Negotiating A Raise As A Teacher – $11,000 Later…
You’re sitting across the desk from your boss. Why do they always make these chairs so uncomfortable? Your bosses chair looks like it was stuffed with phoenix feathers that have been blessed by a rabbi, priest, and a Tibetan monk. As your sitting and you can feel the sweat to start breaking it’s way through your pores, you realize that you can’t remember anything you were supposed to say. Something about the unique value you add to the company? Wasn’t there some email he/she sent about how well I performed on that one thingy? CRAP, I FORGOT MY QUARTERLY REVIEWS IN MY DESK! God, I didn’t even know I could sweat down there… Welcome to negotiating a raise!
Sound familiar? Yeah, me too. Negotiating a raise is 100% never fun. Unless you’re the sick sonuvabitch that actually likes to negotiate. Side note: if you are, send me an email. I’d love to meet a rare creatures such as yourself. Anywho, this was me literally just a week ago. However, it was a great learning experience, and I was able to increase my salary by $11,000 working at the same job in the same city. Here’s how I did it:
Step 1: Collect your weapons
My salary has been something that’s been bugging me for a really long time. I made the move to Colorado Springs, and actually made $8,000/year LESS than I did living in the Rio Grande Valley. When you factor in cost of living, it was like my purchasing power had been cut by 60%. So I’ve had it on my mind for a really long time that I needed to get my salary number up more. I simply wasn’t being valued as much as other teachers in the area, who have close to the same experience level as I do. Negotiating a raise wasn’t something that I felt like I wanted to do; it was something I HAD to do. There was too much money being left on the table!
So, here’s what I knew: I knew that I was already a solid $5-10k underpaid as a teacher in Colorado Springs. Believe me, when you hang out with teachers, pay comes up A LOT, seeing as we’re a wildly underpaid profession for what we have to go through. But moving along… I also knew that I was underpaid for the position that I was in at my school specifically. My job was posted at $55,000 when I first applied, and I even found the contract that belonged to the teacher who held the job before me (she left it in the desk I used).
I also had her quarterly reviews (observations, in teacher parlance) and kept MY quarterly reviews. Guess who scored higher in his second year teaching than this woman in her 10th?
Yep, this guy.
Long story short, I knew the job, I knew that I performed it well, and I knew that others that performed at a lower level than me were being paid more than me.
In addition to having all this market information, I was also armed with a lot of really great leverage, in the form of 2 separate job offers, both of which paid five to ten grand more than I was making.
Key takeaway – Make sure you have a good reason to be having the “negotiating a raise” talk. You can’t just walk into your boss’ office and ask for an extra raise just because you feel like it. Well, I suppose you can, but I can’t imagine a world where you’re going to be successful. You need to have reasons (market data and leverage) that allows to you reasonably ask for the money you think is appropriate.
Step 2: Have a cold, hard look at what your outcome should be
This should come from your market data around what others are making for their job/level of experience, but much like in most areas of life, it’s going to help you to know what your goals are for negotiating a raise. Are you looking for an increase in salary? More time off? More professional development? More flexibility in your schedule? Better health care? More benefits like a 401k match, housing stipends, paying for your gym membership, etc.?
Yeah, bet you didn’t know that negotiating a raise could be so much more than just getting more in terms of salary. So before you dive into battle, make sure you have a good hard look at what you need/want in terms of your position.
For me, it was really simple: I wanted more money. And what’s more, I deserved to be earning more money, based on my discussions with other teachers and what was fair for the position. I didn’t need more time off because, let’s face it, I’m a teacher; I get more than enough time off. My day starts at 8 am and ends at 3:15, so I didn’t need daily flexibility. I’d love to have better benefits, but that’s something that’s very much outside of my principal’s control. So I was looking for at least a $5,000 raise.
That was the goal.
Key Takeaway – Don’t expect to achieve anything in negotiations without at least having some sort of roadmap giving you direction. Failing to plan is planning to fail.
Step 3: Strategize your leverage
I had a goal set up, and I had compiled lots and lots of data to support my argument. I also had two job offers at a higher salary. With all that in mind, I was in a VERY good position for negotiating a raise. But the question really isn’t what tools do you have at your disposal. The question really boils down to HOW are you going to use them?
Years of teaching middle school kiddos will eventually harden even the softest of teachers, and with the result that I originally thought that a “Go in with guns a-blazin'” might be an appropriate tactic. But after having a very frank conversation with my girlfriend, who is MUCH smarter and cooler-headed than me, I opted for a softer approach.
Back in April I spoke to my principal about my competing job offers, and was very careful to make sure that I wasn’t holding it over her head, but also that she understood that I was being more valued by other schools. She had a right to know that I had two other job offers that both had a huge increase in salary for me. Unfortunately, at that time she wasn’t able to give me accurate figures for the upcoming budgetary year, and I left the meeting without really knowing what next year held in store for me.
Fast forward to June, and I needed to know if my next school year was going to be with them or with another school. So, I decided to lay all the facts out on the table, and surprisingly got a great response from my principal. She stated that she knew I was a good teacher, but she needed to bring in the assistant principal before she gave me a final number. But at this point, I had the previous teachers contract, my quarterly reviews that basically said I was a better teacher, and she knew I had other offers. This was a great position to be in.
Not that I wasn’t nervous and sweating profusely. Because I ABSOLUTELY was. Kinda gross, to be honest…
Key Takeaway – Having leverage is a great tool. Knowing how to use it is what’s going to make you successful in negotiations.
