How to Ask for a Raise as an Optometrist in a Pandemic
By Practice Growth May 21, 2021
While asking for a raise can be taxing on the nerves at any point, it can be especially difficult within the context of a global pandemic. You may have deserved a raise pre-pandemic and it was put off during the pandemic. Now you’re in the awkward situation of having to ask for a raise, balancing personal financial goals with practice realities. It is, however, possible to make a salary increase request in uncertain times and be successful. Doing so just requires a little extra research and making a convincing case. After all, optometrists have a specific skill set and credentials, making them difficult to replace, especially when pandemic job recruitment is particularly challenging. From an employer’s perspective, it may well be worth paying more to retain key staff than to face the unknown and perhaps even risk an inability to fill any vacancies due to underpaid optometrists seeking greener pastures.
Know Your Practice’s Position and Needs
Some businesses have struggled more than others in the pandemic landscape. If your practice has furloughed or laid off employees, that may signal finances are unfavorable for raise requests. If the reduction in force was some time ago, however, the financial situation may be on an upswing. It is the current financial status of the practice that bears consideration for your request and not that of when the pandemic began.
Learning more about your position’s financial state of affairs may be as simple as striking up a conversation with the finance officer or bookkeeper, but there are other ways to gauge a practice’s financial health. Consider the volume of clients coming through the doors. Look to see if office supplies are fully stocked. Generally, eyeball how the practice looks now compared to pre-pandemic operations.
Critically Assess Your Performance
Consider what duties were outlined in your original offer letter from the optometry practice. Ask yourself if you are satisfactorily or exceptionally meeting those duties. In areas where you exceed expectations, such as enhanced sales efforts in disposables, optical, or expanded practice scope revenue. Prepare yourself to verbalize what is impressive about your performance. Other potential areas where you add value to the practice beyond essential duties may include:
· Evaluation for diabetes or hypertension
· Fitting specialty lenses
· Pediatric vision care
· Pre- and post-operative care
· Selling accessories
Conversely, if you discover areas where you cursorily or satisfactorily meet outlined duties, you may want to defer the raise request until you can remedy such issues.
In assessing how your performance lines up with expectations, you may become aware of having adopted additional duties outside of your description. This can only strengthen your argument for deserving a raise. Make notes on how you go above and beyond what is required as an optometrist in your practice, and internalize the language. As with any type of public speaking, practice builds confidence. Rehearsing your arguments beforehand will help you remain calm and collected for when you get to sit down with your boss and ask for a raise. Make a practice pitch to a friend, family member, or pet, and you will be better prepared when you ask for the raise for real.
Know the Market Rate
An important part of pay rate decisions is knowing what other optometrists in similar contexts make. A little online research through services like Glassdoor or PayScale can yield insight into what others with your skills and training make in your area. If your pay is not in line with the market rate, it strengthens your argument for a raise and gives a starting point for negotiation, especially if extra services you provide only enhance your value. It also can draw the employer’s attention to potential difficulties in replacing you should a better offer arise.
Make the Raise Request
Once you are prepared with a solid argument for a salary increase, approach your employer at a time when they are likely to be receptive. Avoid times that may be particularly stressful or busy, and look for an opportunity when, frankly, the person in charge is in a good mood. Then, open a conversation with the things you like about your work and the direction of the practice to set a positive tone for the exchange. Then, you can present your case within the context of how your work will continue to keep the practice as a whole on an upward swing.
Know that there may be initial resistance to granting a raise request, frequently by citing budgets or other challenges. Within a pandemic, there is no shortage of challenges to cite. Do not, however, allow that to be the end of the conversation. Ask questions to discover more about these obstacles and how the practice intends to address and overcome them. Avoid why questions that may seem confrontational and instead opt for open-ended questions beginning with how or what, such as:
· How can I contribute to lower expenses and increasing revenue?
· What can I do to add value to my work and earn increased pay?
Such questions open up dialogue and yield richer answers about the company’s position and obstacles. It also gives you more information about your role in being part of the solution.
If increased pay during the pandemic does not seem plausible, use this opportunity to set a time to revisit salary at a future date. Know that you can also discuss other means to be compensated that are viable for your employer at this time, such as reimbursement for AOA fees, licensing expenses, or extra paid vacation. There is, after all, more than one way to sweeten the pot. When the time to revisit the salary increase question comes, it will be far easier to make the request and be successful.