How to Negotiate a Raise When You Wear Many Hats

by Salary.com Staff - Original publish date: April 29, 2015

Form a Game Plan

The kind of hat you wear can speak volumes about you, and set you apart from the crowd. A trendy fedora might mean you’re a Brooklyn hipster or a big Don Draper fan. Perhaps you don the type of pork pie hat that Justin Timberlake often rocks. A knit skullcap might keep you warm in the winter, or send another message if you wear it year-round. And even the brim of a baseball cap is polarizing: flat as a board or curved like an upside-down U.

Sometimes however, wearing many hats in the workplace – figuratively, doing several different jobs – can make it a challenge to distinguish yourself.

On the other end of the spectrum, picture someone that specializes in doing accounting for startups. What is their profession? Accounting. Who do they work with? Startups.

If you’re at a dinner party and you meet someone that says, “I just launched a new startup, and we’re looking for an accountant, do you know anyone?” it’s pretty darn simple for you to say, “As a matter of fact I DO know an accountant that works specifically with startups.”

But what if things aren’t that simple?

  • Jane is a project manager working primarily in mobile, but in the past she’s done social media marketing at non-profits, organized fundraising efforts, and run live events.
  • John has worked in business development for 7 years, but also does public relations, speaks on technology trends, and hosts a podcast on the side.

Things get even trickier when you wear several hats and you’re trying to get a raise or negotiating a new job offer. While there are as many ways to approach this as there are hats, here are 2 techniques that I often recommend.

Choice #1: Find the Common Thread

In the example above, let’s say that Jane is trying to negotiate a raise at her current job. The first thing she should do is look at her wide-ranging skills as an advantage, and not apologize for them.

In today’s economy, new technology, websites, apps, and services crop up every month, and those workers that are able to adapt and learn new skills are on the fly might be more valuable than the lifer that has done the same thing for a decade.

For employers, that’s like getting four employees for the price of one – something Jane should definitely leverage during her negotiation.

But the first thing she must do is find the common thread. While managing the launch of a mobile app and non-profit fundraising might seem unrelated, the common thread that she has could be summarized as follows:

“I have the unique ability to organize and manage diverse teams driven toward a common goal, overseeing complex tasks in order to successfully bring projects together on time and on budget.”

When asked how she does that, that common thread emerges:

  • Project managing a complicated mobile launch has lots of moving parts, people, changes, and deadlines
  • Between Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Blogging, and more, Social media marketing can be a challenge to organize and execute on a regular basis
  • The same can be said for fundraising and live events… targeting the right audience, motivating people toward action, planning out a schedule, and sticking to a budget

Let’s say Jane lives in New York, makes $70,000, but is trying to get a promotion and a raise to $85,000 or higher. She should state her case for all the work she is doing, and could list the salaries of each job. For example:

  • Project manager: $72,000
  • Social media manager: $54,000
  • Fundraising coordinator: $48,000
  • Live event manager: $63,000

So while there might not be an exact salary range listed for “Jane’s Job,” she is essentially doing a job worth $237,000. Of course, she’s not going to ask for $237,000, but a key phrase might be, “As you can see, if I were to leave and you had to hire replacements to perform all of these tasks, it would cost significantly more than what I am asking for.”

The subtle phrase is “if I were to leave.” She’s not threatening, she’s not making an ultimatum, but she’s planting the seed so that her boss says, “Oh no… it would be a nightmare to go and find someone that does everything Jane does… let’s keep her happy and give her that raise.”

Choice #2: Focus Then Over-deliver

Now let’s look at John, and assume he’s looking to negotiate an offer at a new job.

If he consistently lists out 3-4 different specialties, it can be difficult for him to “tell his story” so that his resume is effectively passed along to the right recruiter or hiring manager. He might come across as too scattered, or the famous “Jack of all trades, master of none.”

What might work best for John is to focus on his greatest strength. With seven years of business development experience, he could position his resume, his LinkedIn profile, and his “elevator pitch” to highlight his best work in BizDev.

Then, once he lands an interview and is matched up against others with similar business development experience, his other skills can really shine. Not only is he coming in with those same BizDev skills, but he can highlight his experience and expertise in PR and Communication (speaking, podcasting, etc) to make him stand out from the crowd.

Research Before You Ask for the Raise

No matter how many hats you wear, you want to be ready when you ask for a raise.

The first thing you should do is research, so you're able to come to the table armed with the knowledge of what your job is worth. Use our free Salary Wizard below to find out what's a fair salary for your position. You can enter your location, education level, years of experience and more to find out an appropriate salary range before you negotiate.

Good luck.

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