Stop Getting a 2% Raise - Smart Money Seed


Stop Getting a 2% Raise

We all want to work less, be our own boss, and make more money. Everyone wants to get out of the rat race that is our day job and start doing something we truly love and get paid for it.

While we can certainly strive to be our own boss, let's be honest; many of us are going to be in the working world for years to come, and that's not a bad thing! There are many careers that not only challenge us to grow as individuals, but are also very fulfilling and rewarding. To keep your bank account happy and to make saving for retirement easier, however, you're going to need some raises. Here are a few steps to ensure your paycheck gets a little bigger each year.

1. Find Something You Enjoy

Even if you don't love it, you need to find something that you like more than you hate. It might seem obvious, but so many people get stuck in professions they hate and just sacrifice 40+ hours a week to collect a paycheck with a nominal 2-3% raise each year. To get a raise or promotion, you need to intrinsically motivate yourself, and in my experience it's pretty difficult to motivate yourself if you don't like what you're doing. 

I am a very competitive person, but if I'm playing a game I don't care about (usually some Disney game that Rosie makes me play) I care much less about the results. If I'm playing Alex in MLB The Show, however, I want to kick his ass by 10 runs. For many people, I think this holds true for work. You need to find something you enjoy in order to find that intrinsic motivation.

Finding something you enjoy is sometimes a little easier said than done. If you're anything like me, sometimes you have no clue what you like until you've actually tried it. My recommendation to overcome this obstacle is to seek diverse experiences. While most companies probably won't let you switch jobs every few weeks, I doubt there are any rules about getting involved and networking. Find out if your employer has any resource groups you can join or simply ask a colleague from another department to grab a cup of coffee. Exposing yourself to broad groups of people across your company not only gives you a better understanding of the enterprise, but it also builds an extended network that can help you transfer to that position you might enjoy.

2. The Little Things Matter

Once you find something you like, you're naturally going to going to tackle the big projects with effort and dedication. If you're craving a steak and you pick up a sirloin from the grocery, you're going to focus on cooking that steak to perfection with just the right amount of seasoning. But what about your side of mashed potatoes or vegetables? Are you using the same attention to detail to make sure they are prepared with excellence? That's the difference between good restaurants and great restaurants, and if you want a raise, you need to pay attention to the side dishes, too.

So, how do you pay attention to the little things?

Check your work. You're right, this sounds like a very basic step, but it cannot be overlooked. Once you've completed an assignment one of the most satisfying feelings is crossing it off your to-do list, but don't let that rush you into sending off that PowerPoint slide deck. Take a step back and go for a quick walk to the drinking fountain or read a few emails; anything to clear your mind of the project. Come back with a fresh palate and scrutinize those slides with magnifying glass. Have you checked for mistakes you've made before? Are there any careless errors? How does the formatting look? Sure, we're all going to a make a few errors from time to time, but the important thing is to learn from the mistake and ensure it never happens again. So cliche yet so damn true.

"The reward for work well done is the opportunity to do more." - Jonas Salk

A Quick Rant

There's nothing worse than telling someone you don't care about their problem and that you have better things to do. Not only is that bad office politics, you're just being an asshole. Sending an email littered with typos is telling your recipient you don't have time for them, and if you don't proof read your emails, you might be an asshole and not even know it. Please, take an extra 30 seconds and check for mistakes. What if this email got forwarded to an executive? Are you using the right tone? Show your recipient that you care and send them something that is mistake free and easy to understand.

Note: this rule applies regardless of the recipient, subordinate or superior.

3. Solicit Feedback

Everyone thinks they deserve a raise, but ultimately only one person determines if you're worthy of more cash: your boss. You may think you've crushed your last few projects and a promotion is on its way, but what if your boss thinks that last PowerPoint presentation was only average? It's crucial that you align expectations with your boss, so don't be afraid to ask for some feedback. Here are a few questions I like ask my boss and/or co-workers from time-to-time:
  • How would you have handled this situation?
  • What should be my top priorities right now?
  • What are my biggest areas for improvement?
  • Who could I benefit from shadowing or working more closely with?
  • What are the next steps I need to make to be ready for a promotion?
Don't just wait and ask these questions at your annual review; by then it is too late. There are small moments everyday to gain bits and pieces of feedback. Don't take these moments for granted.

So, what's in it for you?

Cash, plain and simple. Don't believe me? Here's a quick example.

If you have a starting salary of $30,000 and get a 2% raise every year, you'll be making a little over $54,000 after 30 years. But if you're able to get a 4% raise each year, you'll be making over $97,000 in 30 years. That's quite a difference! In case you're curious, the average annual raise over the past years in nearly all industries has been close to 3%.

Obviously there are many other factors at play, but the point is simple; consistently bigger raises make a huge difference to your salary over time.

Cash isn't the only benefit to landing those big raises though. If you're able to find a job that you can rock, chances are you're going to find more pleasure and fulfillment. So don't waste any time, get out there and start getting those big raises today!

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