it’s your Friday good news

It’s your Friday good news!

1.  “I was headhunted for my current job as the only person in the world at the time to do what I do, and after 3.5 years received a raise that brought me to more than double what I had been at the old job. I really enjoy the people I work with (some of the best I have ever worked with), the culture of the company, and the work I do. However, earlier this year when raises came out, I was more than disappointed when my boss told me she was told there was no money for an increase for me. I knew other people were getting raises and was a little shocked that even with company-wide retention problems, there was so little effort to retain, well, me.

I suspected this was because I work in a very niche position in multiple shape widget making, and I have signed a non-compete that would preclude me from working at the very few competitors out there. What HR missed is that someone versed in multi-shape widgets is in high demand at single-shape companies because of their depth of experience, and most of those companies would not be considered competitors.

I immediately sent out resumes and within weeks, was talking to companies offering 30% increases in pay. Nothing was quite the right fit, and after months of stewing, I finally asked my boss if she knew any details about why I was left out of the budget. I explained that while I had initially thought I was slightly underpaid, I had realized that my salary was actually under industry offers by X amount. She asked how I knew, and I casually mentioned that I had been interviewing and these were the specific amounts I was being offered (while internally panicking that this would be the thing that made them fire me ASAP). After a few minutes of silence, she said she needed to talk to some people and get back to me.

I was shocked later that week to be offered a 44% raise, bringing me up to triple what I was making at the old company, along with a message that I am valued and most of leadership was horrified that I thought I was being nudged out. I’m so thrilled to be able to stay where the culture is great, the people are great, and now I have an opportunity to expand the number of shapes we’re making.”

2.  “Thank you for this blog, Alison. I wouldn’t be in the wonderful place I am now without it.

I felt very on track in 2018 to have my grad degree complete and a job in my field in hand by the end of 2019. But my thesis ended up being delayed by 15 months, by what I considered a bad student/advisor pairing (which my department’s chair kindly insisted was much more the advisor’s fault and much less mine.) The delay lost me one sure-fire job opportunity, and heavily messed up my mental health. And at the end of the thesis, I found myself stuck right in the middle of the Covid hiring freeze.

By the time the market began to unfreeze, I felt stuck, with a resume that wouldn’t do nearly enough to stand out in my field (lack of internships is killer!). Your advice on job hunting didn’t just help me polish up my application materials, it helped bring back the confidence that the thesis delay sapped out of me. First came the resume touch-ups, which started a small trickle of interviews. Then came the cover letter revamp — I ended up keeping about 10 potential paragraphs to use, then picking the 3 that most fit the job in question, and tailoring those paragraphs to display the best match. This led to a fairly steady stream of interviews, where I always had one iron in the fire. However, what I think put me over the edge was the advice on thank-you notes. I finally kept that in mind and sent a strong, personal one with my last interview.

I am now six days into the role that interview was hiring for. Not only do I love the work I’m doing already, both between the technical side and the impact it has, but also my advisor mentioned in our one-on-one today that she was hoping her next hire could be ‘another me.’ Most importantly, it comes with enough pay that I can finally plan out supporting my partner as he moves across the Atlantic to be with me. Thank you so much.”

3.  “I am an exempt employee, and our leadership is fairly flexible about start/end times, lunch breaks, etc. My company has gone to a work mostly at home schedule since the pandemic, after allowing very minimal work from home pre-pandemic.

This week, I received a team luncheon request (recurring) from my grandboss, where we are being asked to attend in person. Only problem is it conflicts with a non-work related organization whose meetings I’ve been attending during that time slot while I take my lunch. Every work luncheon meeting would have been a conflict with this personal appointment.

In the past, I probably would have just decided I had to quit this organization, but since becoming a reader of your column, I decided I had the capital to push back a little.

I emailed my grandboss to ask for more details about the luncheon and if it was intended to be work related or social in nature, or some combination of the two, adding that I had a personal commitment that conflicted but that if the meeting was work-related I would of course prioritize the work meeting.

Grandboss came back with, ‘It is purely meant to be social, and what dates/times would work for you, because we want everyone to have the opportunity to be there.’

So I was able to (1) ensure I still get the face time with my leaders the other team members do, (2) get the schedule changed without having to give up personal details about my conflict, or quit the non-work activity altogether, and (3) get a free lunch once a month. (I know, it’s not really free, but it is one less meal I have to plan/budget for.)

Thanks Alison for all you do! Even though I’m not a people manager, there is so much I have learned from your site.”

{ 23 comments… read them below }

  1. Clobberin' Time*

    Congratulations, LWs!

    I hope that LW #1 will take a careful look at that non-compete clause. I don’t know where she is located, but in many places non-compete clauses are unenforceable or nearly so. Employers know that and hope employees don’t.

    1. Wilbur*

      I thought a non compete couldn’t keep you from working on your industry, but maybe that’s not a factor due to the multi vs single shape widgets.

      I’m also wondering if the culture is actually great if they’re having retention problems.

      1. Love to WFH*

        I’ve been told that non-compete clauses are unlikely to be enforceable. However, the prospective employer might not want to have any hassle.

        I do personally know of a sysadmin working for an ISP whose former employer tried to enforce a non-compete when he went to a software company as a sysadmin. It didn’t actually go to litigation, but it was very stressful for the poor guy.

