There’s a persistent myth in Hollywood that you should accept whatever job you’re offered, at the rate that’s being offered, and be grateful for the opportunity. The myth continues once you’re in that role, that you should perform beyond expectations in the hopes that you’ll eventually get a title bump commensurate with your increased responsibility, and maybe that bump will even be accompanied by a raise, as long as you keep your head down and don’t make too many waves.
But the truth is, you have to do more than just earn your promotion or your raise. You also have to ask for what you deserve. While every company’s policies for advancement and increased compensation are different, here are some general principles you should follow to advocate for yourself.
Know your worth. Prepare a list of accomplishments you’ve achieved for the company or show. Where have you brought significant value? What are you doing that’s beyond the original expectations of your role? How have you gotten better at the work you’re doing? What knowledge do you have that a new hire replacing you wouldn’t? In some cases, you’ll want to show this list to your boss, but some bosses won’t read a long document, and instead, you’ll want to have it memorized, so you can cite examples of your work in a conversation.
Know what’s reasonable for your role. Research the current market rate for your position, both through your network, websites like Glassdoor, and tracking boards/Facebook groups. It’s illegal for employers to take action against you for discussing wages with your peers, so you can safely talk to your coworkers about their rates, too – this is one of the best ways to increase pay equity generally. If your peer with the same level of experience is getting paid more for the same work, you can and should leverage that information (especially if you think there may be unlawful discrimination involved).
Have a formal conversation. Getting paid appropriately for the work you’re doing is serious business, so it warrants a serious conversation. In our social industry, it’s easy to assume it’s best to have a conversation about raises casually, so you don’t ruffle any feathers with your ask. But that’s not going to be the most effective way to get what you deserve! Even if your boss is your friend, they still have a job, and that job includes caring for and retaining their employees. You’re not bothering anyone by asking for a conversation – it’s a perfectly normal and expected part of doing business. Ask your boss or the person in charge of pay for time on their calendar, and come prepared to the conversation as you would for any important meeting.
Make a plan for next steps. It may take some time for your raise to go through, so follow up regularly with your boss to check in on the status. Make it clear to them that you take pay very seriously – it’s okay to give off the vibe that you work for money, because that’s a very big aspect of work! Additionally, know that just because you ask for a raise doesn’t mean you’ll receive one. If you don’t get the bump in pay that you deserve, it may be time to move on to a role where you can negotiate a more appropriate salary. If you decide to stay because there are other factors keeping you at the company, ask your boss if there’s anything you can do to get a raise down the line, when you can revisit this compensation discussion, and mark your calendar to follow up.
Remember: You’re not volunteering, the work you do and the perspective you bring are valuable, and conversations about money are not taboo. You got this!
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
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