Em Pescott: Pay rises and promoting yourself

Megan Allanah
9 min readJan 10, 2021

Em is a career advancement coach and is the owner of Promotable You. Em helps all sorts of professionals, including lawyers, with a range of things from career changes to promotions and pay rises and removing road blocks and limiting beliefs in order to achieve your professional goals. Em’s background is in HR and communications. Em started Promotable You in order to help leaders advance their careers and in particular, help women who were having issues with being paid what they were really worth.

Standing out from the crowd and finding hidden job markets

I have seen lots of law graduates and junior lawyers who have sadly lost their jobs thanks to Covid (myself included) and so there is a lot of competition at the moment for those graduate/junior roles. Em’s first piece of advice is to be visible. Em says part of that is how you are presenting yourself on social media (such as LinkedIn) but also visibility of those who are in your networks on those platforms. Em explains that if you have lost your job reflect on who you are utilising or talking to in your network who knows that you are in the market for a new role. Em says that while applying for jobs on Seek is one strategy, there is a real hidden job market out there where recruiters don’t even put the jobs out on Seek because they have a huge pool of talent already. Em recommends getting in touch with some recruiters and don’t be afraid to call them as most people don’t pick up the phone these days — so that will also help you to stand out. Em says another tip is to go through the people you have in your network and reach out to them and let them know what you’re looking for and ask for support/advice. Em says if you have a technical skill or a part of the law that you are loving — then start putting some articles or content up on your social media accounts so that people can see that you’re really interested in that topic area/skill set. Em says that if she was hiring a lawyer and had two people who had similar legal experience but she could see that one of them was involved in some great online groups, was posting relevant information in the market and are getting involved by commenting on other people’s posts, then she would know that they are really proactive. Em understands that being visible online can be scary but it is so important to do, so if you’re struggling perhaps get a friend to help by pressing post for you!

Standing out in a job application

Em says that the biggest thing you can do to stand out in a job application is to make sure that when you are writing your cover letter or resume that you are coming from a place of how you have added value to an organisation/project/assignment. Em explains that you can do this by not just stating what you have done, ie. Drafting Court documents, but make sure to add other things such as they were drafted on time, submitted at Court without error, turnaround time and what outcome that provided the business. Em says if you go that extra step on each of your skills and experience and highlight that key experience and include the outcome that you have achieved from completing that particular task/having that skill, it will help you to automatically stand out as no one tends to do that. Em says a common mistake with CVs is that applicants hide relevant information throughout their CV. Em says that while having a visually appealing CV is important, it shouldn’t come at the cost of having the most important information hidden throughout your CV. Em’s recommendation is to include all of the important information on the front page — such as education, journal articles, summary of work history/volunteer experience, etc. Em says that you want your CV set up so that the person reading it is so enticed to continue reading it once they have read the first page rather than trying to hunt for the information that they really want to know about you as a candidate. As Em explains, there is a statistic that provides 6 seconds for the person looking at your resume to make a decision and so you want all of the key information on the front page and the key words and skills wanted from the job advertisement. Another important thing to bear in mind with your CV is to keep it concise, as a graduate or junior lawyer there is no need to have a CV longer than two pages as you are unlikely to have 15+ years of relevant work experience that you need to include in detail.

What to do early in your career

Most of the lawyers that Em works with are around 4–6 years PAE and they are coming to Em for help because they are behind their colleagues in salary — sometimes by up to $50,000 and they need help playing catch up. In order to stay on top of this early in your career Em has a couple of helpful tips. The first is that when you think about asking for a pay rise, rather than thinking about yourself and what is in it for you, think about the business’s bottom line and get in the mind of the person who you are going to be asking for a pay rise. Em says that you need to understand firstly, what the market is paying for the role you are in. Em explains that this is not by looking at one salary surveys but downloading five and averaging the salary for your role based on your location and then you can work out based on your skills and experience where you sit in that median. Secondly, Em says that you need to understand what the remuneration policy is at the firm you are working at. Em explains that some workplaces, generally corporates and Government departments will have a very set guideline about how you approach your remuneration review and that is usually after your performance review. If your workplace does not have a set guideline, then it is all about communication! Em explains that most people think that if they put their head down and bum up and work really hard that their work will be recognised but Em says it won’t be unless you have the right conversations. Em says that she would recommend having a conversation early on with your manager by making it clear that you’re not asking for a pay rise now but that you are wanting to prepare yourself for the future and you would like to know how to prepare yourself for when the time comes — so ask them about their career and how they went about doing that in their career. Em explains that this will allow you to get advice from your manager but that it will also open up communication between you.