    2. Smaller potatoes*

      I paid for an employment lawyer consult before leaving my last job to strike out on my own. Getting solid advice about what to do/not do was so incredibly valuable I used them again when a fellow co-worker left to join my company. Can definitely recommend having an employment lawyer take a look at any non-compete agreement for your own peace of mind.

  2. Beth*

    LW #1 sounds like one of the few times that it might be a reasonable choice to accept a counteroffer. I hope they continue happy!

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      It’s not even really a counter offer which is what makes it so glorious. As soon as they found out that op was job hunting, they preemptively gave a big raise.

  3. Garden thyme*

    LW#2 The part of your letter about your poor advisor and the affect it had on your career could have been written by a relative of mine. I’d like to see changes in the thesis advisor system. 1. Professors taking on a thesis advisor role for the first time at a university should have required training, supervision and anonymous student reviews which count toward yearly job reviews. 2. Potential students should ask about data indicating percentage of on-time thesis completion. 3. Companies that rate universities should require thesis on-time completion rate data for each department. 4. A baseline percent of on-time thesis completion rates should be required for government funding, grants and university participation in student loan programs. In my relatives’ situation no one at the university cared about their situation while they languished for several years with a rotating cast of thesis advisors who were eventually fired or moved on to new universities. It cost my relative a few years of higher level salary because of the lack of thesis completion. They were doing higher level jobs at a lower salary which has a continued impact on lifetime earnings.

    1. Chilipepper Attitude*

      Universities in the US and even some colleges within universities go through an accreditation process every x years. Maybe the way to push for changes is in that process?

  4. Momma Bear*

    These are great updates, especially #1. I’m glad that you not only learned your own value, but that by speaking up your company was reminded of it, too.

  5. ferrina*

    LW 3- Yay! So glad you reached out! I work with organizational leaders, and it’s amazing how oblivious they are to their power dynamics (“Oh, it’s okay, folks would tell me if it’s an issue”…, not if you’re 3-4 levels above them in the org chart)

    And yay for free(ish) lunches!

    1. 2 Cents*

      Thank you for the work you do. I’m the person who sits 3-4 levels down who just rolls their eyes at the “we have an open-door policy!” and “your feedback is encouraged!” while knowing full well that’s not the case.

      1. Caroline+Bowman*

        Right? ”my door is always open” always irks me. Sure it is, but there’s a PA between it and me and also, you’re often simply elsewhere, aren’t you, or with other Big Shots in meetings?

  6. Chief Bottle Washer*

    Re: OP1, seeing the same thing at my employer. Complaints about retention problems, but little effort to proactively retain valued employees. Same 3% raise we get in normal times feels like a slap in the face when inflation is through the roof. That was the last straw for me, and I’m looking.

  7. Bookworm*

    Thanks to all the LWs and Alison. It’s…been a week so ending the week with these letters is always nice. :)

  8. Chilipepper Attitude*

    Thanks to all those who write in with good news. It is something I look forward to every week.

  9. Don't Call It A Comeback*

    LW #1. I am glad this person is getting a big raise, but for real, this company thought they didn’t have to do anything to keep this person until they went hunting for a gig so this isn’t a win, to me. I would not want to stay there. I would take the money and keep interviewing. You shouldn’t have to be pushed into a corner to do what it takes to keep me in the fold! That’s my take on this anyway!

    1. Deanna Troi*

      I agree. When I read that they were “horrified,” I thought, really? After telling her they couldn’t give her a raise? And they’re surprised she was looking? I don’t think they’re so great – when they thought she couldn’t find another job, they weren’t worried about supporting her. In other words, if they think you’re trapped there, no raise.

    2. KHB*

      “The company” isn’t a hive mind, though. LW’s direct supervisor (the one who’s most familiar with her work and has the most at stake in wanting to keep her onboard) isn’t necessarily the same person who sets the overall budget for raises.

      1. Wilbur*

        Someone in the organization decided they could get away with not giving them a raise because they were “trapped” by their non compete. They knew how important they were, and how hard they worked and decided that recognizing that wasn’t worth it. They probably could’ve given a small raise under the “times are tough” guise and probably gotten away with it.

        Her direct supervisor definitely could’ve done something about it, I’m sure they were told beforehand. They could’ve said “LW1 is really important to our success, can’t we give them something?”

        1. Kate*

          Maybe the direct supervisor even did but the higher-ups said “ah, OP can’t go anywhere else anyway”. I noticed, too, the part where they were suddenly horrified that OP doesn’t think they don’t value her – when they don’t value her.

        2. KHB*

          It’s possible that LW’s supervisor didn’t have any power to push back against the raise budget until she had the additional market data that LW brought to the table. It’s also possible (I’d say maybe even likely) that she’s busy enough with her own work, and it just wasn’t realistically going to be a priority for her to spend time fighting for a raise for LW that LW hadn’t even asked for.

          I agree that there’s definitely some dysfunction going on in HR, or accounting, or whoever it was who made the decision that people with non-compete agreements are “trapped” and don’t need raises. But “absolutely no dysfunction anywhere” isn’t always a realistic standard to insist on from an employer.

  10. KHB*

    I just want to thank LW1 for sharing their story. I’m in kind of a similar situation: Can’t get a raise unless I can make the case based on my “market rate,” can’t know my “market rate” unless I get an actual offer with a number attached to it, can’t reveal an actual offer with a number attached to it without getting branded a disloyal job-hunter and nudged out the door. But as your experience shows, the third of those things isn’t actually true.

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