How to get the pay you truly deserve

Tara Wesson, fresh off the high of surviving a pay raise negotiation, dishes all her secrets on how best to navigate what often seems to be a terrifyingly awkward discussion. Spoiler: it’s not as scary as you think it’ll be.

I’ve always been terrified by the prospect of pay-related discussions with my bosses. I have this strange logic, that if I acknowledge openly that I’m not there solely for the love of the job, and that I’m there to support myself financially, the Earth will open and the world will end, and I’ll be jobless, penniless, and, well, dead.

I’ve since realised that that’s possibly a little bit of a dramatic approach. Maybe that’s from looking to my mum whenever I need advice with this kind of thing… she has this take no prisoners attitude whenever anything needs to be done, or sorted out. I’m definitely not my mother’s daughter on that front, but it’s always been something I’ve tried to emulate.

There's one thing she said that has stuck with me, through my first job at a cinema, to babysitting, to now, when I’m working at a magazine. And it’s this: at the end of the day, you’re there to do a job. They’ve hired you for your professional skills, and are paying you for those skills.

When you think about it like that, it makes things a little less daunting. Just last week, I sat down with my boss and negotiated a pay rise. I’d avoided this discussion with him for two days, before I sent him an email saying something like, “Hey, when you get time tomorrow, there’s a few pay-related things I need to chat about.”

You know when you send a risky text to that special someone? The one you send in a fit of impulsivity and regret as soon as you send? That’s what it felt like. But it was done! The good thing about this little strategy is, now your boss knows you want to talk about pay, and chances are, you won’t be able to avoid it any longer once you’re at work. They’ll sit you down and ask you what it was you want to talk about, and you’ll have to say something! Admittedly, this is throwing yourself in the deep end, but that’s what you need to do. So, without further ado, here are my (and my mum’s, let’s be honest) quick tips for navigating that discussion.

  • Be strong but flexible at the same time.

  • How low can you go? Know your absolute minimum! Check out the award wage for your industry on Fair Work Ombudsman, and weigh this up against how much work you actually believe you’re doing. Make sure you don’t go below that rate - and if you think you’re performing more tasks than what the award states, say so.

  • Know your position. Where are you in the company? Do you delegate, or are tasks delegated to you? Do you make decisions unsupervised, or do you always go higher first for approval? These are the kinds of questions you can ask yourself, to work out what you should be getting paid.

  • It’s not that awkward! Or scary! Life will go on, even if it doesn’t go as well as you want it to. Don’t catastrophise something that hasn’t even happened yet. Take some deep breaths, and channel the calm, collected goddess inside you. You’ve got this.

Good luck! As the kids say, let’s get this bread! Bread begetting is seriously not as scary as everyone makes it out to be. Who knows? You might even get some avo on toast (both literally and metaphorically). Go get em, homeslice.

Tara Wesson is a second-year Journalism and Creative Writing student. She likes long walks on the beach, piña coladas, and getting caught in the rain. But no, she's really just a book-lover with a dog called Shorty, a love of travel, and a penchant for dad jokes.