It is not easy asking for a higher wage, especially when you aren't sure if you have the job yet. Furthermore, it can be quite stressful asking for a raise if you know there is a line of people who would kill to have your job AND do it for less compensation.
There are three contributing factors that an employer considers when an employee asks for a raise:
I once flew a client to Atlantis, a beautiful resort in the Bahamas. In the evening, I accompanied my client to a venue that was being held in a nightclub. It was a typical club. Nothing spectacular, just people from all over who were gathered under the lights and loud music to have a good time. One particular activity sticks out in my memory: Pro athletes were making it "rain up in da club."
They were tossing stacks of cash up in the air and laughing as grown women, dressed in heels and skirts, were on their knees raking in the money with their bare hands. It's impressive how resourceful some people can be when their hands are full.
Okay, allow me to share my observations and feelings as a medevac pilot. This may sound brash.
It baffles me that sports organizations can pay their players to throw dead animal skin back and forth across a grassy knoll in order to support their desires for gold teeth, Bentleys, and making it rain up in da' club while the medical industry can’t provide enough income to the transport team for them to live amongst the people they serve. Even if you make $100,000/yr, you’ll still qualify for low-income housing living in SF, but most helicopter pilots will never see that kind of annual income anyhow.
It just seems backward. Our nurses, paramedics, and pilots soar through obstacle-rich environments at unsurvivable speeds to save the children of those very players while suspended in a tiny plastic basket. Oh, and that tiny basket is suspended from thin air by twirling metal which is propelled by a 1300º ball of fire. The kicker? If you touch one leaf, the entire thing explodes.
A Real Job
One that pays you even when grounded for maintenance or when the weather is bad.
Every career pilot wants a "real job." Employers who offer "real jobs" usually have a set entry-level pay with scheduled raises. You can’t squeeze any more green blood out of an aircraft with a fixed seating arrangement, but hopefully this article will help you pull in a few more pennies per pay period.
There is more to being a pilot than just meeting the minimum hour qualifications for the job. You need to become an indesposable asset to your employer and clients.
PRO TIP: AVOID STRAIGHT AND LEVEL FLIGHT
Quality Hours are something that you should display on your resume. Straight and level time is nothing to be proud of. Try to create tangible results during each hour you fly (e.g., endorsing a student, flying IFR, performing approaches, practicing emergency procedures, or adding on other certificates, ratings, and endorsements).
I was due for my annual recurrency training at Airbus. Since I was teaching on a daily basis, I felt very comfortable in the aircraft and wanted to maximize my training. I called the insurance company and asked if I could do things a little differently. What if I took a Maintenance Field Technician Course in place of the Pilot Recurrency Course? They said that if I could produce a Program of Instruction (POI) with all of the systems covered, then I could go ahead and do it. Not only did I get to do a 40-hour ground course in place of an 8-hour ground course, but I also saved my client over $10,000 since we had an available Technician Course that came with the purchase of the aircraft. We only had to pay for one flight with an instructor and ask that we cover all maneuvers that are typically in the recurrent course.
I will never act as a mechanic, and this certificate will not apply to flying, BUT all of my interviewers seemed to be impressed that I spent a week at the aircraft factory instead of just two days. Bonus - I've been able to pass along a deeper understanding of aircraft systems to my students.
You can also add another category, class, and endorsement. It is just a small upcharge if you need to build time anyhow. Who would you rather hire, Pilot A or Pilot B?
Get as much diverse flight time as possible. Adding ratings not only builds your skill, but IT IS SO FUN! Log as much night and IFR time as you possibly can. Did you know that you can become a Crew Resource Management Instructor? The fact that you invest into your trade speaks VOLUMES to your employers.
You can't squeeze blood from a rock. Do some research on your organization and try to gain an understanding of how much you can justifiably ask for. Many small operators barely get by and that is probably why there is a large turnover of revolving doors.
Each company is different, but you can estimate rough overhead. Try to calculate payroll, insurance, operating, and advertising costs.
Compare your results to how much margin there is in each aircraft hour. For example, it would be a mistake to think your earning potential is $1100/hr just because the direct operating cost of an H125 costs $700/hr and your company is billing it for $1800/hr. Remember, your boss needs a paycheck as well. You can ask around. Find a baseline of what other pilots earn who perform similar duties and try to bid for the higher end if you can justify it by your resume. This is where your networking skills can come in handy.
Some organizations are nonnegotiable because they have a long line of pilots who just want to be part of the assembly line. You’ll have more opportunity to negotiate with organizations that provide unique services or have eclectic clientele.
After you make your calculations, you may discover that there isn't much wiggle room. If you are working for a new company, or one that has high overhead, don't bother asking for a higher wage right away. This is not always a bad thing. If you like the people you work for, this is a HUGE opportunity to make the company grow. If you put in hard work that yields a substantial profit, you will be able to do two things:
If you haven't read the book "Start With Why" by Simon Sinek, you MUST read it. He mentions that 250,000 people didn't show up just to see Dr. MLKJ speak. They showed up because they shared the same belief. Try to identify the common cause with your employer. This is how you establish your value as an asset to the organization.
If the pay is so low that you can't survive, then think twice about working there. You'll just build resentment and start the vicious cycle of opportunistic job hopping. Try to establish a career mindset, but make sure that your employer is going somewhere.
Don't be afraid to ask. Worst case scenario, you can be rejected, but at least your boss will know that you believe that you will put out a high-quality service.
PRO TIP: Don't be afraid to ask!
Worst case scenario, you can be rejected, but at least your boss will know that you believe that you will put out a high-quality service.
FREE Wage Negotiation Letter
Download this letter. I used it on a flight school that I once worked for who initially offered me $35/flight hour. They ended up agreeing to the terms I requested in this letter. Feel free to customize it for yourself and let me know how it goes!
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