A discussion group on LinkedIn recently answered the question: What's your career resolution for 2013? Of the five options given to the LinkedIn group Connect, which is powered by Citi, the most commonly chosen (as of this writing) was "find a new job" (36 percent). The runner-up was "learn new career skills" (29 percent) followed by "build my network" (25 percent). Only 2 percent of respondents resolved to ask for a raise.
I find it interesting that the number who'd ask for a raise is that low. One of the reasons that people look for a new job is to make more money, and one reason to learn new career skills is to boost your earning potential. Building your network can help bring in more work (and more money). So why is directly asking for more money so unpopular?
Partly because the economy is rough, and many people feel lucky to have a job (or multiple steady gigs). But also because asking for a raise in pay is awkward. While our society is obsessed with money, there's not much transparency about it.
Unless you work for an organization with a salary scale, figuring out what people in similar positions earn involves a lot of intelligence gathering. We have lots of taboos toward talking about money, but this serves to keep people in the dark. And when people are in the dark, we tend to revert to cultural assumptions. As I wrote in my post, "The Princess Problem," women in particular seem prone to believe that the company will choose what to pay us, and this is what we are worth. Men, on the other hand, are more likely to have a certain number they'd like to earn, and then view it as their responsibility to get an organization to pay that over time.
Also, you can always be a little bit on the market (or in the case of freelancers, be willing to say no). Nothing induces an employer to cough up a raise like the possibility of seeing a valued employee walk out.
There are also parallels to discussing other taboo subjects. Sexuality educators tell parents not to focus on one "big talk" with their children about the birds and the bees, because this can be overwhelming and awkward. Instead, you work the subject into regular conversations so that it's on the table. Likewise, any performance review can feature a conversation about what you need to do to earn a raise by your next performance review. Regular check-ins with a supervisor can focus on questions like: "How can I best add value to this department? What do you see as most important?" This lays the groundwork for focusing on these things and then being able to show, directly, how you've brought in more revenue or saved your organization cash.
Have you ever asked for a raise?
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