Thanks for giving me the raise

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Remember the most meaningful raise you got in your career? More than just the increase in compensation, it was the recognition and the validation that made you feel great.

In keeping with last week’s theme of “Thanks”, I’m asking Readers to share their stories about their most meaningful raises. Comment here and let me know which one meant most to you in your professional life. We’ll publish the best answers in the newsletter.

As for me, what was my most meaningful raise? That’s easy. It’s when I got bumped from $4.25 an hour to $4.50 an hour as a cook at Perkins’ Pancake and Steak House in high school.

Things were a little bit tight at home, so I was working for spending money and college savings. I’d done a short stint as a dishwasher previously and had the ‘audacity’ to ask to be a line cook when applying to Perkins as a 16-year-old. I got the job.

$4.25 was already a lot more than the $3.35 I’d been earning previously, so I was “stoked.” I worked Friday nights, Saturday and Sunday mornings, and have to admit there were times I hated it, slinging hash instead of getting to blow off the weekend with friends.

So it was a surprise when my manager pulled me aside to say I’d done well the first two months and was getting an increase to $4.50 an hour.

In retrospect, I must’ve been on some 2 month probationary period which culminated in my 25¢ an hour raise. But I didn’t know that.

To me, at that time, getting a raise felt like all the magic in the world.

I couldn’t believe that anybody thought I was good enough at something to get paid more money to keep doing it.  It was a world-opening experience.

For me, it wasn’t just an assistant restaurant manager in the upstate outpost of a national restaurant franchise signing off on a routine comp increase. It was validation from the World of Commerce that I could be productive and earn money for it. It honestly changed my conception of who I was.

As you might imagine, I’m smiling that smile right now that combines nostalgia, fond memory and a good feeling from long ago.

What I take away from this memory, each time, is the power of small gestures in our lives.

My manager at Perkins, Larry, had no idea that his conversation with a kid three decades ago would stay with that kid forever. That the recognition was extraordinarily meaningful, and a permanent positive change in that line cook’s life.

Your conversations, this week, with a kid on your team, or a rising professional, or with your up-and-coming peer, have the same power to stay with them forever.

I think if we realized this super power was always available to us, we’d use it more often. The kind word, the encouraging feedback, the push for a promotion, a raise, a recognition for someone who deserves it – all of these have the power to propel your peers, your reports, your teams, to a change in their beliefs about themselves and about their place in the world.

You have this super power. It doesn’t cost much. How will you use it this week, this month, to make your world anew? It’s entirely up to you to decide.

OK, please do let me know about your favorite raise in a reply or in the comments here, and we’ll publish the best ones later this week.

And speaking of gratitude, let me thank all of you for your feedback on last week’s newsletter: Humankind had its best year ever in 2020.  I truly appreciated how much you all took the spirit of Thanksgiving to heart, and the hundreds and thousands of kind words in response.