What should I expect at an annual review?
November 17, 2008 6:42 AM   Subscribe

My first annual review is coming up at my first real job. What do I expect, especially regarding discussion about pay/raises?

I am an internal tech support guy (with a few other tech-related responsibilities) for a medium-sized business. This is my first "real" job. (I've only worked in huge chain retail and restaurants and whatnot before this.) My very first annual review is coming up in a couple of weeks.

Seeing as this is my first annual review in any job, I just want to mainly know what to expect. What kind of things are we going to talk about? What will they say? What should I say? Most importantly, what about a raise or discussion over compensation? What is a standard raise, and do I have any negotiation power?

I really like my job, and my benefits are great, but I feel like my base compensation is not quite what it should be. I've done a bit of poking around on salary websites and have talked to a couple people in my field, and from what I've seen it looks like I'm getting paid probably about $6000 less per year than I "should" be. I think part of this is that, again, this was my first real job. The second part is that I'm relatively young for this job. Both of these things were made clear when I got hired as reasons I was somewhat "on probation," if that makes sense.

I have a really good relationship with my direct manager and the rest of the chain of command, and I don't want to spoil this by being greedy or seeming ungrateful. So what can I expect, and what can I do to best prepare?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You really cannot ask for 6k more on the first year of your first job. A raise in that area generally only happens with promotion or moving to a different job. Generally, if you meet whatever criterea then the company offers a small % increase in your salary, like between 2 and 3. So if youre making 35k then expect another 1k or so.

No offense, but in my experience support people are considered disposable. I dont think a first level, first year support tech has any leverage.
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:12 AM on November 17, 2008

You may have no leverage, but that shouldn't stop you from asking for a reasonable raise, even if one is not offered. After a year there of doing your job well you should be more valuable than whatever guy like you one year ago they can pick up off the street.
posted by grouse at 7:20 AM on November 17, 2008

First off, different companies do things differently. I would talk to a few longer term non-management coworkers that you trust about what to expect.

On standard raises, they will say "We are going to give you a five percent raise. We know what we are doing, and we've done this after a specific process that tells us what to pay."

There is always room for negotiation, but you need to show yourself to be exceptional. From a tech support perspective, the main goal is to reduce tech support costs, because there is no opportunity for profit. The secondary goal is to deliver exceptional tech support. How have you done that? That is your best angle to show that you deserve something more. Have you worked longer hours without pay? Have you discovered some pattern in tech support calls that helps you address the problem sooner? Do your support metrics show that you are a superior tech support employee?

If you can't show this, and you feel very comfortable about the $5,000 figure, can you show dramatic improvement in your abilities over the course of the year? If you can say that "twelve months ago, I was successfully answering X calls per hour, and now I'm doing 20% more with the same level of quality." or some other such metric, you can "measure" your increased value to the company. This in turn, let's you compare the raise to your increase in value.

Finally, can you show that you consistently do what is expected of you, or more? If you can do this in a objective way, all the better.

Above all - think of this as an interview. You have to be prepared, self-confident, and knowledgeable. You want to impress them. To do any of these things you have to be prepared with specifics. If you aren't, it will be very difficult to get an extra raise.

Even if they tell you that "I'm sorry anon, but there isn't money in the budget," get them to agree with you that you do deliver value/save money and that in a future round of raises, you deserve something a little extra.
posted by Pants! at 7:22 AM on November 17, 2008

You need to know what the company culture is for reviews. In some places, reviews have no tie to compensation and are mostly pointless. In others, reviews are pretty much the only thing that matters. I'd say go out to lunch with someone who's been there through a few reviews and get a sense of how it works at your workplace. I would be helpful if they were reviewed by the person you'll be reviewed by, but getting any feedback is better than none.
posted by advicepig at 7:26 AM on November 17, 2008

One more note - can you show how you have helped a profit center make additional profit - say by creatively solving some tech crisis that allowed them to win a contract on time or something similar? Can you get someone in that group to say how much you helped?
posted by Pants! at 7:26 AM on November 17, 2008

Most places I have worked give out a cost of living percentage increase, then a performance increase on top of that depending on how your manager rates you. These percentages, in my experience, are typically found in the employee manual so you might want to read up on that. If they are standard company-wide your immediate supervisor probably is not going to be able to give you some sort of whopping increase without moving things up the chain of command...

That said, I doubt you are going to be given a 6K increase unless you get some type of promotion.

As far as what to expect during the actual review. It really depends but most medium/large companies I've worked for followed the following format.

* Thanks for all the hard work this past year, we love you, etc...
* Here are [insert number] things that you are great at/excelled at/bowled us over with your big brains on during this past year.
* Here are [insert number] things that you either sucked at or need to improve on during the next year or whenever your next review comes around.
* Given the above, you are getting a X% raise and here is the logic behind that.

I've worked at a couple of companies where I was then asked to sort of rate my manager. He/She wanted to know what I thought they could improve upon when it came to communication with me or the team or whatever. Or they might ask what you think could be improved upon in general with the company or your team or whatnot. You may want to think about a potential response to this so you aren't just sitting there saying "No complaints! You are the best boss ever!"
posted by austinetsu at 7:31 AM on November 17, 2008

Yeah, that 6k more than you make now is likely for someone who has been doing the job a while. Like, two or three years.

Asking for a 6k payrise in your first year of your first professional job would be pretty career-limiting, I'd imagine.

Mind you, expected salaries differ wildly depending where you work. No idea if this is accurate or not, but I'd expect a recent tech grad doing tech support work as part of a team at, say, a Fortune 500 company to make more than someone with equivalent experience working at a small firm in a regional city.

