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Ask For a Raise

Janahan Sivaraman
Janahan Sivaraman
2 min read
Ask For a Raise
Photo by Travis Essinger / Unsplash

With inflation skyrocketing, getting a raise could mean the difference between keeping a roof over your head and being homeless.

So I start every 1-on-1 with this question: “When’s my next raise?”

I wasn’t always like this.

For the first 5 years of my career, I wasn’t promoted once.

Even after learning how to give my all, I still wasn’t promoted. In fact, I was let go twice.

After that 2nd termination, an old friend shared a leaked a memo from Google that completely changed my perspective on work and compensation.

The Leaked Memo

Their plan was to save $3.2B/year by reducing the average level of a Google Engineer from 4.6 to 4.2. I couldn’t wrap my head around how this would work.

The plan had 2 parts

  1. Promote Less
  2. Hire People with Less Experience

In the case of 1, it was unlikely that the scope of work would reduce but rather Google wanted more work done by someone without promoting them.

I had been indoctrinated to think that raises were a trailing indicator of my contributions.

But, raises are a dial which the company turns to achieve financial targets.

The leaked slide deck pulled back the curtain on reality - the correlation between work and compensation is spurious. Assuming the company has enough money, my raises were more tightly coupled with how effectively I could ask for them.

Since I started my 1-on-1s asking “When’s my next raise?”, I’ve been promoted 4 levels in 5 years.  

It clearly conveys to my manager where my motivations are.

I’ve increased my compensation 360% in those same 5 years.

I went from a mid-level Engineer to a Distinguished Engineer in 5 years by asking for it directly

I want you to get what you deserve. You’re already doing great work, you might as well get paid for it.

So I compiled my learnings into an essay titled How To Ask For A Raise.

The Performance Review Trap

Another trap people fall into is thinking that there exists a correlation between your performance rating and raises.

But one year I got an “exceeds expectations” rating and was terminated three weeks later.

Over the last 5 years, the only year I didn’t get promoted was the year I got an “exceeds expectation” rating. The other 4 years I got promoted, I got a “meets expectation” rating.

The Performance Review System at your job is a distraction.

If you want more money or a better title, ask for it directly.

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