YP: IRL - Young Professionals: In Real Life
This series arose after an experience I recently had with a fellow YP – or young professional – that I think we all could benefit from discussing. It went like this: “I want a raise,” she said firmly, sliding a paper across my desk with a list of google search results containing a graph and salary ranges for her job title.
This bright, entry level employee had been in the workforce for 10 years, and with our company a little over one year. She was killing it in her job and felt like, since she was producing as much (or more) than other employees who have been doing the job for 5 times as long, she should be compensated as much.
I used to feel that way, too – not out of entitled greed, but based on unrealistic expectations. Remember when we YPs were told when we signed our promissory notes for college that we would be making bank right out of the gate? We counted on making good money after college if we had any chance of paying back our student loans each month. Between our lightning fast pace and the financial pressures of post-college expenses, we can have a pretty hard time understanding why we aren’t making more money.
As a young professional, and an HR professional, I am here to give you a dose of reality. In this three-part series, I am going to share 3 realities about workplace compensation. So here we go:
Reality #1: When you Google an average salary, that’s what it is – an average. And you may not be including your total compensation when you’re comparing the numbers either.
When a YP wants to discuss a raise, as an HR professional, here’s what I say out loud: “Okay, let’s talk about it. What makes you think this Google Search is an accurate reflection of how you should be compensated?”
What I say internally: “And what do you think these silly compensation analysts are thinking when they prepare compensation plans for job offers? Don’t they realize that you can just google that stuff? Who cares about region, industry, market dynamics, or tenure, amiright?”
Listen, there are entire companies whose main service is benchmarking salaries and compensation plans based on many different variables in order to help organizations determine what is right to pay an employee for any given job in an industry and part of the country. The cost of living in California verses Alabama is going to affect the average salaries there, and the industry that you work in will affect that as well. A random google search for your salary will not accurately account for the variables of industry and location.
Most organizations are not just making up salaries and offering them randomly to whoever applies to try to “get the best deal” like you’d negotiate for a new car. Most likely, there is a compensation strategy with a salary range for any given job, and where you fall in that range is based on your education and experience. Even with your college degree, if that is a requirement to do your job, you’re still probably going to start in the lower range for compensation early in your career. That’s just the way it is, but it isn’t all bad, because chances are that you’re being compensated more than you recognize.
Have you heard about the “hidden paycheck?” This term talks about all of the additional dollars that a company invests in an employee that they may not think about behind the scenes. When you filed your taxes, did you see a dollar amount in Box 12? I’ve had employees come back and say that they never saw the thousands of dollars that showed up in this box, and I have to help jog their memory. How much of your medical/dental/vision insurance is paid for by your company? Do they make a contribution to a health savings account on your behalf? How about a 401k match? Any company-paid employee assistance programs, disability plans, or gym membership discounts? Add up those dollars and tack them on to your base salary to get a better picture of your total compensation, and you’re closer to an accurate number.
I’m not saying that a raise isn’t reasonable to ask for, but IRL: YPs should approach the topic with their manager by being informed, and a Google search does not help your case for a raise. It looks more like you’re rubbing your tech-savviness in everyone’s face and over-simplifying the way compensation works.
Watch for our post next week for Reality #2.
We want to hear from you! What are your IRL compensation questions?