Step 4: Mount your steed and head into battle
This one is pretty simple, but you need to make sure that your boss is going to take this negotiation as seriously as you do, and you can’t do that while in passing, or while you’re hanging out at the water cooler, or as they’re heading to a meeting, etc. My principal very much understood that this had been on my mind for months, and therefore blocked off a solid chunk of time (20 minutes or so) for us to have the conversation. Also, in negotiating a raise, or better benefits, or more time off, be sure that this is being held in private behind a locked door. You don’t need anyone walking in on your personal information.
Key Takeaway – Plan a time to have the conversation, in private, with your manager.
Step 5: Swing your battle axe like Thor on Bath Salts
Yeah, ok, so obviously I wasn’t THAT intense, but I like to think I got pretty close. First of all, I really do hate confrontation (though I find myself getting better at handling it the longer I teach… weird). But I was sure to take a few calming deep breaths, and make sure that I checked my tone at all times. After all, just because I was negotiating a raise didn’t mean I had to be a jerk. I never feel like I have to act apologetic when laying out facts, and frankly, I wasn’t. But I tried to be sympathetic to the fact that my current principal walked in to a goddamn mess of a school, in terms of culture, data, and staffing. It’s not like I was going to walk in and demand $100,000. That just wasn’t going to happen.
No, instead I did exactly what I said I was going to do with my leverage. I laid out all my data, laid out the number, and explained why I thought I deserved it. But here’s the weirdest part…
Key Takeaway – You are your strongest advocate; never lose sight of the fact that no one will fight as hard for your interests as you will.
Step 6: Come to an agreement that aligns with your desired outcome
My assistant principal and my principal both said a number that was 100% in line with my expectations. In fact, this number was exactly $11,100 above my current salary. Here’s the signal they sent me in that number:
- We’re not fucking around. We want to keep you and we’re not going waste time by trying to lowball you to death.
- We’re understand that you do a tough job (this is true; I did 6 people’s jobs this year) and as such, you deserve to be appropriately compensated for it.
- We VALUE YOU!
The last one is really the biggie, because at $45,000, I didn’t feel valued at all. In fact, I felt more like a warm body then anything else. And frankly, if you’re going to pay something to just be a warm body, why in the fuck would I go above and beyond to impress you? So you can give me a raise and let me think that I EARNED it as opposed to deserving it because that’s what the market dictates?
I don’t think so, boo boo.
The minute that they came out with $55,600, I knew we were done. That’s an amazing salary for a teacher, and that’s something that really demonstrates to me that my leadership team has a firm understanding around what keeps teachers AND makes them feel valued as professionals.
Key Takeaway – In most negotiations, you’re going to have to fight until you get to one of your desired outcomes. Don’t stop until you get there!
Step 7: Shake hands and take your wounded
To be honest, there wasn’t much left to discuss. So I just gave them my plans for next year, and made sure that I heard the number correctly (I was FLABBERGASTED). I thanked them both for their time and was on my merry way.
Normally, this would be the part in the negotiations where you at least one party leaves somewhat distraught in some fashion. I mean, how do you know if you asked for enough? Maybe your negotiation took a few hours longer than you wanted. Maybe your boss was less than impressed than you fought over $500. Maybe your boss thinks that they should have low-balled you a little harder at the beginning.
But sometimes, it just happens to work out. Much like it did in my case.
Key Takeaway – Try to remain as professional as possible, even if you don’t win out in salary negotiations like I did.
Negotiating A Raise… As A Teacher – The Wrap Up
To be frank, my negotiations could have gone a lot worse, and in the past they have. I’ve tried negotiating a raise in salary and gotten absolutely no where. But if you follow the steps above, and stick to them, you should be able to get yourself a hefty raise, depending on your situation. Again, don’t forget to:
- Collect your weapons – You need to have a good, solid reason(s) to ask for a raise. Simply wanting one won’t do, back up your argument with data.
- Have a goal – Make sure you understand where you’re trying to land. Otherwise, how could you possibly hope to get there?
- Strategize your leverage – Is your boss the kind of person you can simply bring a bunch of other job offers to? Or are they going to get offend and tell you to F.O.? Your leverage may be strong, but you have to be sure that you’re using it appropriately.
- Mount your steed – Plan a sufficient amount of time to have the conversation with your manager
- Thor, Bath Salts, etc. – Breathe deep, and remember: No on is going to advocate as hard for yourself as you will. Don’t take “no” for an answer the first time, and embrace the tension; it’s not going anywhere.
- Come to an agreement that aligns to your outcome – See #2.
- Shake hands – Hopefully your negotiations worked out. If not, still do your best to remain cordial, even if your boss spent hours trying to screw you out of money you think you deserve.
Do you think that negotiating a raise as big as this as a teacher is reasonable? For the teachers out there, do you think you could pull it off? What are some of the negotiating successes you’ve had in the past? Comment below!
- The Seven Steps to Avoid Being a Money Moron
- The 7 Vegetarian Meals That Are Saving My Budget
- How Much Is Half A Million Dollars?
- The 10 Best Finance Books Money Can Buy
- 9 Credit Score Hacks You Must Know
- Why I Never Want To Retire
- The Laziest Way to Riches – Investing In Index Funds
- Budgeting Basics – Allocating $$$ Like A Boss
- Fuck You, Frugality
- Why A Million Budgeting Tips Will Never Be Enough
Keep trying to crack the code,
Follow me on social media!