The Entrepreneur Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in America’s startup scene contribute answers to timely questions about entrepreneurship and careers. Today’s answer to the question, “How do you negotiate a raise at a startup?” is written by Vicky Oliver, a career development expert and author of 301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions.
You’ve reached the point where you feel overworked and underpaid at your startup, and you really want to ask for a raise. But startup revenues need to go back into pumping the engine, not compensating employees.
That’s why timing your ask is essential. Wait for a big influx of new business—especially if it’s tied to your performance—or when the company hits a big milestone. You may also want to consider other modes of compensation, like equity in the company or paid tuition for a course.
Put yourself in your boss’s shoes and try to evaluate your chances of procuring a raise—and then improve upon them. To position yourself for the salary bump you deserve, first ask yourself some questions: Are you already considered a star player on your team, or do you need to put yourself more in the limelight? Is your boss really aware of the tangible ways you’ve contributed to the company? And, most importantly, how critical are you to the company?
Unless you have a well-established track record of success, you may appear to be over-reaching. Make sure you’ve already made a positive impression through your hard work and impressive results.
I once heard that my company was going to delay raises by four months. I walked into my boss’s office with my list of accomplishments, and negotiated what my raise would be when I received it. I also asked whether, in the interim, the company would pay for me to attend a public speaking class.
That had a couple of real advantages. First, I would have likely enrolled anyway, so I saved money. Second, I gave my boss periodic updates on the class—like the time I won the Dale Carnegie pen for the speech I gave. My boss learned that I was improving my skills during the time while I was waiting for my raise.
Before scheduling your big sit-down, embark on a campaign to make your case and sell yourself to your superior. Then try out these six self-promotion techniques to position yourself for the salary bump you deserve:
Ride the elevator with an agenda
When your boss casually asks how you’re doing, use your moment under the fluorescent spotlight to position yourself as indispensable: “I’m walking on clouds because three clients have already commented on how well they like my redesign of the company website.”
Spread the good news with your colleagues, too, whether in the hallways or at the vending machine. Don’t worry about coming off as too much of a braggart. If you don’t promote your achievements, no one else will.
Take the initiative
Volunteer for a new project the nanosecond after another project ends. Stay up-to-the-minute about upcoming meetings, company initiatives, and new procedures, and become your boss’s go-to person. Commit yourself to whatever task you’re given, and make a point of going above and beyond.
Align your successes with your boss’s objectives
When boasting of your own accomplishments, think of ways that your boss can take your success and promote it to her higher-ups or clients. If the boss deserves credit for any part of the idea, mention it. If your hard work results in the whole team becoming more productive, say so.
Use eye contact to your advantage
Don’t look away or off to the side when promoting your achievements, or your boss may conclude that you’re not particularly proud of your performance. Instead, look her in the eye, turn up the volume on your voice so it carries, and speak with confidence.
Adopt your boss’s modus operandi
Every boss has his or her own style of communication. To the extent you can, try to mime your boss’s style. Is he a heavy emailer? Why not email him your good news? Or, is she more of a people person? Leaving a chipper voicemail may help signal that you’re a people person, too. Bosses tend to hire and promote employees in their own image.
Show passion for the mission
Replacing employees who jump ship is costly and time-consuming. Because of this, employers want to retain good people. If you show that you share the same passion and enthusiasm for the company’s mission as your entrepreneurial bosses who launched the company, and can deliver on their goals, they’ll consider you a keeper.