Some people think it's impolite to talk about money. And those people, especially women, are usually underpaid.
To commemorate Equal Pay Day -- which is observed in April to indicate how far into each year a woman must work to earn as much as a man earned the previous year -- we partnered with Glamour magazine to tackle the topic of salary negotiation.
Glamour dubbed me the "raise fairy godmother" because I coached a group of women how to walk into the boss' office and walk out with raises. But in truth, there was no wand-waving involved: Everything that worked for them can work for you, too.
Keep this in mind: Men are four times more likely to negotiate first offers, which results in an average of $500,000 more in their paychecks by age 60. Don't miss out on money that could be yours simply because you're unwilling to negotiate.
Miral, software designer
Miral is a software developer who was making $65,000. She knew she was making less than colleagues in her field, and her boss promised to reconsider her salary at the end of the year. At that time, she completed a job that only she had the technical skills to handle. But the boss dropped the ball and didn't give her the raise.
Like so many women in this situation, Miral was nervous about rocking the boat. But this is business, not personal. She had to muster up her courage and ask for more money.
But first, she needed to research her market value. Then I told her to write down her talking points to the boss -- from the fact that she single-handedly aced the project that pleased the client to the fact that she's underpaid based on market demand for her skills. And to rehearse her pitch. It took a lot of prodding -- I knew she was intimidated -- but finally she did it, and I was so proud of her.
Result: Miral negotiated a $5,000 raise (or 7 percent -- double the national average) to boost her salary to $70,000, plus a $5,000 bonus.
Lindsay, art director
Making $40,000 as a junior art director, Lindsay was bored and frustrated, but in her entry-level position, she didn't think she had a chance to improve her situation. She was even thinking of leaving and starting her own firm.
Since I didn't sense a real burning desire in her to go the entrepreneurial route, I suggested that she consider all her options. Together, we came up with a two-pronged proposal for her boss: Promote her to art director and give her more responsibility.
Lindsay and I rehearsed the conversation she'd have with her boss so she would be fully prepared for her meeting. She was very nervous, but she was ready.
Result: Her boss agreed. Lindsay negotiated an incredible $20,000 raise for herself, plus the added responsibility she so wanted.
Kateri, administrative assistant
Kateri is an administrative assistant at a photo agency. When a colleague left, she wound up doing both jobs for the same money. She was reluctant to speak up because she had been at the agency for only eight months. Usually, asking for a raise before hitting the one year mark on a job is dicey. But the agency clearly had confidence in her because it gave her the extra duties.
The strategy for Kateri was to focus on fair -- you don't want to rip off the company, but you don't want to be taken advantage of either. I advised her to repeat the word "fair" in the meeting with her boss, as in, "I know it's been hard to fill the other job, so since I am working out so well, I'd like to be compensated fairly."
The "fair raise" pitch worked. Kateri received a 7 percent raise to $30,000 and a $500 bonus. Shortly thereafter, the boss hired a second assistant. So Kateri got the raise and got help.
The lesson to learn from all three women is that you have to ask for your due. You must believe in yourself and speak up for what you know you deserve.
When you go into the boss' office, there are three Rs to prepare for: Research what your job is worth in the market
Be ready to tell the boss the reasons you're worth the extra money
Rehearse your pitch so you'll appear confident and ready to respond to any opposition that is presented
And if after all this you don't get the raise, there's still hope. Don't pout since it'll annoy the boss and you'll never get more money. Instead, ask what you need to do to get that raise, and establish a mutually agreeable timeframe for achieving it.
For more information on how to get a raise, check out the May 2006 issue of Glamour, and to connect directly with Tory Johnson, visit womenforhire.com.