’ve got to look out for you. And if you’re telling yourself that you’re not worth as much as everybody else, you’re giving the people you work for the opportunity to say the same. So get paid. Get money. And while it may take a while to feel confident executing that, remember how confident you are in your work and how you deserve to be valued. At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

Anne T. Donahue writes for MTV News, Refinery29, The Guardian and other outlets. She is in a loving and committed relationship with Leonardo DiCaprio.


Photo by Jonathan Klok

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I Worked In a Bank When I Was 22 and Wanted to Walk Into the Sea

At 22, I was professionally flailing. I’d spent my three years since dropping out of college working at a hardware chain and then at a clothing store, finally realizing after too much managerial drama that I didn’t want a future in folding jeans. So, after too many shifts spent crying over the cash register and educating my 17-year-old employees on the symptoms of a quarter-life crisis, I asked a friend for an in at the bank across the street. She worked there, she liked it, and she thought I would too. So I bought a fancy interview outfit, updated my resume, and found myself hired for a new branch about 20 minutes away.

This was my destiny (I told myself while spending far too money much on office-appropriate wear.) Now, I was going to be successful. (I repeated, realizing within a week on the job that I’d made a mistake.) I didn’t need retail. (I missed it.) Especially when I was about to become my family’s first financial wizard. (My credit card was maxed out on new work outfits).

I lasted two months at the bank before crawling back to the mall, asking my manager if I could work the evenings I wasn’t scheduled to close the bank. I needed laughter. I needed camaraderie. I missed being able to reference The Office (it was 2007) and using my outdoor voice in an indoor setting. Also, I needed the money: I’d gotten into university after upgrading my marks and was heading back to school in September 2008.

Plus, a discount on jeans is never a bad thing.

I grew up in a blue collar family. My mom and dad kept me clothed, fed, housed, and loved, but we didn’t holiday (aside from day trips), buy big ticket items, or toss around terms like “investments” (and I still don’t really know how they work.) Which was fine by me: the only “rich” person I knew growing up was the daughter of the man who owned the company my grandpa once worked for, and all of us were in awe of the fact that her house sat on top of a hill. I went to public school, knew I’d have to pay for university myself, and shopped knowing whatever I bought was also on me. Which is how I landed in credit card debt at 19, 20, and 21. High off the power of my first Visa, I’d maxed it out on low-rise bootcut jeans and logo hoodies, so working at both the bank and the mall promised to solve all my problems: one paycheck could go towards minimum payments, the other would go to tuition, and I’d leave a certain amount for “regular spending.” Easy.

But nothing’s easy when you would rather walk into the sea than go to work. I’d started at the bank in September 2007, and by December I dreaded starting my shifts. But not because of my coworkers (most of them were so lovely), but because of what the job entailed: as a teller, you have to sell credit and products to customers. And I didn’t want to. First, because I hated my job (and didn’t want to do anything), and second, because it felt gross selling credit to people who didn’t want it (especially when I barely had any left to my own name). I’d hear myself talking rates and limits and minimum payments, and felt like a hypocrite. Especially since I not only had no idea what I was talking about, but because as an irresponsible credit user myself, I didn’t care. I felt like I was in the financial bell jar.

Which was made worse because aside from my inability to move product, I was really good at everything else. I was good at the admin work, good at talking to customers, good at organizing large sums of money (despite being nervous and scared around it constantly), and good at navigating our computer system. And that would’ve been fine, had I worked with a supervisor I actually liked working with: instead, I worked with a supervisor whose moods changed on a dime, leading to hours spent walking on eggshells and/or forcing ourselves to laugh at bad jokes, in hopes of preventing outbursts later on.

Of course, at 30 I would’ve handled it better. I would’ve reminded myself that this job was funding my future and that I was lucky to have it and that every hour of pay was closer to the end of my stint there. But I was 22. So instead of logic or rationality, I just checked out. I started wearing the same outfits every day, started snapping back at my temperamental boss and any/all angry customers, and slowly morphed into Jim from The Office without the camera to mug to or compelling love interest (minus the mortgage expert who lived with his girlfriend — but he wasn’t interested). And after a while, my sales were so bad it was branch legend: I was the first teller to hit -30% revenue, making my future there a near-impossibility.

