Who wants a raise?

June 18, 2012
Tija Hunter, CDA, EFDA, gives her fellow dental assistants concrete steps to take to prepare them to ask more effectively for a raise.

On the American Dental Assistants Association (ADAA) Facebook page, someone recently posted a question on how to ask their employer for a raise. I gave my brief comments, but since this is such a big concern for many, I thought I would expand on my comments. We all know the economy has affected everyone’s lives in one way or another. Our employers are looking to increase their fees and save on supplies, and some have even had to let some team members go. So how on earth do you approach your employer about a raise?

Why do YOU deserve a raise?

Many employers are adopting the rule that raises don’t automatically come annually. I believe that raises are based on merit, not because you’ve shown up to do a job that you already get paid to do. If you want a raise, you have to earn it. That’s especially true in today’s economy. Employers value an outstanding team member, so be that team member!

Making yourself valuable

I hear assistants say all the time, “I’m not a CDA, so I don’t need to take continuing education.” That’s partly true, you don’t need the credits, but you do need the valuable education. While we’re at it, why aren’t you a Certified Dental Assistant? Taking your Certified Dental Assistant exam from the Dental Assisting National Board of Review, Inc. (www.danb.org) won’t guarantee you more money (although the CDA leads to a salary increase in some dental offices, especially in those states that recognize or require the CDA to qualify for expanded functions), but I do promise it will give you a huge boost of confidence and the satisfaction that you accomplished something big. It will also show your employer that this is a career for you, not just a job. You aren’t “just an assistant,” so don’t act like it. When you take your career more seriously, your employer will too.

My other suggestion is to become a member of the American Dental Assistant Association (www.dentalassistant.org). This is our very own organization with the sole purpose of promoting and supporting us. Through the ADAA, we can take loads of free continuing education courses, network with other professionals just like us, and help create a better profession for us all. Together, we can change our profession for the better.

Prepare yourself!

You’re ready to ask the big question. Stepping into your employer’s office and asking if you can have a word with him or her is a very scary thing! Be prepared and be on your toes. Before you go in, have all the information you need to sound confident.

Make a list of all your duties — the ones that fit into your job description, and the things you do on a daily basis. Then list the things you do that go above and beyond your job title. If you don’t have anything on your “above and beyond” list, then you need to rethink walking into that office. Remember, you’re already getting paid for doing your “job.”

Arm yourself with the recent surveys on salaries for dental assistants in your state. You can find that information by clicking here.

How do you place in those numbers? Are you lower? Higher? This information will give both of you an idea of where your wages should be. Let’s just say you’re at the top of the average wage for your state. Present your case on why you’re above average.

Be your own devil’s advocate and anticipate things your employer might ask. Having a quick response will show him or her you mean business and won’t be caught off guard.

Look back on the days you’ve taken off. This is a huge concern for employers. If you miss a lot of work, your value goes down (and you might want to keep walking past that office). On the other hand, if you’re the one who shows up on time, all the time, employers know you’re dependable, and they value that. Use that information to help your case.

Make a list of ideas you have for the office, from saving money on supplies, to a new product that can help the office save time and money, to a marketing idea. Your employer can’t do it all, and he or she will appreciate the fact that you’re trying to help out. If you can find a way to save the office money, the savings might just get passed onto you! Again, you’re making yourself a valuable team member.

To conclude

Don’t come off as cocky or arrogant. Be respectful, confident, and genuine. Give your employer every reason to invest in you. If you’ve done your homework, gone the extra mile, and proven your worth, then that raise will be yours.

Good luck!

Author bio
Tija Hunter, CDA, EFDA, is a 1981 graduate of the Missouri School for Doctors’ Assistants, and has 30 years’ chairside experience. She is currently the office manager/assistant to Eric Hurtte, DMD. She is a member of the ADAA and the founder of the Dental Assistants Study Club of St. Louis. She is an independent consultant specializing in assistant training, team building, and office organization. She can be reached at [email protected] or find her on Facebook.