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IHAVEANIDEA.ORG > ask jancy >  I feel like I am being underpaid for my work. What should I do?

I feel like I am being underpaid for my work. What should I do?


Hi, Jancy. I’ve been working very hard at a small agency and since day one (which was six months ago) I’ve come through with winning creative that has, as it would turn out, trump the other writer’s stuff. As a whole, there seems to be a lot of healthy, internal competition amongst us two wordsmiths.
My concern is that I’m making much less money (less than half), and since I have less experience in the industry and with making salary negotiations – I could be taken advantage of.
Is there a way to tell or a way to handle feeling like you’re being cheated out of what you believe you deserve? And do you have any thoughts towards handling this situation?
Maybe I should wait for them to make a move. Really, what should I do?
- Some copywriter

intro I feel like I am being underpaid for my work. What should I do?First, congratulations on making a mark so quickly at your new job. The currency of our business is ideas, and it sounds like you will quickly reach the status of the highly valued writer.

The way money works is a bit different than you think. Doing well will absolutely mean you’re moving towards a raise (or, should you leave after a year or so, a higher salary will likely be offered). You shouldn’t feel taken advantage of right now. The person you’re currently out-performing has more experience, and that matters. Part of an employee’s value is based on that—with more time in the business the more you’re able to contribute—more meaningful relationships with clients, presentation skills based on a lot of practice, more strategic thinking based on doing the job over time, etc. The other thing is that the person you’re beating right now may do better on the next project. Don’t be so sure about their capabilities based on 6 months of working together. Creativity can be like that: it’s the unusual writer who is 100% on their game, all the time. (BTW we highly recommend you try Tom Monahan’s brainstorming techniques in his great book, “The Do-It-Yourself-Lobotomy”, to increase the chances of consistently great output). However, even if you are the better writer, it doesn’t mean that you’re being ripped off to be paid less than the person with greater experience, point in time.

If you know peers in similar jobs are making significantly more, ask your boss for a portfolio review to get their feedback. (At 6 months in in a new job, this is always a good idea).  Assuming you’ll get a big thumbs up, it’s fair to bring up interest in when you could expect a salary review. Play that with a light hand; they shouldn’t feel like you’re holding up the bank. A healthy interest in being paid well shouldn’t be seen as cocky.

If you accepted their offer without pushback on the money, it doesn’t work in your favour to get an increase any time soon. Hope to hear you could look at the one year mark for a pay raise. Some companies have policies that mean the wait could be longer (HR can tell you about that if you weren’t told when you were hired; not a bad idea to ask someone in that department before your talk with the boss, about where the company stands on raises).

Your best strategy on money is to keep doing great work. Relax on what others you work with are making. Don’t make them your reference point. (Your co-worker may have cut a great deal based on what they made at their previous job, or many other factors.) Money is an uncomfortable issue to deal with for many. Managing your career includes going for what you deserve financially. By your one year mark you should be clear on where things stand on the financial picture. If you don’t like what you hear, it’s not a bad idea to start checking out other options. (Sadly, the quickest way to get a raise at most places is to have a competitive offer. But by that point, the employee is usually out the door anyway.) Feel great that you’re doing so well; you’re poised for a successful career and the money should come.

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About Jancy

'Jancy' is Janet Kestin and Nancy Vonk, Co-Founders of Swim, a unique “creative leadership training lab for advertising creatives and marketers.” Prior to Swim, Jancy was globally renowned as the Co-Chief Creative Officers of Ogilvy & Mather Toronto, a position they held for thirteen of the twenty years they were a creative duo at the agency. Over the years they've racked up Cannes Lions, Clios, One Show pencils and CA credits, and have lead their shop to two Cannes Lions Grand Prix and a Grand Clio. They've judged CA, Cannes, D&AD, the One Show, the Clios and other prestigious award shows. Creativity named them two of the top 50 creative people of 2008. Known for their outspoken, no-bullshit style and a passion for mentoring juniors, they're ready to give you advice if you're ready to take it.

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