If you’re working in the defense industry you may have noticed a dark cloud in the room that starts with ‘s’ and rhymes with ‘frustration’ – which is exactly what it’s causing for many professionals, especially in terms of salary and earnings. After years of upward trends, cleared salary and earnings are now on the decline. It’s a phenomenon the ClearanceJobs.com 2013 Compensation Survey dubbed as ‘the great rebalance.’
Gone are the days when having a security clearance and the right skills meant you could name your salary, but it’s not all gloom and doom when it comes to earnings potential. Contrary to market conditions, you can make the case for a raise at your next annual review, but you’ll need to come to the table ready to prove what you’re worth. Here are a few things to stack the odds in your favor:
You work in an in-demand field.
We hate to sound like a broken record, but the demand for cybersecurity professionals continues to outpace supply. If you have the right cyber skills and a security clearance, you can certainly make the case to your boss that you’ve earned a greater-than-average raise. Most companies know this and are willing to pay out to retain their best employees, at the risk of losing them to a competitor, or to insourcing.
You’ve taken on new responsibilities in the past year.
Has the scope of your work changed significantly? Are you managing employees when you weren’t before, or were you in charge of additional tasks? Do an audit of your position year over year and be prepared to describe what you’re doing today that merits more cash.
You know your market value.
This is a key reason we always tell cleared professionals that they should be active on the Cleared Network, even if they’re not actively looking for a new position. Besides getting our newsletters and reading news updates about the industry, it’s worth reviewing job openings posted for individuals with your skills. Get an idea of the salary ranges listed, and that will give you a good idea of what your skills are worth.
Your family situation has changed.
The defense industry can be surprisingly family-oriented. The military has a track record of recruiting families, not just service members, and many defense industry employers know the role families play in how well a person does on the job. If your situation at home has changed – a spouse has lost a job, you’ve welcomed a new child – be willing to make that a part of your case for why your salary needs have changed. It’s important to advocate that you’re asking for a raise based on your skills – but your family circumstances require a greater baseline than may have been the case when you started with the company.
You’re willing to move on.
Playing hard ball only works if you’re really confident in your skills and career potential outside your company, but if you are, it can be a strategy for garnering a significant pay increase. Consider applying for a couple of positions before your annual review, or reaching out to a trusted recruiter to see what opportunities are out there. You may even want to go into your annual review with another offer letter, letting your employer know that if they can’t match it you’ll need to move on. But be prepared for your employer to call your bluff and let you go.
You’re willing to delay a raise.
If a pay increase isn’t in the cards today, ask your employer to reevaluate in three to six months. While it’s accepted that the defense industry is in a cycle of scaling back that will continue, the contracting climate at your company may look very different in six months. If there’s a chance it will improve, consider tabling pay increase discussions until then. This also goes for if you’re currently in the process of obtaining a new certification, completing a degree program or obtaining a higher-level security clearance. Those new credentials may help your salary-increase negotiations.
While the defense industry is in the scaling back/less is more mode, dramatic pay increases may not be an opportunity. But if you think your earnings potential is doomed to be at or below inflation, think again. The right skills and attitude can at least give you an edge in the conversation.