Raise: How to Get One


A lot of the threads around this subject date from when the economy was bad, but people are hiring now and I'm looking for some advice about how to achieve the salary I think I deserve - at my current job or somewhere else. I'll spare everyone the longer-winded version of the story but I've been placed on a project where I'm doing my own work and that of someone way above my pay grade as a way for the firm to recover from a major hit they took on the project early on. I'm also doing the work well and the project has become a (albeit slightly) profitable one, as compared to the hemorrhaging dumpster fire it was last year. I'm paid okay-ish if you judge solely by years of experience, but the fact is I'm doing the work of someone much senior. So I ask HR for a raise.  HR says they can't do anything about it. So I ask my boss directly, explain how much work and responsibility I've taken on, talk about results, and point them to the numbers. They tell me that the firm never gives raises outside of the appointed yearly cycle. What? I've never heard that from an employer and don't even believe it's true. I don't want to have to go find another offer for leverage, but is that what I should do? I am also loathe to go start over at another firm after a relatively small stint at my present one, but I've lost any confidence in my employer and the potential they will do right by me - ever.

Mar 2, 19 9:04 am

Moving on is where substantial raise increases can be found. Are you sure you are doing the work of someone much senior? Many senior folks don't even work on the day to day aspects of design and document development, that is for junior staff. They take complaints and smooth over mishaps, find new work, negotiate deals, solve problems that you might not even be aware of.

Mar 2, 19 9:21 am

Smoothing over mishaps is what I've been doing. I'm not saying I'm doing the most senior work in the office. New work, negotiating deals is what my principals do. But there are a lot of levels in between that and my billing rate. I'm just doing the work that was scheduled for an architect senior to me to do. 

Mar 2, 19 9:36 am

As an intern I met the description for Assistant Principal and no one denied it. But there are always politics. To negotiate pay, use the AIA salary info. Use data and facts.

I’ve been in the middle of this myself recently. I got the same response that they won’t discuss salary adjustments except for during the annual review period, unless they are making a counter offer. Seems stupid from a standpoint of managing people, but probably the smart response from the standpoint of managing the bottom line ... why pay more for something when you’re already getting it for less?

When they tell you that you have to go find another firm to want to hire you so you can get more at your current firm, what it tells me is that they don’t respect you and you’re better off leaving for the other firm. Probably a flawed analogy, but could you imagine the same scenario with people who are dating? Yes I know we’ve been dating for a while now and that you want to get married, but I’m not going to offer a proposal until you go out and get a proposal from someone else.

Mar 2, 19 10:02 am

You should start looking, raises are not likely to come your way unless you have an offer and then come back with a counter offer you would need to stay where you are.  I would also look into the history of the firm. Do they often have projects that go over budget? If so they probably don't have the means to give you a raise.

Over and OUT

Peter N

Mar 2, 19 10:12 am

As an employer I wouldn't ordinarily consider a raise based on someone's performance on one project that's still in progress.  From the sound of it you've stepped up into a role with much more responsibility - but you're fairly new to that role.  I wouldn't yet have a full picture of how well you will continue to do on a sustained basis (just a few weeks ago you were writing about feeling career burnout - if I was your employer I might sense that and want to see whether you've got the stamina for another few projects), or even how well this project will ultimately wrap up (and how much in the black). I try to avoid out of turn raises - certainly it's better for budget planning and cash flow to determine all raises at end-of-year review time - but there are exceptions.  If you feel you can't wait until the end of the year to discuss the situation again, I'd advise giving it at least another 6 months, or perhaps timing your discussion to follow substantial completion on that project. Approach that discussion with examples of measurable results - not how much more work you're taking on, but how much you've improved profitability, productivity, and/or client satisfaction - and have quantifiable examples.

I don't do counteroffers at all - that whole situation tends to poison the relationship with that employee.  If they're unhappy enough to be at the point of getting offers from elsewhere then I'd prefer that they move on.  It's not a situation that I want to throw money at.

Mar 2, 19 2:51 pm

Completely agree with your first paragraph. Depending on project type, it could take over a year for poor work to finally surface. Perception of work executed well is different from delivering a project completely. OP needs patience here. Slightly disagree on your second paragraph. If someone is hard to replace, your approach would become more pragmatic.


You both make good points. The product is the building and not the set. Although I would hate to think that my employer is testing how much I can take before total burnout. I definitely don't have the stamina for another few projects like this and am hoping this is just an unusually bad situation. My guess is it is, which is why everyone else has found some way to remove themselves from it.


Use the experience gained to get that raise somewhere else.

Mar 2, 19 3:04 pm

If you're going to jump ship I'd advise waiting until after your project wraps up.  Get the full experience, all the way through CA if you can, so that you have that experience to bargain with.  Leaving in the midst of the first project you're managing isn't going to be that easy to spin to prospective employers, and may give them the idea you're likely to do the same to them.

Mar 2, 19 3:12 pm

The end of the original post is a little dramatic:  you've lost all confidence in your employer forever?  You've been there a short-ish time and, by your own assessment you're being paid relatively well for your years of experience, and this is the first project where you've had these new responsibilities.  Given those circumstances I think you come across as a little unreasonably impatient. 

Your new role is the kind of thing for which I'd expect you'd be recognized in your next annual review, assuming you keep up the same level of work until then.  Or some firms do hand out performance bonuses at the ends of especially tough and/or profitable long-haul projects, though not usually until the project is closed out. Maybe something like that will pan out.  But either way it doesn't sound like a situation warranting losing all confidence in the employer forever, quite yet.  You could very likely move on to another firm at this point and get a higher salary, though at this stage of your career it might be better for you to stick out this project for its full experience.  Also it sounds like you've only got about 6 years of experience total and at least 3 jobs during that time, so holding on to one for at least a few years might help keep your resume from falling into serial job-hopper territory.  I'd try to have some patience with your employer and see what happens after the project is done or your next review rolls around.

Mar 2, 19 3:40 pm

Perhaps. I can see how it might come across that way. I'll say that my reservations may also be due to feedback I hear from other people at the office. If I were the only one having similar feelings I might consider more seriously what my role in the situation is. I've also stayed in jobs for several years in the past in bad situations that I hoped would get better, or leadership would eventually recognize my hard work, and because I didn't want to come across as a malcontent job hopper. No magical change ever occurred after year 2 or 3 where a toxic or dysfunctional office turned around and my situation became more bearable or better rewarded. 

Regardless, I do want to see this - and other projects - through CA. That is, after all, why I became an architect. To see buildings get designed and built. I think I'll stay put for now. There are many things I like about the job and even though I could probably get a higher salary, who knows what else I might get with it. 

Mar 2, 19 5:11 pm

only way to get a decent raise in this profession is to quit. You know how much I got for a raise when I got licensed? 0. Went to a new firm and got a 20% raise! 

Mar 2, 19 8:35 pm

25% here

Used my licensure and other responsibilities I’d taken on to get 20% at my current job last year. Looking to jump ship and go somewhere else soon. Hoping I can get something like
30-35% doing that.

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