You don’t have to prepare for a battle to negotiate effectively. You do have to do your research and prepare. Changing how you think about negotiating will help you speak up with confidence. And finally, don’t be afraid to ask!
Most people find the thought of negotiating a pay raise or setting a wage nerve-racking at the least. You are doing yourself (and your team) a disservice by low-balling your value. Get over the limiting belief, “I’m not in it for the money.”1
Not understanding and negotiating your value can cost you a lot over the course of your career.
Tips in effectively negotiating include:
- Being properly categorized as exempt or non-exempt (there can be a lot of confusion surrounding these terms)
- Prepare, know team wages and understand your value
Negotiating is stressful
Let’s just get it out there: establishing and negotiating for a wage increase can be stressful.
“Female candidates are even more affected by this apprehension,” according to Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever, authors of Women Don’t Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide. Babcock and Laschever also found 46 percent of men report “always” negotiating their salary, but only 30 percent of women do so.2
A lifetime of low-balling
While creating the Know Your Self-Worth and Get It presentation for the Women’s Veterinary Leadership Development Initiative (WVLDI), I experienced an epiphany. It was then I realized the female gender gap impacts the individual woman and the profitability of the entire veterinary team.
A warning message from the “Behind the Pay Gap” study, completed in 2011, was even women who make the same occupational choices men make will not typically end up with the same earnings. “Moreover, if ‘too many’ women make the same choice, earnings in that profession can be expected to decline overall,” warns Hill and Dey.3
That is a hard pill to swallow when too many women choose to take and expect lower wages in veterinary medicine. This phenomenon impacts everyone on the veterinary team.
As a community of educated, worthy veterinary professionals, effectively negotiating your worth and wage elevates you and all those within your sphere of influence.
Properly categorized—exempt or non-exempt
In February of 1997, I received a letter from the Colorado Bar Association (CBA) helping me to understand my position as a non-exempt employee in which, under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), an employer is to pay overtime to employees covered under the Act. Since then, I have assisted other veterinary professionals understand the confusing and misunderstood categories of exempt and non-exempt.
First, that question I posed to the CBA via a newspaper: “My employer pays me a straight salary of 43 hours a week. I get two weeks of vacation every year. I am encouraged not to keep a time schedule because I usually work 50+ hours each week and am not compensated. I have heard employers are required by law to pay time and a half for hours over the agreed number. I enjoy my job. I just wish to be compensated for the extra hours. How do I get paid for the extra hours? Should I set up a time schedule and keep a time sheet?”
Thankfully, Legal Lines did publish my inquiry and I was able to share the information with my veterinary owner. As I stated, I did enjoy my job, I valued my skills and worth, and I simply wanted to be compensated accordingly. I did begin tracking my time and receiving the overtime pay.
Yes, this was a hugely courageous conversation on my part (at the time 31 years of age), and I did learn through the process. Most importantly, I share this experience with veterinary professionals in hopes they, too, will be properly categorized and paid.
Veterinary technicians and team members can find a Department of Labor Fact Sheet specific to support team members. It reads:
“…licensed veterinary technicians…and other similar employees are not exempt under Section 13(a)(1) from the minimum wage and overtime requirements of the FLSA because they generally do not meet the requirements for the learned professional exemption.”4
You are encouraged to discuss your employment status with your manager or supervisor to determine your appropriate category. I see on social media posts regarding employee status, and I cringe at the amount of misinformation and misunderstanding on the topic of overtime. Please go straight to your supervisor to get this valuably important conversation started.
Non-Exempt. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), an employer is to pay overtime to employees covered under the Act, in which credentialed veterinary technicians, veterinary assistants, and receptionists are included. Even those veterinary technicians considered team leads or in middle management may be entitled to overtime, as well.
Employees employed as bona fide executive, administrative, professional (veterinarians), and outside sales can be exempt.
Prepare, understand your value, and know team wages
You may recall in a previous article, “Retaining veterinary professionals—values, training, goals and compensation,”5 you can mine a lot of salary and wage information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Salary Expert, and surveys from within the veterinary community.
Consider in some states (California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington) there are Equal Pay and Pay Transparency Protections in place.
I live in Colorado. These are the laws within my state:
- Equal Pay for Equal Work Act No employer shall discriminate in the amount or rate of wages, salary paid or to be paid their employees in any employment in this state solely on account of the sex thereof. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 8-5-102.
- Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act It is a discriminatory employment practice for an employer to discriminate in matters of compensation against any person otherwise qualified because of sex. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-34-402(1)(a).
