If you’re a regular office worker in an ordinary job in Singapore, your annual increment is probably not even keeping pace with inflation. If you keep at your job for the next 30 years, you can probably expect to participate in the HDB’s Lease Buyback Scheme.
Larry (not his real name), a 30-year-old web designer, refused to accept the above fate. Thanks to a combination of guts and guile, he managed to make the jump from a $1,800 starting salary in 2009 to $4,500 in 2013.
While he has since left to start his own business, he shares with us some of the secrets to raising a less-than-stellar salary.
1. If You Don’t Ask, You Don’t Receive
In Larry’s first job after graduating with a degree in multimedia, he was a web designer in a business and web consulting firm. He snagged the job in 2009 when the economy was still struggling to recover from the financial crisis and was offered a starting salary of $1,800.
“During the interview, I admitted to the interviewer that the salary was a bit lower than what I was willing to accept and asked if they would be willing to raise my pay when the economy started doing better,” says Larry.
Just 6 months into the job, Larry bit the bullet and asked his boss for a raise. Because he had expressed his concerns about his salary during the interview, his boss wasn’t taken by surprise and agreed to raise his salary to $2,300.
“I realise that 6 months was a bit short. But I had been working hard and receiving positive feedback, plus I was prepared to leave if they refused to increase my pay. So I had nothing to lose.”
2. Look Out for the Right Time and Opportunities
When Larry convinced his boss to increase his salary to $2,300, the economy was improving rapidly.
As his boss had cited the economic downturn as the reason for his low starting pay, Larry seized the opportunity to ask for a raise the moment things started getting better.
“While your wages might be depressed when a company is not doing well or when the economy is sluggish, do all you can to help your company through the tough times—and then don’t be too shy to ask to share in the success when things take a turn for the better,” he says.
3. Don’t Divulge a Low Last-drawn Salary at an Interview
After another year on the job, Larry decided it was time to move on to greener pastures in 2010.
At an interview for what was to be his next job, Larry was asked what his last-drawn salary had been.
Instead of providing the exact figure of $2,300, Larry said that his last-drawn salary was “around $2,500”.
He got the job at a salary of $2,800.
4. Take on More Responsibilities to Increase Your Value
Larry was still a web designer at his new job, but he began deliberately taking on more responsibility in other areas.
“I realised that I wouldn’t be earning that much if I continued functioning only as a web designer. So I decided to start learning how to manage projects. I told my boss I was interested in project management and started receiving work from the company’s project manager.
This helped me to negotiate a much higher salary in my next job.” A year later, Larry left his job to join another company. He told them his last-drawn salary was close to $3,000. As he now had some experience in project management, he was able to negotiate a salary of $3,500.
5. Don’t be Afraid to Move On
Larry sheepishly says, “You probably shouldn’t follow in my footsteps. I will admit that I job-hop quite a lot. I usually leave a job within 1 to 2 years. The yearly increments are really pathetic, like 3% a year, so it’s not worthwhile staying in one job for too long. Besides, many bosses don’t really appreciate your hard work, so don’t think that you will eventually get recognition if you stay on.”
In mid-2013, Larry got a job as a web designer and assistant project manager at a local university, commanding a salary of $4,000. He quickly realised that he was the only person in the office capable of managing projects, as the head of project management had no technical skills and was forced to rely on him completely.
At the end of the year, Larry asked for a raise and mentioned that he was thinking of quitting. “They knew I was the only one in the office who could actually manage the projects as the head of project management was totally clueless. They finally reluctantly agreed to increase my salary to $4,500,” says Larry triumphantly.
Have you successfully raised your salary? Tell us how you did it in the comments.