Ladders members reflect on their most important raises

There are certain monumental days in one’s life they will never forget. Graduations, weddings, the birth of a child, the first day of a job you were really excited about, and the day you received a raise for your hard work.

It could have been your first raise at your part-time job as a teenager or maybe it was that raise you put your blood, sweat, and tears into that finally earned you that very-deserved salary. Whenever it was and whatever monetary value it was (maybe only 5 cents), it meant something to you.

Ladders CEO Marc Cenedella recently wrote about his most meaningful raise and he asked readers to share their experiences as well. A large number of you responded with stories of triumph, gratitude, and perseverance. We couldn’t publish all of them but here are a few special ones. During this interesting holiday season, we wanted to share these great stories of career triumphs!

My most meaningful raise…

In high school, I worked as a Certified Nurses Aide at a small nursing home 3 days a week (including every other weekend) from 3PM-8PM.  I made $4.00 an hour. After a little over a year of being there and no raise, My Father said that’s BS and I needed to ask for a raise.  Mind you I never called out sick or took time off, I even picked up extra days during school vacations, etc. so I went to the Director and stated my case.  I was a good reliable employee, perfect attendance, and treated my patients very well.  She said she would see what she could do.   Two paychecks later, I got a 5 cent raise.  Yes, a whole nickel.  I quit the following week and went to work somewhere else for 1.75 an hour more. – Susan Woina

Back in 1981 before I got into the lumber business, I worked in a sawmill for Dixon Lumber Co. in Warm Springs, VA. I was fresh out of college with a forestry degree from WVU so I started as the assistant manager over 15 or 16 associates. By the end of my first year there, I was trained on every piece of equipment in the sawmill and was in the process of being trained as a Sawyer. Kenny Underwood the general manager was a smart, well-trained individual that took a liking to me and wanted me to succeed. I went to him after that first year and confirmed with him that not only could I run all the equipment in the mill but was also unloading log truck with the John Deer 900 front end loader, that took 7 ladder rungs to reach the cab, calculated the board footage on the load and got the loggers paid. He agreed that I was very versatile and valuable and agreed I deserved a raise. The next pay period Kenny’s word proved true. There was my new hourly rate of $4.05 an hour.

That was a pretty big jump from the $3.75 that I started at, I mean even with a college degree and all. Today I’m the general manager of a $120 M lumber yard with 130 employees on a salary. Oddly enough those years in the sawmill are some of my fondest career memories. I guess that’s what troubles me so much with the generation we’re hiring today. They want to make big money, with little experience and no time in the trenches. They seemed to have a tendency to be tardy, struggle with authority and jump ship as soon as something demands effort they’re “not being paid for”. It’s the instant world we live in that’s generated these resources. I pray we can change that culture over time and grow some strong supportive teams to carry on when we’re gone. Gary Steele

My most meaningful raise…

I was making one dollar A DAY, (plus lunch and a carvel Sunday on the way home) for a four hour day at my first job. I was 13. Admittedly, the pay was off the books and the job was for a family friend.

The owner knew it was my birthday and reminded me to go down to the junior high school office to get working papers.  I did, and then as directed, I brought the little card to work.

The following week was Christmas vacation so I was able to work more hours. When I was paid at the end of the week, I received my first “check ” .

The hourly wage was 1.35 cents per hour and the year was 1970. I WAS BLOWN AWAY.

When I asked the owner why I received a raise that was 5x more than my current wage, he replied “Now you are legal”, meaning I was on the books .  It’s when I also learned about withholding as well. – David Friedfeld

My most meaningful raise…

The best raise I ever got wasn’t about the money.  Early in my casino career, 1996. I was opening a world-class casino in CT. I came over as the Mgr of VIP Services, from a neighboring casino.  24 and happy to be offered 35k for the gig. We opened, 27 hour days, not knowing what I was doing.  Just figured it out.  A week after opening my boss came to me and said, “Give me your experience off your resume?”  I gave him my experience and he wrote the Director of VIP Services job description off my resume to make sure I got the job. Changed my life!  Went on to a 25-year career in the industry as a senior executive all over the country.

That break brought me to many jurisdictions and moreover financially, let me see the world. So much, I was able to retire at 50 and leave that world behind. Happy in South Florida now working as a handyman.  Life is funny…… Board room dude in a suit ( and not happy in the end) to fixing leaky faucets and fixing flood damage and being blissfully happy.Best my friend, been following you since the day I made my first 100k back in 98 and you accepted me into your forum.