The Equal Pay for Equal Work Act creates two new notice requirements for Colorado employers, which are not found in any other state equal pay law:
- Employers must make reasonable efforts to announce, post, or make known all opportunities for promotion to all current employees on the same calendar day.
- Employers must disclose in each posting for each job opening the hourly or salary compensation, or a range of the hourly or salary compensation, and a general description of all benefits and other compensation offered.
What are the laws for your state? This may seem like a very odd concept, to research the laws that support you in your career, but it is essential! Remember, I had to have a courageous conversation with my veterinary owner in 1997 because I did my research, found the answers I was looking for, and I enjoyed my job! I wanted to stay engaged as a credentialed veterinary technician.
Understanding your value is based upon quite a few factors, making you a unique and valuable veterinary team member. Factors may include, but certainly not limited to:
- Years within the veterinary profession
- Formal education (within veterinary medicine and outside of the field) and credentialing
- Continuing education elevating particular medical and professional, people skills
- Obtaining a specialty as a veterinary technician or as a veterinarian
- Leadership and training talents
- Goal setting and achieving the established career goals (merit)
You may be surprised to learn in the 2008 AVMA Biennial Economic Survey well-educated and competent veterinary technicians positively impact the bottom line. The survey revealed that, on average, for every credentialed veterinary technician a practice employed, the practice generated $161,493 more in gross revenue.6
This, too, may sound odd, but fully articulate what you want!
Many times, a team member may feel they asked for a raise, but the boss or manager never got that impression. Be succinct in asking.
Action is required. Write out your ask to include your value (years in the profession, education, goals achieved, etc.). When asking, stay calm. Practice keeping your nerves in check from getting jittery. Stand in front of a mirror stating your plan out loud. Or ask a trusted colleague to provide feedback.
When you have your performance review or goal setting conversations with you supervisor, that may be a good time to make your ask. Consider choosing a time of the day when you’re energetic, enthusiastic, and on your game. The end of a long, difficult work day may not be the best time to ask for a raise.
What happens if you prepare, make your ask, and get a no? My advice, keep swinging!
A “no” just means you need to regroup and prepare again. This is the tough part, do not take a “no” personally. That’s right, it is worth repeating. Do not take it personally! You may not understand all the obstacles in play or maybe it just wasn’t good timing.
I ask for something a dozen times a week, and I may get a “Yes, let’s do it!” twice.
I am the queen of hearing, “No, but maybe next time.” If I took each “no” personally, I would have been crying under a rock decades ago. Instead, the old adage, “Try, try again” is true!
It’s time for you to step up to the plate and pitch your raise. You now have the resources to complete your research, identify your value, understand a few of the laws ruling labor, and clearly make the ask. You’ve got this!
Rebecca Rose, CVT, certified career coach, founder, and president at CATALYST Veterinary Professional Coaches, has a diverse background in the veterinary community. She has worked in and managed clinics, collaborates with industry partners, and facilitates engaging team workshops. Her most current role includes outreach specialist for Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice. Rose’s enthusiasm for professional development in veterinary medicine is contagious, as she encourages and supports veterinary teams in reaching their highest potential. She can be reached via Rebecca@LapofLove.com.
1 Rose, Rebecca, CVT. Overcoming Limiting Beliefs About Money. August 2018, Veterinary Practice News.
2 Babcock, Linda and Laschever, Sara. Women Don’t Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide, Princeton University Press, 2003.
3 Dr. David Bristol. Gender Differences in Salary and Practice Ownership Expectations Matriculating Veterinary Students. JAVMA, August 2011. https://avmajournals.avma.org/doi/abs/10.2460/javma.239.3.329
4 Fact Sheet #17O: Technologists and Technicians and the Part 541 Exemptions Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) January 2020, https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/fact-sheets/17o-overtime-technicians
5 Retaining veterinary professionals—values, training, goals and compensation, Rose, Rebecca, CVT. Veterinary Practice News, June 2021.
6 Utilizing an Underused Resource: Veterinary Technicians, Veterinary Business Advisors, 2013,
7 How to Negotiate a Pay Raise; 7 Tips for Asking for a Raise, MasterClass, November 2020, https://www.masterclass.com/articles/how-to-negotiate-a-raise#quiz-0
8 Haden, Jeff. Research Shows NOT Negotiating Your Salary Can Cost you a Million (Especially Women). INC. December 2016, https://www.inc.com/jeff-haden/research-shows-not-negotiating-your-salary-could-cost-you-1-million-especially-.html