I recently had the opportunity to be a speaker at a wonderful local EA group (shout out to the Fargo-Moorhead Executive Assistant Network!). The group asked me lots of great questions. One, in particular, stood out to me. I am going to share the advice I gave since it might help others as well.
Here's the question:
One of the biggest challenges is the annual review of an executive assistant (or any employee for that matter). First of all, I prefer to have feedback, good or bad, throughout the year. Secondly, I am always nervous about asking for more compensation, even though based on my experience, my job responsibilities, and the current market, I am underpaid. Can you talk about the best ways to ask for a raise?
I agree, asking for a raise is a nerve-wracking challenge!
First of all, I also prefer to have feedback throughout the year. Your regular weekly check-in meetings are a great time for this! (If you don’t have these scheduled with your executive, I have a detailed article on recurring check-in meetings that I recommend checking out.) During these meetings, you can ask for feedback on specific tasks. Also, I recommend letting your executive know that you’d like regular feedback in general. By initiating these conversations, you will help feedback become a more regular occurrence.
Alright, now to address the hard part: asking for a raise.
Essentially, you will be making a case. In order to make a strong one, you will need facts to back it up.
There are many sources you can pull together. There are two items in particular that are especially important: your accomplishments document and savings spreadsheet.
Your accomplishments document is where you record every single win, no matter if it's big or small. I recommend adding all of the details about the accomplishment while they are fresh in your mind. Generally, the main items to note will be the date and as many details about the item as you can remember. I also recommend including any classes taken, certifications received, and thank you notes. You can scan these supplemental documents or have a separate physical folder for paper items (whatever works best for you).
Your savings spreadsheet is where you record all of the money you have saved. A lot of executives have an accountant or finance team, so they might not be aware of ways you have saved them money unless it's pointed out. I recommend recording the following: the date, the item or service you saved money on, the company the item or service was purchased from, the total savings amount and any notes. This spreadsheet will give your executive a tangible way to see the value you have added over time.
I also recommend pulling your job description and recording all of the additional responsibilities you have taken on. More often than not, our roles grow so much that we end up with a job that looks nothing like the one we were initially hired to do! This demonstrates how much you do beyond your baseline responsibilities; there is a lot of value in that.
As mentioned in the question, it does help to know the current market rate. It can be tricky knowing a fair amount to ask for, so having that information can make it easier to come up with a target amount. However, don’t bring up what you heard other colleagues are making at your company; it will make you look gossipy and unprofessional.
There are several other items that I recommend keeping in mind:
Ask in person, if possible.
Be aware of your timing. This is something you might have to feel out. For example, if you notice your boss has been extremely stressed out lately or your company is still recovering from recent layoffs, you might want to wait.
Focus on the fact that you deserve a raise, not that you need a raise.
Write an agenda and give your boss a copy.
Rehearse how you will speak to each item listed on the agenda. (Do not wing this!)
Be confident but not aggressive.
Don’t give your boss an ultimatum unless you’re willing to walk away from your job.
Be aware that you might not get an answer right away. If this happens, establish a timeframe at the end of the meeting so you know exactly when you can follow up.
I know it can be nerve-wracking asking for a raise. Asking for more money is not an easy thing to do! However, with enough preparation, you can make a strong case and get the raise you deserve.
Have you asked for a raise before? What was the result? Please share in the comments below!