So I quit before I got fired. Realizing I’d rather make money where I felt good about my job, my coworkers, and who I was at that job, I realized I’d rather work more hours for less pay than work under someone who wouldn’t let me leave a shift early to beat a blizzard. (Which, for the record, I almost got stuck in.)

“It’s not who you are,” my supervisor’s supervisor said in response to my two weeks’ notice. “You’re just being true to yourself.”

Which, ironically, was the most valuable lesson I learned when working at a financial institution — a place built entirely on numbers and business and logic and money and affluence. And arguably, it was also the only lesson. I clung to that idea so tightly — the idea that I was figuring out who I was, that I had to make mistakes, that I had to learn hard lessons, that I had to live messily and recklessly — that after saving for tuition, I ended up racking up even more debt in the wake of starting school. And I eventually dropped out again.

Which were also lessons I had to learn. So while money can certainly make things easier, it doesn’t always lead to fulfillment. Or answer the questions that wake you up in the middle of the night. I may have had to work more shifts at the mall than is healthy for most people (and then dig myself out of a literal money pit a few years later), but money — whether counting it in the vault or trying to convince people to spend more to make your sales goal for the month — cannot buy you happiness. Not when you’re just wearing the same outfit to work out of spite, anyway.

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3 Unconventional Strategies That Get You Promoted

Do you feel ready for the next step in your career but can?t seem to land that promotion? Here are three strategies to help you get there.

1. Stop asking for permission

People get so caught up in pleasing others and playing by the rules that they often leave their individuality at the door. The result? They’re pigeon holed into a role. Break out of that mold. Bring your whole creative self to the job and see how far you can go.

Here?s how:

  • Address the problems you see in front of you. Is there a process that needs improvement? It could be as simple as configuring all copiers to print double-sided to save on paper.
  • Disagree with your boss (respectfully, of course). You don?t always have to follow the party line. If you see a better way to do something, speak up. Your boss will appreciate the effort because you are looking out for the team. Good bosses are not looking for a bunch of Yes gals and guys. They value critical thinking, especially if you?re helping them avoid risk.
  • Educate yourself. Maybe your boss? presentations seem dull and uninspiring lately. Take a PowerPoint course and figure out how to make the story sing. Or take the free courses available to you for CRM reporting so that you can bring greater insight into the numbers. Or learn to code. You get the point. Gaining a new skill will make you more valuable.
  • Think strategically. Get smart about your sector and adjacent industries. Make connections and bring these big ideas to the team. Is there a product you produce today that could be re-purposed for an adjacent industry? Is there a new partnership, joint venture or acquisition that your company should take a look at? Good ideas are good ideas, no matter what your role. Strategic thinking is like a muscle. You have to practice to get good at it.
  • Help the company grow. One of the biggest challenges facing companies is organic growth. Every manager knows how to cut costs. That?s their go-to solution because it?s the only thing they can really control. Demonstrate your leadership by offering true growth strategies. Your official title at the company doesn’t matter. Anyone with a growth mindset can help. Check out this book for good ideas: Double Digit Growth.

2. Act the part before you get the part

Companies are constantly looking for ways to reduce risk. ?If you were the boss, who would you promote: the person already taking on next level responsibilities or the person waiting to up-level until they’re promoted? Demonstrate that you can handle the new role now.

Here?s how:

  • Look around corners. Ask yourself what your boss would do with the information you?re about to present. Then do that before she asks you.
  • Put in more hours. This may not be possible for everyone but it?s usually needed, especially if you?re looking to get promoted. The extra time doesn?t have to happen at the office. Technology is a wonderful thing. But make your extra hours count. Empty hours and ?up managing? for optics is a waste of everyone?s time. People see through it.
  • Check the drama (and your ego) at the door. No one has time for complainers or office gossip. Do what?s needed to help your tribe thrive. Be known as a doer.
  • Make your boss? job easy. Show and tell her why you should be promoted. That means coming up with a strategic plan, including milestones. It also means doing those things on the plan. When the time comes, the promotion will feel like a natural extension of what you are already doing.

3. Cultivate your tribe

No person is an island. Think about the stakeholders around you. That includes your immediate colleagues, bosses and employees. It also includes your suppliers, strategic partners, the planet and the community. All of these stakeholders are part of your network. Figure out how to help them prosper. If they win, you win.

