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Getting a Pay Rise in the Age of Lay-Offs
Gotta beat inflation somehow...
As well as saving as much as possible, planning to reach financial independence should include a plan to grow your salary as much as possible.
After many golden years in tech, times are getting tough. Talented engineers are being laid off through no fault of their own and, according to Blind, moving companies isn’t leading to the giant TC increases like it did previously (and that’s if you can find a new job at all).
It is not all doom and gloom though. If you are in the fortunate position to be not impacted by layoffs, it means you are likely in the right team at the right time, and your company sees value in what your team delivers. When times are tough, companies typically double down on the products they believe in and this should include the people.
Don’t be afraid to ask your manager this. Understanding how your team fits into the companies plans now that you’re running a little bit leaner is a great question. Also, understanding what their priorities are and what their boss cares about is a great way to understand how you can add even more value.
… And that leads us to the crux of this post. From speaking to colleagues at various companies, most are still doing annual salary reviews, but managers may have a smaller budget pot than in previous cycles. This means it is going to be competitive to get that raise. You can give yourself the best possible chance of success by doing three things:
Being the hardest worker in the room.
Delivering a ton of the right value.
Making your managers job as easy as possible.
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Being the hardest worker in the room
Japan is often criticised for its work culture where employees work long hours and stay until their boss leaves. However I have found that American companies generally love people who are simply present, even if they say they don’t. Being around early, staying later and volunteering to take the on-call pager are all often cited characteristics of a “team player”. This might be followed up with a comment of “don’t make a habit of it though”, but trust me they don’t mean it.
Of course, it’s even better if this extra time spent being present converts to more work delivered. I like to keep track of how many tasks I delivered in a week and try and beat it the next week. Its silly, but gamification like this can work really well for motivation.
Delivering a ton of the right value
Delivering value is ultimately your job as a Software Engineer, however not all value is equal. Being able to identify the projects that have the biggest impact to the company is a skill in itself. However, there is a really easy and often overlooked way to figure this out… ask!
Ask your manager, ask their manager, and if you have access, ask their manager too. The question can be simply “What’s the most important thing to our company right now that I could be helping with?”. Whatever their answer is, ensure you are working on something in this area and give the manager(s) regular updates on your progress. Ideally you should be doing this year round, but if you’re being more strategic, ensure you start doing this > 3 months before the review cycle opens.
Making your managers job as easy as possible
This has two facets. Firstly, see the delivering a ton of the right value section but apply this same approach to problems your manger is facing. Perhaps they are trying to gather data about something and could benefit from a little automation.
The second facet is making it easy for them to make a case for your pay rise. To do this, I make a document of all the things I have accomplished since my last review and share it with my manager. This can be tricky, especially for Brits who are not very good at bragging. The way I approach it is just to be factual. “designed, and delivered x project on time that reduced our churn by 5%”, for example.
Even if you do all of the above, there is sadly no guarantee of a pay rise. Manager’s really do have smaller budget pots than usual and may have been waiting to allocate it towards someone’s promotion, for example. Unlike previous cycles, I do not think moving around is the optimal move as job security is much more important than it ever was.
Did you get a rise this year? What tips would you add?
-The Fat Software Engineer