Do you have a degree? For better or worse this will affect future earning potential - in a virtuous/evil circle, grad wages tend to be higher because of the debt incurred in order to get the degree, and this initial boost in earnings tends to lead to higher wages over your lifetime, as well as putting you on course for promotions etc. Not set in stone or anything, but definitely something to consider.

Personally, in your first year on your first job, I'd take the payrise you're offered (which may be nothing, given the economic climate) and say thanks, rather than trying to negotiate.

Give it a couple of years, and if you still think you're being really underpaid, open up the discussion then by focusing on the market rate for your level of experience and specific technical skills, rather than what you 'should' be being paid. Salaries are first and foremost based on what the 'market' (i.e. you) will bear, and companies pay at roughly the same rates as everyone else. The two times you should agitate for a payrise are a) when the market rate for your skills and experience is higher than your wage or b) when you've done exceptional work over a sustained term or been doing a role above your paygrade (i.e. managing a team).
posted by Happy Dave at 7:31 AM on November 17, 2008

I understand why a lot of commentators think a $6,000 raise is unreasonable. But, if you are really earning $6,000 less FOR THE EXACT SAME JOB as your peers at other companies in the same area then you have some ground to ask for a cost-of-living wage increase. You should take the next few weeks to review your job description, your day to day tasks, and your responsibilities, and then compare them to those of your peers at other companies. Certainly they won't match line by line, but if there is enough there to say YOU ARE DOING THE EXACT SAME JOB then you should talk at the review about a cost-of-living increase. It probably won't add up to $6,000, but I bet you'll get $2,000 or $3,000.

Generally, annual reviews are a good time to talk about adding additional responsibility and to discuss day to day working structure since you started - as it has no doubt changed as you have added experience with your co-workers. Showing how much interaction you have and the amount of work that you do is a great way to signal that additional wages should be paid.

The most important thing to do is prepare in advance to not get agitated or emotional about needing a raise.
posted by parmanparman at 8:08 AM on November 17, 2008

Did you receive (or work with your manager to create) a clearly-defined set of business/performance objectives when you were hired? That should be the basis for any performance review...a documented set of results (prepared by you) to a previously agreed-to & documented set of objectives. If you don't have that, it may be something you want to think about for future years, because it makes the discussion more fact-based.

During the call, your boss will give you feedback on your performance*, but you should come prepared as well - e.g., write down the following:

- Your accomplishments against the objectives/metrics that are most meaningful for your organization (quantitative is better than qualitative)
- Any questions you have - e.g., what skills should you work to improve, both hard and soft? What programs does the organization have available to help you with those skills?

Basically, annual reviews should not come as a surprise to the employee. A good relationship between you and your manager should drive the kind of dialogue throughout the year that makes this review more of a formality than anything.

* Is the performance review based solely on your manager's opinion? If not, who does he/she solicit input from? Colleagues? Other managers?
posted by brandman at 8:11 AM on November 17, 2008

In my experience performance reviews don't get you pay rises - promotions and/or changing companies do.

The quicker you realise this, the less you'll be disappointed with your 2-3% increase.

By all means make the effort, do the prep and push for a rise. In fact you should make some sort of effort, but be prepared for the worst.

Do 2 years, gain the experience, stick it on your resume and get your 6k rise from another company.
posted by mr_silver at 10:30 AM on November 17, 2008

nthing Mr. Silver. The only way you're going to get $6k more than what you're being paid now is if you go work for someone else.

I encourage people to have email folders where they file every email that announces an accomplishment or every time someone says something good about their work. That way when it's time for reviews, you don't sit there going "what did i do this year?"
posted by micawber at 2:38 PM on November 17, 2008

I do not know if you are in the States -- many nations use a dollar currency -- but my first thought on reading your post is that the US lost 240,000 jobs in October for a cumulative loss of 1.2 million jobs year to date. I disagree with the idea that your company will inherently value you more than a guy off the street after one year in the position. The acquisition cost of hiring someone new could be offset by other gains, depending who they might be able to hire this year vs. last year. There will be many people with impressive skills and more than a year's experience looking hungrily for jobs. I don't mean to belittle your contributions or capabilities; your chain of command probably realizes you're a contributor to their success, but the company might not be able to express this with an extra $6,000 dollars in your pocket. (Hopefully you don't work for Sir Richard Branson).

Supply vs. demand is not in the worker's favor just now. I know a manager who is seeing ridiculously over-qualified people applying for run of the mill positions because they need the health benefits. The same manager has been told to fire an entire rank of low-level employees and hire back selected ones at minimum wage. On a balance sheet, people are a huge expense, and cutting back on raises can be a way to save jobs.

If earning more is a priority, and you feel that you could realize that goal elsewhere, you have little to lose by communicating as much to your manager, who probably knows you deserve more than you're getting. But you might hear that they cannot offer you the raise you merit. Sad to say it, but just having a job puts you ahead of 1.2 million Americans.
posted by woodway at 2:42 PM on November 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

I think a lot of companies will be willing to use the unfavorable economy as an excuse to not give people deserved wage increases this year, whether the particular company in question can afford it or not. Go ahead and ask, but don't get your hopes up.

Definitely the first thing out of your mouth once your manager stops talking should be "What could I do to get a more positive review next year?" Even if you got the best possible rating, you still should be clear that you're focusing on being the best employee you can be. You can use the answer you get to that question to decide how much more money you're likely to get, if your manager is at liberty to negotiate with you.
posted by crinklebat at 7:43 PM on November 18, 2008

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