I realise that pay isn't, or at least shouldn't be, the overriding factor in assuring job satisfaction, but I'm feeling increasingly disillusioned with my job - because of my salary. I'm a graduate with four years' experience and a relevant MSc. I'm working for a site investigation contractor and am managing my own projects. But I still earn considerably less than the graduate salary quoted in your most recent salaries survey. I realise that salaries are relatively low in the site investigation sector, but don't want to 'waste' my qualifications and experience by moving to another area of civil engineering. Should I ask for a pay rise and, if so, how should I go about it?
Your current dissatisfaction is unhealthy for you and your employer and is something that should certainly be discussed.
It is important you present your case in a constructive way and try to avoid putting your manager in a position where he or she needs to defend the existing situation. Emphasise the positive qualities you bring to your work and highlight ways in which you have added value to projects and, if possible, offer some new ideas for increasing this added value.
At LBH Wembley, we have a performance-related bonus scheme where engineers are rewarded on a quarterly basis for their efforts - perhaps you could explore whether a similar system would work with your employer.
For example, you could be given additional remuneration on the basis of achieving an agreed target within a set period. Such an arrangement might be particularly helpful if your manager has to present the case for your pay rise to his or her superiors.
Well-qualified and motivated geotechnical engineers are very sought after, and it is not the case that your salary should compare unfavourably with other engineering disciplines. Indeed, the shortage of geotechnical engineers is such that with your skills you should be able to command a premium salary.
There is a virtuous circle where well rewarded staff will generally be happier and thus more productive, leading to a more profitable company that can afford well rewarded staff.
Unfortunately, salaries are too often simply seen as a direct 'cost' to the employer. If you do not receive what you are looking for from your employer you should have no problems obtaining an appropriate salary elsewhere in the market.
Steve Branch, managing director, LBH Wembley Geotechnical & Environmental Your predicament is a graphic example of the sorry state of salary levels in parts of the site investigation industry, a situation that has arisen largely because we have failed to persuade some major clients of the benefits they gain from assessing tenders on the basis of best value rather than lowest price.
As a result, prices have fallen and salaries in some companies have been pegged back.
What can you do? Yes, you should ask for a pay rise. Use the NCE salary survey - tactfully - to justify your request. You should also ask for the increased responsibility of managing your own projects to be taken into account.
The good news is that salaries have risen significantly in the past couple of years, especially for younger staff as employers compete to attract and retain good employees from a dwindling supply of graduates.
If the request for a pay rise is unsuccessful, you could approach other site investigation contractors or consider moving to another sector, such as geotechnical consultancy. The fact that you already have a relevant MSc would be looked at favourably by consultants and your site investigation experience is unlikely to be 'wasted'.
The supply of MSc graduates is declining because the government has withdrawn funding from some of the geotechnical MSc courses. Anyone who already has an MSc will therefore be increasingly sought after in the next few years. The Association of Geotechnical and Geo-environmental Specialists is lobbying government for reinstatement of these grants.
Everyone working in site investigation can help themselves and the industry by ensuring that their company complies fully with the AGS guidelines for good practice in site investigation (see www. ags. org. uk). If we can succeed in raising the quality of service that the industry provides, then salary levels will also rise.
Keith Gabriel, technical director of Weeks Group and AGS chairman.