Look in the mirror and repeat after me.
I deserve a raise.
One more time.
I deserve a raise.
At this point, you're may be asking yourself, "Why do I deserve a raise?" You want reasons? There are plenty. But on the off chance that you can't come up with any, here are a few solid reasons why you most certainly do deserve a raise.
Are you ready? Here they are.
1: Endless hours
One thing HR most likely doesn't realize is the number of hours you put into work... outside of work! The IT job doesn't end when you walk out the door. Oh no. Instead, you wind up spending countless hours in front of a monitor researching, growing your skills, or remoting into company servers to prevent something (or someone) from ruining the coming days or weeks. If it weren't for your late night keyboard-cowboy antics (all of which go unpaid), your company's uptime could be seriously (and negatively) affected.
2: Unique skills
Nearly every IT pro has a unique skill, something that either no one else in the company has or no one else has fully mastered. It may be Linux, Android, COBAL, IT forensics, security, routing, dealing with irate clients, a knack for handling remote sessions with grace and ease... you get the idea. This skill is the hand with which you can raise the stakes. Don't let those above you forget you hold an important key to the continued success of that particular aspect of the company IT infrastructure.
Because of the vast amount of jobs available in the field of IT, there's a significant amount of attrition. An employee will get his or her first gig, work it for a year or two, and go on to find a job that pays more (or offers better benefits or hours). This is fairly common and means one thing—those who hang on for the long haul get seniority. Your dedication to the company, and not searching for the Bigger, Better Deal, is a powerful bargaining chip with the powers that be. Retraining employees is a drain on resources. There's a significant benefit to keeping you around. HR knows this. Now you do.
You will wind up working with others who have significantly less experience than you. If I've learned anything over the years, it's that life itself is one of the best instructors. There are things that classes and textbooks simply cannot teach you. That experience you have in your pocket is invaluable. Make sure your boss understands how your experience helps you do your job at a more efficient and reliable level and benefits the company in many intangible ways.
5: Profit machine
This is pretty simple, but it's a gamble. If there's one thing HR and management understand, it's bottom line. They also understand that their bottom line lives and dies at the hands of the IT department. You are, effectively, a profit machine for them. Without you, that bottom line might wither and die. The gamble is that you could easily come off as arrogant if you said, "I am your profit machine! Pay me!" But if you play this card humbly, you should be able to manage that pay raise. Play it boastfully and you could find yourself in the unemployment line.
There have probably been a number of major projects that succeeded thanks to you. A major server migration, the hardening of your network, single-handedly coding the tool your fellow employees depend upon. Those successes are crucial to your bid for gaining compensation. Go into your meeting with a list of projects you've completed,—and be ready to explain how they've directly benefited the company.
There are some people in IT who have the personalities of Cat 5 cable. Those employees tend to work in the background and interact more with C# than with other humans. You, on the other hand, rise above the crowd when it comes to interacting with people. This means you can walk into a client's office and charm folks into being okay with an extended deadline or even convince them to buy that $10,000 server. That is a priceless skill. It can't be taught. Use that charm to your financial gain.
8: Role model
There are always one or two IT workers whom the rest of the department admires. For whatever reason, those co-workers look to that person as a role model. If that's you, you couldn't ask for a better bargaining chip. That intangible quality translates from job to job and it's not a learned skill. It's an "it" factor you either have or you don't. Having a positive role model (especially for younger staff) is something your boss(es) depend upon in the daily grind. Don't be afraid to use that status in your quest for more pay.
9: Institutional knowledge
If you've been around long enough, it's possible that no one knows the landscape of your network and servers as you do. Although it's your responsibility to see that others have access to this knowledge, passing down that information takes time. If the company wants to make sure that this knowledge is available, you might wind up having to document... which takes time. And time is money. Make sure those holding the purse strings understand this.
10: Other opportunities
At some point in your career a bigger, better deal is going to come along. If your current company wants to retain you, it will have to up the ante or you're on to greener pastures. This is a powerful bargaining chip, but don't be disingenuous. If you don't have other offers, don't fabricate them. If those above you reach out to the offerer, your scheme could be outed. But if you do have other offers on the table, don't be afraid to use them.
What has worked for you?
IT is tough. It's one of the most stressful careers you could have chosen, and you deserve to be fairly compensated. Consider the items on this list and decide which ones apply to you. Then you'll be ready to go make your case.
Have you found ways to leverage your skills and experience to negotiate a raise? Share your experiences and advice with fellow TechRepublic members.
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Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.