How I increased my salary by 42% within 12 months

In Germany, usually inflation was always at under 2% historically before COVID and before the Russia Ukraine war. We are talking about the period between August 2021 & February 2022.

My salary as a project engineer was the same for 2 years leading up to August 2021 and I had not asked for a raise yet. But knowing my company and the job market in Germany at the time, a meaningful raise was only possible if I strategized well.

Context: My company was undergoing an exodus with 7 of 13 employees have left the company in the first half of 2021. So we had a unique situation where all of a sudden, I was one of the most experienced people in the company. In addition, the company was going through an audit to raise investment from an external investor, the most famous investor in Germany.

Step 1: Find your true worth

In June 2021, I started discussing with an ex-colleague of mine, the possibility of moving to his company, which was a leading global player in the renewables space. I began the negotiation with them and found out my true worth in the job market. They offered me a take home of about 20% higher than where I was + 10% incentives.

Step 2: Get the best offer for yourself + Take a risk

Using this offer of Current + 20% I went back to my boss and told him about my intention to leave. He tried multiple strategies to make me stay, including emotions and incentives. When he asked me how much I had been offered, I mentioned the entire 20% raise + 10 incentives as if it was a 30% fixed raise. Seeing the timing of my negotiations - he was in the middle of an investor discussion and could not afford an old employee leaving - he eventually agreed to raise my salary by the entire 30%.

Step 3: Wait a few months, retest market

I waited for a few months post my renegotiation at my current company and discussed the possibility of even changing my role and moving into a more interesting role. However, due to internal structural issues and a bad environment, plus no short-term visibility of a role change - I began applying again in Jan 2022. By April 2022 I had received an offer from a Berlin software startup - something I wanted - after going through 4 interview rounds and 1 assignment. Naturally, I asked for a raise from my current salary to reach where I am today.

The key decisions I made in the process and the logic I followed were the following

1. Getting a competitive offer before negotiating at my present company - since I knew my company’s paying standards (not too high) and also my then boss’ style and values, I realized that I should be in the strongest position from my side and he should be in the weakest position on his side, for this to work out. So I got the best and quickest deal I could get and also timed it for when he could not afford further attrition for the sake of optics while discussing with an investor. He was super frustrated with me and knew that I had leveraged him out, something very few people could do, let alone a first-jobber. I learnt so much from him, which I brought into my working and leadership style, and still highly respect him and in fact learnt this style of hard leveraging from him only.

2. Rejecting the offer to switch in Aug 2021 for a higher salary at the same company: German companies do not appreciate it if you have too many switches on your CV. I had spent, 3-4 years at this company and could make one switch, but would have to commit to the switch for at least another 2-3 years. This is something I was not too sure I wanted to do for two reasons

  • first, I felt the new company was hiring me for a role which would be super stressful,

  • two, I was still not satisfied with the salary I would be at. I felt my worth was more than the amount we had settled at and making a switch here would keep me fixed at this level for 2 years Hence when my offered salary was matched by my boss at my first company, I decided to stay, since then I could wait a bit and then switch to my target salary bracket, without my CV getting affected..

3. Finally changing jobs - After the renegotiation episode, my company went through internal restructuring and I requested a change in my job profile. However, that was not on the cards in the foreseeable 3-4 quarters. Moreover I felt that the kind of growth, opportunities, salaries and work culture I wanted was available in Tech- so began applying to Berlin-based tech startups. Which I eventually broke into.

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