How to get a pay rise
"Please, sir, I want some more."
Asking for a pay rise can seem as futile and daunting as Oliver Twist's plea for another serving of gruel.
According to Statistics New Zealand, employers doled out 2 per cent higher salaries in the year to the end of September. That's not too bad given it outpaced inflation, but it will definitely have left some with a rumbling tummy.
Here's a guide on how to earn a bigger dollop of porridge at your next pay review.
Put your hand up
You won't get any higher up the career ladder without being prepared to take on a bit of responsibility.
Madison Recruitment chief operating officer Julie Cressey says you first need to be clear on exactly what your role entails, and then ideally move above and beyond it: "For example, putting your hand up for additional projects or responsibilities."
Cressey works in the corporate world, but the same principles apply in any workplace.
While burger-flipping "McSlaves" are oft dismissed as no-hopers, McDonalds is actually a poster child for showing how you can get ahead under your own steam. About a third of Maccas' senior managers in New Zealand – including big boss Patrick Wilson - began as entry-level crew in its restaurants.
Is tidy facial hair or a freshly-laundered blouse really the key to career success? It sure beats slouching into the office with your stockings laddered or three days of stubble on your chin.
The old "dress for success" cliche has more than a grain of truth in it, depending on where you work.
Looking sharp is a must if you're in sales or financial services, but perhaps not so crucial for IT programmers or manufacturers.
Attractive people do tend to get paid better and promoted more often, but it's not about good looks:
"To me, I link it to conscientiousness," says Cressey. "If you take pride in the way you look, you often take pride in what you produce and your interaction with others- it just ties together."
The crunch time for inflating your pay packet usually rolls around during annual performance and pay reviews.
Jason Walker, managing director of recruiting company Hays in New Zealand, suggests doing some research beforehand to get an idea of how you stack up:
"This enables you to back up your request with evidence and demonstrate that the salary you are asking for is in line with current market rates."
Walker says you've got to keep your cool during the discussion itself. "Do not become emotional and do not talk of how much money you need, such as rising bills or mortgage repayments."
You might assume you need a competing job offer to gain any kind of leverage, but Cressey says it's not essential. "I think the best thing is to front-foot it with your manager," she says.
Rather than ambush them with a set of demands, she suggests giving a heads-up so they have time to think about it.
"Then go in armed with some clear commentary about why you think you deserve it."
Blow your own trumpet
"I see too many people who decide the only way to get ahead is to switch jobs," says executive coach and author Kathryn Jackson.
Approach your employer before jumping ship, and don't hold on until the annual review rolls around to do so.
"Don't just wait for people to value you- because you could be waiting a long time," says Jackson.
The key is having relevant conversations with your boss about what you've achieved, and how they would like you to improve, Jackson says. "I help people to work out: 'What am I bloody good at, and then how do I make sure everyone benefits from that- me included'."
But it doesn't mean you start copying your manager in on every compliment or client feedback.
"There's the genuine version, and there's the slightly over-the-top version."
Tootin' your own horn doesn't come naturally to everyone, but you have to stand up for yourself if you want to get a fair deal.
Shrinking violets don't always flourish in the workplace.
"If you look at studies and research, you'll probably find that somebody who has a fairly dominant, confident personality often gets ahead at work," says Jackson.
One such study found that men in particular with "disagreeable personalities" earn about 18 per cent more than the docile ones beavering away in the background. Based on the average wage here, that's about $8000 extra for essentially stomping around the office throwing your weight around.
But there's no point going for the whole Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde act. Jackson says you should really should feel like you're being "you" at work.
"If the only way to get ahead is to be really aggressive and domineering and boastful, and that's not really you, chances are you're in the wrong organisation."
Strength in numbers
The power and influence of workplace unions has fallen a long way since their heyday in the 1970s. Nevertheless, union membership is still worth considering.
"The bottom line is that unions are about people doing together what they can't do alone," says Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union organising director Rachel Mackintosh.
Employers generally have more power than workers, she says, so workers can even up the scales by bargaining collectively. Mackintosh says people who are collectively represented have better pay, going by figures from the last 20 years.
A wage of $10 in 1992 would have grown to $17.60 at the rate of collective agreement pay increases, but only $15.30 at the general rate for all employees.
The major issue unions face is that you don't have to join to benefit from collective bargaining, which becomes the standard for your workplace. But freeloading off your unionised brethren's work may be self-defeating. The smaller the collective, the less bargaining power it has.
Being the first one to arrive in the morning and the last to leave is a good way to accomplish more, as is cutting out personal phonecalls, long lunches or FaceBook addictions.
"If you're looking to move upwards it really is about personal discretionary effort," says Cressey. "I don't necessarily equate it with hours- I really equate it to doing an excellent job." That means knowing your role well, exceeding expectations, and subtly making sure your managers know that you're performing.
For some people, working harder may sound a bit too much like...well, hard work. In which case, you could always try creating the illusion of productivity.
One former lawyer made a habit of artfully draping a jacket over her chair when she'd gone home, so anyone walking past would think she'd just stepped away from her desk.
Otherwise you've just got to buckle down, be conscientious and firmly stand up for your own worth. Ask for more - it might just send another steaming hot serving of gruel your way.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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