Education Career Services

November 10, 2009

Mining for Quantifiable Data in an Unquantifiable Job

Ace%20Up%20Sleeve“I’m going in Monday and asking for $70,000 a year!” my friend said.

 “How are you going to substantiate such a raise?” I asked.

 “I’ve been there for ten years.  I should be making that much.”

 “Why?” I said.

 He narrowed his eyes at me, “I don’t understand what you mean.”

 My friend is in the creative industry, so my lecture on giving quantitative data to concretely identify his value supporting a hike in pay was met with a blank expression. 

 “I don’t have anything like that,” he said.

 Maybe you feel that way, too.  If you don’t have access to the financials, putting numbers to your contribution seems impossible.  My friend was limited by the fact that he viewed himself only as a designer.  “I draw pictures, that’s what I do.” 

But he does more than that.  There is a process behind his work that he can refine, so I pursued that.  “Sure, I’m a lot faster than a couple years ago because I learned Painter and taught everyone else how to use it.  We’re twice as fast as before.”

 This was a bit like a story problem:  Four employees who were twice as fast because of his innovation.  He doubled department capacity.  He saved almost $500,000 by increasing throughput (4 x average salary = ~$500,000)… while he doesn’t know the value of the additional work enabled, he can total up how many more projects they completed each year.

With a little prodding, he mentioned he increased inventory turns and reduced project costs (he didn’t state it that way; he just said he designed projects to use existing inventory rather than demand new materials, unlike the other designers).  With a little Internet scouting, he could figure out the price of inventory materials vs. new materials; by analyzing how much inventory his projects consumed and comparing it to other projects, he could come up with some numbers from the difference.

By the end of his research, he discovered he saved the company over three million dollars through a combination of doubled team capacity, reduced need for freelancers, and other cost-cutting measures while increasing inventory turns 40%.

He was amazed.  “I’m not asking for enough!  If this is what I can do without trying, imagine what I could do if I think about it!”

For your own stubborn quantifications, put some thought into it.  Examine your processes and any improvements you’ve made and calculate their value.  Analyze what you do differently than co-workers and see if there’s an advantage.  How much time does it save and multiply that by your hourly pay.  If you can’t compare yourself to coworkers, compare yourself to your own past performance.  Have there been advances?  Dig a little to figure out how to quantify them.

Ultimately, in a job interview or salary negotiation, having concrete numbers argues in your favor.  “I’ve been here for ten years” or “I’ve saved the company $3M+ per year:” which statement would you reward?  Never put your employer in the positions to ask “can I afford to give you a raise?”  Instead make it, “Can I afford NOT to give you a raise?”

Rob Swanson
Writing Manager
Career Services International

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