How to prepare to ask for a pay rise or promotion

Em explains that you need to show how you have added value in order to ask for a pay rise or promotion — that’s what running a business comes down to after all. Em’s tip is to make sure that you keep a record as you go of the things that you may like to draw attention to with your manager/employer at a performance review. This might include positive client feedback, where you have helped out, anything out of the ordinary that you have done or achieved, cases where you have won if you’re a litigator, etc. Em says that if you cannot demonstrate where you have added value then you have got nothing to ask for — so that is really important! This is a great tip as I found out in my first junior lawyer role how important this kind of record keeping is when you want to have evidence to back up what you are asking for — we are lawyers after all, so we know the importance of having relevant evidence! Em recommends an app called ‘Peptalkher’ which is aimed at women (and closing the gender pay gap) where you can record your achievements and it collates them all ready for your performance review.

How to improve your self-confidence

Em says that a lack of self-confidence usually comes down to a limiting belief that is usually from a person’s past where they have failed at something. Em says the first step when you get a feeling that you get a feeling that you aren’t good enough, write it down and try to work out where that is coming from — has something happened in your past that is distorting reality and making you feel unworthy? Em says that we tend to take negative moments from our past, think that they are the truth and carry them on into our future — and they are generally not the truth and they are never helpful. Em says that Imposter Syndrome (which a lot of us have heard about/experienced) is where you might walk into a meeting where you know the content and what you need to do/say but when you walk into the room, you look around at the other people in the room and you suddenly feel like a fraud and that you don’t have the experience/expertise to have a seat at the table. Em explains that Imposter Syndrome prevents a lot of people from taking the next step up, for putting their hand up in a large meeting and stops them from asking for a promotion because they feel they are not ready yet. Em’s advice to tackle issues with self-confidence or Imposter Syndrome is to take action! Prove to yourself that you can do something by writing down (if it is a promotion or a job you are applying for) each of the competencies and where you have demonstrated those before. Em explains that your mind can lie to you but if you write it down and see it in black in white — you will know that’s the truth. Em also says that you don’t need to be 100% competent at something to be able to do it — all you need to be confident in is your ability to research and learn. For example, Em says that if you know 70% of the role — great! You’ll learn the other 30%!

Make sure you have reasonable salary expectations

Guys, I get it — once your admitted as a lawyer, you’ve worked really hard, made sacrifices and you should be getting paid well! However, the salary for junior lawyers (really up to 5 years PAE) is probably a lot lower than you’re expecting. So, while there may be some room for negotiation and it will depend on the area of law and the firm you are working for — it is super important to have realistic expectations around salary. There is no point in asking your employer for well above average salary (unless you have a really good argument for why). Em says that you probably haven’t gotten into law for the money — you may be motivated for social justice, to help people or to change policy and while it may be a shock not to be paid a lot of money straight away, remember the reason you got into law in the first place and keep having those conversations around where you are adding value. Em also makes a great point that it’s not all about the money when you are starting out in your career — having a workplace with a great culture or where you are mentored by someone who is warm and knowledgeable — these things are super important and often invaluable!

Em’s awesome tips

Be visible online if you want to stand out and find hidden job markets!

Make sure you’re including the value you can add to a business when preparing your CV!

Make sure all of your important information is on the first page of your CV and keep your CV concise!

Make sure you have relevant evidence when asking for pay rise or promotion — so look at multiple salary surveys and keep a record of the things you have achieved!

Make sure that you open up communication with your manager/employer early in your career in terms of performance reviews and discussions about career progression and pay rises!

The best way to improve self-confidence and beat Imposter Syndrome is by taking action!

Em is happy for you to reach out to her on LinkedIn or Instagram if you have any questions -

Em’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/empescott1/

Em’s Instagram: @promotableyou



Megan Allanah

Former lawyer who left law to pursue a better work/life balance ⚖️