Words by Markham Heid
It pays to jump ship: Workers who stay with an employer an average of 2 years or longer tend to make 50 percent less during their careers than those who frequently move from one company to another, finds a report from the non-profit research firm Catalyst.
If you’re promoted within your organization, your raise is tied to your current salary. (In 2014, the average raise was 2.9 percent, according to a survey by HR consultant Towers Watson.) Move to a new employer, however, and your pay isn’t tethered to what you used to make.
You love where you work—but you’d also love to beef up your bank account. By wrangling an offer from another company, you can finesse a job-switch-sized raise from the people who currently sign your paychecks. Here’s the smart way to do it.
STEP 1: Flirt with Other People to Make Your Boss Jealous
Your employer is like someone you’ve dated for years: After being attached for so long, sometimes it feels like they take you for granted. Attract new suitors, however, and you’ll amp up your sexiness in your boss’s eyes.
It starts with raising your profile outside the office. Along with the obvious moves—regularly attending networking events and industry conferences—you need to be a LinkedIn superstar, advises Dan Schawbel, a personal branding guru and author of Promote Yourself.
Flood your feed by posting industry-related articles and insights every day, and comment on your connections’ posts—especially the people at places you might want to work, Schwarber advises.
LinkedIn offers recruiters special subscription-only search tools to identify job candidates. To increase the chances those search bots land on you, flesh out your profile’s “Summary” section, recommends Catherine Fisher, LinkedIn’s career expert. But don’t make yours a total snooze fest.
Most people simply copy the one-sentence objective statement from their resumes and paste it into this section, but if your summary is fewer than 40 words, you won’t appear in as many recruiter searches, Fisher says. Be witty and unforgettable, scattering in slick humble brags like, “I’m the only Top Performer in company history to face-plant on my way up to the award podium.”
Avoid the top 10 most overused, underwhelming buzzwords in LinkedIn profiles from 2014: motivated, passionate, creative, driven, extensive experience, responsible, strategic, track record, organizational, and expert. Enlist a writer buddy to help make the section sing, and pay him back with a sixer of beer.
STEP 2: When the Other Guy Calls, Lead Him On
Whether you’re contacted by a recruiter or another employer, “always, always, always” take the call, says career counselor Roy Cohen, author of The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide.
Regardless of where the conversation leads, establishing relationships with recruiters can pay off huge, says Eric Kramer, author of Active Interviewing. “They have reputations as headhunters, but they know everything about your field and competitors and salaries,” he says. “They can be your career’s best friend.”
Learning other salaries will help you benchmark what you currently make versus what the industry is paying, Cohen says. And this is super important to know: This exercise may not be worth it if you only stand to gain a 5 percent increase.
Be kind to your suitors, but project passive interest, Schawbel says. “Companies want to steal talent, not hire job seekers,” he explains. “Being too direct about your interest is going to hurt your appeal.”
Throw out a line like, “I’m very happy where I am, but I am interested to learn more about new opportunities.” Being coy will make you more alluring.
But the courtship changes once you’re invited to an interview. At that point, your objective is to make yourself as attractive as possible, even if you’re not particularly interested in the job. Prepare a 10-minute pitch that includes your relevant accomplishments, projects in which you’ve exceeded, and how much monetary value you’ve added in your current role.
Lots of candidates just answer questions, Kramer says, “but you can’t rely on an interviewer to get at what makes you special,” he explains. “Most interviewers are really bad at assessing talent, so you have to sell yourself.”
STEP 3. Talk Business with Your Boss
You’ve landed an offer. But before you take it to your employer, you have to think specifics, like the size of the pay bump you’d need to stick around.
“It costs about $20,000 for a company to replace the average millennial employee,” Schawbel says. You can find more insights into industry pay scales on GlassDoor.com.
Arm yourself with these numbers—and any you picked up from recruiters—and calculate what you’re worth to your employer. Factor in the costs of potential moves, your new commute, and other differences between your current and potential role to come up with a reasonable pay raise request.
Keep in mind that if a lot of other people at your company do what you do, your boss isn’t going to give everyone a huge bump. “That will limit how much he can raise your pay without also promoting you,” Kramer points out.
Once you have a fair number in mind, it’s time to approach your manager. Remember that pitch you put together for your job interview? Break it out again. In most cases, your boss will be going to his boss to ask for your raise, so you need to give him as much ammo as possible to justify a pay raise, Kramer says.
Don’t throw out an ultimatum like, “Pay me this or I walk.” You won’t bully your company into paying more than you’re worth, Kramer says. Instead, be straight with your boss: Say something like, “Listen, I don’t want to leave. But they’re throwing life-changing money at me. Can we try to meet in the middle?”
If your request is rational and you make it clear you’re doing what any guy would do—exploring new opportunities—your boss should be willing hit your number. But if he can’t make it work, the grass may just be greener somewhere else.