DR. WALLACE: How do I know if it’s reasonable for me to ask for a raise at my job? I’m in college and have been working a part-time job for about a year now. Over the course of the year, I’ve received one raise, but I still feel as though I’m quite underpaid for what I do. I put a lot of effort and energy into my job, and I try to do everything with excellence. In fact, I often find myself thinking that if it wasn’t for me, not as many things would happen effectively and less success would be achieved.
There’s a reason that I’m hesitant to press this issue, however. My boss is a penny-pincher through and through, and I feel like since he already gave me a modest raise at the very beginning of this year, he wouldn’t appreciate me asking for another one. On the other hand, since then my hours have increased, and my responsibilities are now way beyond what I was doing back in January when I received that modest increase.
I’m paying to put myself through college and with all of the daily expenses I’m responsible for, I really could use some extra money. Should I even bother asking for another raise or will doing that only leave me feeling embarrassed, and potentially cause my boss to view me unfavorably? — Underpaid Worker, via email
UNDERPAID WORKER: There is nothing wrong at all in asking for a merit pay increase in your situation. Your hours worked and your responsibilities within the business have increased dramatically since January.
Of course, no matter how you ask for a raise it might still be declined, so I’d think about how much you enjoy this job and how attached you feel you are to it. Do some research to see if you qualify for similar jobs in your area and check out what the pay scales are at those companies.
Once you’ve done this, you’ll be in a position to evaluate both your worth as an employee and your marketability in terms of looking for another job if you elect to do that.
Your boss sounds like the type of person who likes to keep expenses down, perhaps even compulsively, almost via automatic reflex. To engage this type of individual successfully, you need to present your case with facts and statistics. Take that research you’ve done and show him what others in this industry are earning and then point out to him all you do during your average workday at this time. List all of the “new” responsibilities you’ve assumed in a nice, typed summary and explain that the modest increase you previously received was based on your work level back then and that now things have changed.
If you are fairly confident that you can find another similar job relatively soon, then you can definitely negotiate from a position of strength. Let him know that as long as you are fairly compensated, you would enjoy staying put and working hard alongside your colleagues. Have this meeting with him privately, away from other employees. This should be a private conversation between you and your boss only. Be confident and look him in the eyes as you document what you’re currently doing and what merit increase you feel you deserve.
In the end, he is a businessman, and this will cause him to go through a cost/benefit calculation as to your value to his company. If you are indeed quite valuable to him, he would be unwise to let you leave simply to receive fair compensation from one of his competitors. Hopefully, he’ll see your worth and do what it takes to keep you on board.
I HAVE A BOYFRIEND AND WILL SOON MOVE OUT OF STATE!
DR. WALLACE: My boyfriend and I have been together for about a year now. We started dating toward the beginning of our junior year and now we are approaching the end of our senior year in June. As college application season is underway, I am unsure of how our relationship will work in the future. I am mainly applying to schools that are out of our home state.
I am really interested in going far away from home and creating new experiences in a different environment. On the other hand, my boyfriend is attending our local state school so that he can still be with his family and save some money.
I am so excited for him and think that is a great option but do not know if we should attempt to do a long-distance relationship. Long distance seems extremely difficult as both of us are always very busy and it’s hard for each of us to have time throughout the day to get a phone call or text as it is now! We do get some alone time each weekend now, which has been what keeps us happy and together. But going forward, those weekends won’t exist except potentially on school breaks, which are few and far between.
I am worried that this may taint my freshman year college experience but obviously I still want to be with him now and over the summer if he still does, which seems to be the case. What should I do? — Going Out of State Soon, via email
GOING OUT OF STATE SOON: As you are each about to graduate high school, I’d guess your ages to both be at or near 18. You’ve spent a couple of good years together, so you do have a good foundation for a long-term relationship.
However, as you’ve stated, things will dramatically change this upcoming September. I suggest that you don’t wait until there is only a week or two until you go off to school to discuss this with him.
Take the time you have this summer to engage him in several deep, long and open conversations about this topic. Be realistic, but also open about your feelings. Encourage him to do the same. It could be that the two of you will gradually drift apart and wish to date others. However, some couples can pull off the long-distance arrangement. It takes a lot of fortitude, strength and mutual cooperation to pull it off successfully.
Hopefully these conversations will help the two of you to determine the best course of action for each of you individually, and the two of you collectively.
Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. Email him at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.