You’ve earned your degree or a stack of credentials, you’ve taken on more responsibility at work, and you’d like to advance at your current place of employment. Not only has your supervisor taken an interest in you, but has also offered you a promotion! One catch, the promotion does not come with a salary increase.

This may come as a complete surprise, especially now that you’re armed with a new degree or educational credentials you’ve paid for so you can continue to grow in your career and increase your earnings. In fact, in a recent survey, 39% of HR managers reported that it is common for employers to offer promotions without raises. With this in mind, it is important to understand that not all is lost and there are strategies you can use to your advantage.

First and foremost, do not feel the need to make a decision immediately. If you are sitting in a meeting with your supervisor and an HR representative and they’ve made an offer, it’s OK to request time to think it over. Thank them for the opportunity and for thinking of you, and agree on a timeframe for the three of you to meet to discuss the offer further.

Second, do your research. Just because you have not been offered a raise does not mean you should not negotiate for one. Jump online and start researching the job you’d be stepping into on websites like Payscale or Glassdoor to get an idea of what other organizations pay employees in similar positions. It’s possible you were well-paid before and the promotion would level-out your earning potential for this particular role, and you would be eligible for a raise with the next promotion. On the other hand, it’s possible your employer is betting you’re more interested in career growth and additional responsibility than you are in a pay increase. There is a balance here, and if you’re a newly graduated college student with new loan payments to consider, this is an important conversation to have.

If you conducted research and believe a raise is fair, decide the exact salary you will request. Your research will probably result in a salary range, so choose an exact number on the higher end of the range knowing you will most likely negotiate down.

Third, think about what you’ve contributed to the organization. Develop a “brag sheet” of projects, committees, additional responsibilities and duties, and other assignments above and beyond the requirements of your current role to demonstrate your value. Remember to focus on outcomes. No need to list multiple projects you worked on if they did not warrant tangible results for the organization. A shorter list of quality contributions means more than a long list of tasks that did not equate to much. This “brag sheet” will be a great tool for the follow-up conversation.

Fourth, consider the organization you work for and their current situation. If you work for a small organization, you may have a strong understanding of the financial situation and it’s possible that they are unable to increase your salary but want to keep you on the team. There are several ways to look at this: Are you passionate about the mission of the organization? Does working there give you a strong sense of purpose and make you feel like you’re contributing to something larger than yourself? Do you believe the organization has strong innovative leadership and a strategic plan working towards financial stability? Is the organization transparent in their financial situation and planning?

If you answered “No” to these questions, it’s possible that it’s time to look elsewhere for an opportunity that has long-term promise. If you’ve answered “Yes” to the questions, perhaps the lack of a raise is worth contributing to something you genuinely care about and giving the organization time to set itself right financially, then you can have the salary conversation later. Sticking with a team and organization through tough times makes you invaluable in numerous ways, and if you’re doing work that has a positive impact on the greater good it may be worth persevering and being a part of the comeback story.

If this is the case, consider other ways you may be compensated. What is important to you besides salary? Perhaps you can discuss additional paid time-off, or paid time-off specifically to volunteer, stock options, or professional development opportunities. Perhaps you can negotiate working from home a couple of days per week to save on commuting costs if that’s possible for your position. These options may help to support other priorities in your life while you remain at the organization.

Be prepared to hear “No.” You must consider this possibility and how you will respond. What if your employer is unable to offer compensation or additional perks with the promotion? This is where you must consider your personal situation. Can you afford a promotion without a raise? Would you be eligible for another promotion or raise, or are you required to wait for a certain amount of time? Do you feel, based on all of the above factors, that the organization values you? If you accept this promotion, do you anticipate looking for a new job in the near future that pays more?

Be confident in what you have to offer the organization and your field as a whole. If you’re fresh out of college and using this job to gain experience and build your resume, perhaps you might consider accepting the promotion and adding the additional responsibilities to your resume. You will be in a better position to negotiate a raise later or seek new opportunities at other organizations.

If you’ve been working in your field for a while and have a strong resume, perhaps it’s time to consider looking elsewhere. Do not use the meeting to give your supervisor an ultimatum. Let them know you appreciate the offer, however, you are disappointed with the promotion without a salary increase. Decide before the meeting if you will accept the promotion if the conversation goes this way.

Lastly, rehearse what you plan to say at your follow-up meeting. The conversation can be incredibly awkward, and if you have never negotiated a raise the process can be very intimidating. Write down the main points you plan to make and rehearse the conversation with a friend or family member. The more you practice out loud, the more comfortable you will be during the meeting. Feel confident in the research you’ve conducted and the fact that you’re being fair in your ask. On the day of the meeting, select an outfit that makes you feel strong and confident. When we dress well, we feel good about ourselves and that places us in a better mindset going into the conversation.

Remain professional at all times. Begin by thanking everyone for the opportunity, and for taking the time to meet with you. When the meeting begins, ask for the opportunity to begin the conversation. This allows you to set the tone because you requested the meeting, and you have an opportunity to share the supporting points you developed. Take your time speaking and responding to questions. Naturally, you will be nervous and your voice may even start to shake, but take a breath before you speak and gather your thoughts.

Remember, you would not receive an offer for a promotion if your work product wasn’t good. There are numerous reasons why you may need to negotiate a raise, but conducting research and preparing for the conversation goes a long way in helping things work in your favor. If the conversation does not go the way you hope, be prepared for how you will handle the outcome prior to the meeting. No one wants to hear “No,” and the idea of searching for a new job and making that kind of change can be intimidating and mentally exhausting. Remember, you are more than your job. You are more than a number on a salary scale in a job description. Your passion for your work, as well as your work ethic, translates to an organization that should value all that you have to offer. Organizations that work with employees to negotiate a plan when financial compensation is not feasible to convey a great appreciation and respect for their workforce.

Career Services Office at Unity College
As a student, as well as an alum, you always have access to the Career Services office at Unity College. Remember, we are here to help you navigate these situations. Please call, email, or stop by our office anytime for assistance!