Never Too Much
by Jeff Henderson·
If you are just starting out in your career, save this information for later. If you’re a veteran, be greedy now.
I talk about money a lot to folks because ‘we’ don’t really talk about money enough.
I mean real money. Not ‘breakfast before a business trip expense’ money but ‘the kid’s Ivy freshman year tuition bonus’ money.
The actual numbers are something you can find online or with your human resources department. The data is relevant for all hiring managers because they need a baseline with which to compete for services. They don’t pick a number out of thin air. They strategically find a number low enough to stay in business but high enough to keep a worthy employee satisfied. They need to balance that number across multiple employees and expenses against revenue streams that may be dictated by the talent they retain.
Your salary is a number in their machine.
Your frustration arises from a disconnect in output versus compensation.
The question: what is your expectation?
Whether it’s because of imposter syndrome or a healthy knowledge of self, I’ve had times in my career where I didn’t think I was worthy of a raise. I was making twice as much money as I’d ever imagine I’d make and doing the job I’d dreamed of since middle school.
I didn’t want to appear greedy.
That was unacceptable for a number of reasons.
First, when the stronger links on a team don’t request their industrially agreed upon wage, they artificially suppress the wages of the entire team. If the star on your team is taking less money, why would management pay anyone else more. ‘Pay me like you play me’ defines the revenue sharing model of the NBA. Pull everyone up and everyone will be a lot happier to work with.
Second, it’s easier to keep a steady promotional and financial growth curve than to walk in five years later feeling underappreciated. This gives management a chance to prepare short jumps as opposed to finding a big chunk that they had not allocated for.
Third, you’ll find out quickly if the job needs matches your skill level. Some jobs are $100k/year jobs. Perhaps you started the position needing to learn at $85k/year, but now you’re killing it day-in and day-out for $110k/year. Pushing for more money might not add up for the company and they may not have a bigger role available. The company probably is ecstatic to have a dedicated employee that they can trust for 10% over market value as oppose to training another person that may or may not live up to your amazingness. But they might not be thrilled at anything more. Then the ball is your court.
Fourth, and the most important to me over the last 10 years, is setting expectations for yourself.
Within the giant corporation I enjoyed my nice salary, but I knew they had more to offer. There were spreadsheets and roadmaps and planning and coaching that determined my trajectory. I’m certain there were fans who thought I deserved more and others that thought I should enjoy what I had.
The tricky part about Nike is not how powerful the engine is. What makes Nike bullet proof is that the individual roles and responsibilities are so tactical that it would take dozens of people to leave at one time for any particular group to struggle.
There might be five people working on a material overhaul that will save the company tens of millions. All five would have to leave for the program to fail. For most Nike people that isn’t clear because they believe in all of their teammates. Outside of the berm companies have one person juggling five projects that might save their company tens of thousands of dollars. Now if that person got the flu, the company might crumble.
So Nike may have never maximized my potential value because they didn’t need to. Therefore they should not feel obligated to pay me.
That said, they appear shocked to no end when someone is lured by a few more dollars and fresh outlook. The big corporation may even match the grandiose offer just to keep their competitors from getting fresh blood.
What I mean by expectations is that you may want to find the job that pays you double and triple what you currently make. You might have the skillset and the work ethic that matches that type of coin. You won’t know until you put more on your plate.
The funny thing is that you and your employer will quickly notice if your shoulders are caving from the added weight or if you’re just getting warmed up. If you happen to be doing well, that’s when the expectations kick in.
When I thought I was underpaid for a position I worked hard because my name was on it and I could use the experience to get something bigger. When I was paid what I thought was the right amount I continued to work hard and execute at a top level.
But when I thought I was overpaid I did everything in my power to prove to everyone that the compensation was well deserved. The belief is that athletes that are up for a new contract play better the season before the new deal. Not much is said after the contract unless they underperform with respect to expectations.
In the regular world, every year is a contract year. And every time I negotiate high I feel like our squad has something to prove. Amazing food is not enough when the main course is three figures. Everything about the experience has to be stellar. The expectations have already been set.
Most clients I’ve worked with have two priorities: what they want accomplished and what they want to pay. Most clients are only interested in the latter. My portfolio and interest usually thrive in the former because I see myself as a solution finder. If the scope of our work doesn’t result in a true solution, we don’t get to show people what can do and we will never get paid to maximize our skillset.
Once people invest real coin in you they will work harder to make sure they get their money’s worth. When I was an expat in Tokyo the cost of relocation was more than my actual salary. The
Employers use these concepts to their advantage as well. I know ‘you get what you pay for’ isn’t always true, but most of the time it is. When you land on that intriguing resume or portfolio, fatten the deal and watch your new hire’s appreciation push them to earn that new salary.
Now I’m not advocating for anybody to ask for money they aren’t willing to earn. You can’t expect to charge $100 for that entree if you haven’t researched what goes into the other $100 entrees on the market.
What I am saying is that instead of getting a job that pays $X and hoping you grow by 2.5% over the next twenty years, find out what you need to do to get $3X, learn those skills and find an employer in need. That research starts with finding someone that makes $3X and having them mentor you.
In all, what we get paid is highly personal. A lot people measure their value on a monetary scale. They then project that judgment onto others. Whether you’re looking for a 5% raise or a generational wealth conversation, I applaud those that dive into the deep pool and bust their behinds to figure it out later. There are cultural and historical powers that warn some of us not to bite off more than we can chew or to be grateful for even having a job.
Push yourself to do more. To be more. What you may think of as greedy today may become your new normal tomorrow.