My most meaningful raise…


The year was 1987 in Dublin, Ohio.  I was 15 years old and eager to gain part-time employment.  One day while dining at a fast-food restaurant called “Rax” not far from my home, I inquired with the manager if they hired 15-year-old’s.  She said they sometimes due but 15-year-old’s need a work permit, can’t work past 9 PM on school days, and aren’t allowed to work the roast beef slicer.  I filled out an application on the spot and hoped to get a call.  A few days later, I got the call for an interview and was hired on the spot making minimum wage at $3.35/hour.  I was ecstatic.

I started out working a couple nights a week riding my bike to get to/from work on a busy street.  I learned how to flip burgers, work the drivethru, stock the soup and salad bar, take orders, and work the cash register.  I loved the variety and not knowing which station I would be working for each shift until I arrived.  I worked hard but I really enjoyed the people I worked with, the customers that I served and the ability to go on a date to the movies with money I had earned.

I have three fond memories of my new found experience at the workplace.  One day I was asked to vacuum the dining room floor.  I picked up the vacuum cleaner from the back storage shed, carried it through the kitchen and foyer, and then begin vacuuming the carpeting dining room.  After I was done vacuuming, my manager called me over to a dining room table where she was working on some paperwork and she thanked me.  Not for vacuuming, but instead for carrying the vacuum instead of rolling the vacuum over the tile areas in the kitchen and entryway.  She said most employees roll it and the vacuum makes a very loud clickity clank noise which perturbs her and the customers.  Something so small, yet profound in the way I approached work in my later years. Chip Myrick

My most meaningful raise…

After a failed attempt to get started in the industry in 2001-2003, I took a job as what I’d essentially call a phone-based broker. It was a mostly salary with a slight bonus component. Wanting to prove myself after flaming out in the first job (which I later learned was due to no desire to sell what paid highest commissions) I did pretty great in year 1 at the new role/company. My boss must’ve seen my drive and determination, as he helped me learn to be a better salesperson, and I achieved some great results. I was rewarded with an 11% raise after the first year or so – and was told they were normally only allowed to do 5% max. It was then that I knew selling was a good career path, when/once you find something to sell you believe in and helps others. Thanks to you, Matt Darling. –Eric M. Boatwright 

My most meaningful raise…

My story is just a little different than most. I had been a registered nurse (RN) for several years and then started working as a travel nurse making very good money. Sometimes more than I ever thought I would.

Then my Multiple Sclerosis (MS) ended my career much earlier than planned. For 18 months nothing. Then I went through a state program that helped me obtain disability. They helped me go through a program that helped me get a part-time job in the transportation industry driving other disabled individuals to and from work.  I have worked for two transportation companies. Then out of the blue, a new start-up company called me to come work for them. I was shocked they called.

Then after 6 months of work, I was promoted to Transportation Supervisor. I did not receive any money, however, the recognition for my hard work and increase in authority and responsibility was quite an honor and made me feel quite blessed. Money is nice, however, job satisfaction is not always about money. The raise I received was the honor of recognition of my duty and commitment. My goal is to work as hard as I can and eventually be able to get off of disability and pay my own way in life. Even after I have to have this company drive me to the office each day. – Don P

My most meaningful raise…

I wouldn’t call it a raise.   I got hired by American Ref-Fuel, a start-up company that would identify a need for a trash-burning power plant.   This was in the era when “the world was running out of land for landfill trash yards.”  At first, I was told to report to Long Island New York and prepare to take over as the responsible Electrical Engineer for the plant under construction there.   For some reason, the engineer already there asked not to be removed, so I was recalled to Houston and ordered to start working as a support engineer for a plant to be built in Newark, New Jersey, with The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey as one of the partners, the other being Air Products and Chemicals of Allentown, Pennsylvania.  American Ref-Fuel was owned by APCI and BFI, Browning-Ferris Inc., “the trash collectors to the world.”

Newark had fallen behind schedule by 18 months.   The VP for my company decided to make me a responsible Electrical Engineer, and ordered everybody to do everything humanly possible to build the plant as soon as possible.  We got it built 6 months behind schedule, so we had pulled 12 out of the project.  When we turned the plant over I received a month’s salary as a bonus.  The Newark plant pulled the company from the red to the black, and for that, I received a month’s salary as a bonus.   At the end of the year, it was announced that our company had enabled BFI to meet all their financial goals, and for that I received a month’s salary as a bonus.

So in the year that Newark went online I was paid 15 months salary. –Nieves Soto