Here?s how:

  1. Organize your company?s service days. Many companies now offer paid time off to volunteer at various community organizations. Organize an outing at a food bank, animal rescue center, or University. Choose organizations that resonate with you and your company. It?s amazing what can happen when you work together towards a common goal outside of your regular day-to-day routine. Try it out.
  2. Become a corporate steward. How can you help transform the company?s DNA to improve people and planet? Taking initiative demonstrates true leadership. Here are three ideas:
    • Lead your company?s initiative to offer sustainable 401K investment options. Not many people know that they can ask for different investments. You don?t have to be stuck with what?s offered by your plan sponsor. Here is a toolkit that can help you negotiate green and sustainable funds for your 401K plan.
    • Help your company strengthen their supply chains?by making them cleaner. Here are the top 10 reasons to have your company clean up their supply chain. Done right, it?s long-term profitable for the company and the planet.
    • Propose a corporate wellness program.
  3. Help someone at your office every single day. Go out to lunch with colleagues in other departments. Put the notice out on Slack or your email bulletin board. Break your daily routine by learning something about someone new, every day.
  4. Share information. Gone are the days of zero sum corporate culture. Create the environment you want to see at work. That means communicate and share your valuable data with colleagues. Don?t be a data hoarder. And don?t worry about communication overlap or people stealing your ideas. True leadership will come out on top. Sharing is a shortcut to building trust.

Beyond the promotion, these strategies can help you in other areas as well. If you adopt these behaviors, you will start thinking differently. You will begin thinking like a leader. Leadership mindset takes time to cultivate. Invest in it.


Photo by?Brooke Lark

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5 Simple Tips to Save Money on Your Daily Business Expenses

To succeed in today’s marketplace, you have to make every dollar count. One of the best ways to do that is to look at your daily business expenses. Ask yourself if you?ve done everything possible to keep those expenses as low as possible, while not sacrificing quality, employee retention, and your sanity. Consider these five cost-saving tips when you evaluate how well you are spending your dollars.

Building and Maintenance

In most companies, the top operating expenses are payroll and facilities. How well are you using the space you have? Would it be more cost effective to move or is it cheaper to stay where you are? If you own the building and aren?t using or need all the space, you could rent out part of the space to offset the cost of the mortgage and utilities.

Take a look at how energy-efficient your building and space is and how much maintenance is necessary. You can reduce the cost of space by either finding a cheaper, more energy-efficient space, or spreading out the maintenance among some of your staffed employees who handle cleaning or maintenance.

Payroll

Payroll is a tough expense to address. You want to keep your employees happy and pay them what they are worth, but high payroll costs can eat into the budget quickly and deeply. The first area to look at is overtime. If employees are consistently working overtime hours, it may be time to either add staff permanently or temporarily. Do the analysis to determine whether it is more efficient to add staff or pay the overtime.

As seasoned employees leave, try to replace them with less experienced but highly trainable replacements at a lower salary. You may be able to reduce salary increases in lieu of stock options, paid time off, or other benefits that may not affect the bottom line. For example, employees may be just as happy with less pay if they?re allowed to work from home two days a week or trade in their suits for t-shirts and jeans.

Computer

Gone are the days when everyone needed an onsite server and to pay for expensive software packages. Now, the cloud has proven more reliable and easier to manage, and cloud space is dirt cheap compared to maintaining and upgrading services. Many software companies have moved away from selling software packages that have to be manually upgraded periodically. A lot of software released now is cloud-based, so that the experts can assure their customers have the most current version.

Best of all, you may be able to use this software from anywhere, which means you can work as easily from home as at the office, or if something happens to your office building, your business isn?t compromised. You can just shift locations elsewhere.

Accounting

Keep accounting costs at bay. This will ensure you meet deadlines and can avoid paying penalties and interest and take advantage of vendor discounts. Additionally, look at what it costs you to have an accountant do your bookkeeping. You may find it less costly to treat one of your reliable employees to an online accounting degree, and then move the accounting back in-house.

Price Shop

Never assume the rates you were quoted last year for things like cellphones, insurance, trash service, or landscaping are still the best rates today. Make it a practice to at least once a year shop around for a better price. Remember to compare similar services in your analysis or you may end up paying more.

Keeping your day-to-day operating costs low means analyzing each income statement line item and asking if that is the best you can do and still maintain a healthy work environment that promotes growth. Start with these five tips, but do not stop there. See what suggestions your employees have as well. They may surprise you.

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