No one likes to haggle over salary, but when it comes to year-end reviews, it pays to not be bashful with your boss.
New data released by online lender SoFi on Thursday show that, apart from dentists and doctors, wage growth has been fairly paltry for those with graduate degrees over the past decade.
That's partly because of the 2008 financial crisis and ensuing economic downturn. (Workers became afraid to ask for a raise; they were just happy to have jobs.) It's also because of human nature: people tend to avoid uncomfortable discussions.
If workers had more transparency into what they earn compared with peers—and how small annual raises can add up over the years—they would almost certainly be more inclined to demand more money.
"A $5,000 increase in your salary now can have a profound effect on your salary over the long term," said Bob Park, SoFi’s director of career services. "People think it’s only $5,000, but everything after that pay bump is driven off of that. I try to encourage people to negotiate all the time. At least ask the question."
According to SoFi's data, those who pursue graduate degrees in humanities, fine arts and social sciences start off making the least money ($62,900), and end up making the least money a decade later ($84,500)—which is not all that surprising. Also unsurprising: dentists start off making the most ($128,900) and end up making the most ($233,700.) (This interactive on the profitability of undergrad and graduate degrees, based on SoFi data, will also help give you a sense of career profitability.)
But what was surprising to Park and his colleague Andrea Blankmeyer, who oversees analysis of SoFi data, is how little wages have risen more broadly. Lawyers, for instance, have seen average annual earnings growth of just 2% over the past decade. The booming field of engineering and computer science? Only 4%.
Park's advice to young workers is to regularly negotiate salary, regardless of what a manager does or doesn't offer during a year-end review. If a manager won't budge on pay, don't be afraid to put yourself on the market to see what other jobs are out there, Park said. Recruiters can be the best sources of information about salary, and there's no shame in exploring the job market, even if you decide to stick with your current employer.
"Something like 53% of workers don’t even try to negotiate salary," said Park. "The number for women is even higher than that. We want to start encouraging people to do so: the reason wage growth is so flat is because people don’t negotiate."
I oversee Fusion's money section and have spent most of my time as a journalist writing about banks and finance. I live in Brooklyn with my partner Geoffrey & our two dogs, Captain & Tallulah. Favs: leopard print, Diet Coke, gummy candy, Ireland.