“A lot of us were raised with the belief that it’s not polite to talk about money. If we want to close the pay gap, it’s time to stop being polite and start talking about equal pay.”

Wise words from Issa Rae, US actress, writer, director and producer quoted in a piece in The Cut that compiled a few celebrity pearls about asking for a raise as a woman.

Amen, right? But I’m not just talking about equal pay. It’s also important to break the silence about what your industry peers – same gender - are earning.

I only started feeling comfortable enough to do this in my late thirties after a decade and a half lost of true earning potential. 

But hey, you live and you learn.

Here are few things I’ve picked up as I’ve climbed the career ladder that I think everyone should have in their work arsenal. Even if it’s just to help you be a nicer person to work with.

1. A number

No more uhming and ahhing. Know your number and don’t be afraid to ask for what you believe you should be earning. Do your research first by finding out how much someone at your level earns – this could be someone at a different company in a market-related position or someone who’s previously held yours or a similar role.

Check out sites like MyWage or PayScale that share salary data. This should give you a few numbers to work out a bracket (from what’s reasonable to expect to how much you would like to earn).

It’s always easier to negotiate before you accept an offer of course but it’s never too late to have that talk. You know, the one that starts with an R. 

Full disclosure here. I’ve never asked for a raise – I’ve never known how to and the way I got to increase my number was by moving to a new company when they offered me brighter prospects. Not the best strategy but I’ll be the first to admit that discussions around a raise can be tricky. 

My advice now? Ask for a catchup meeting with your manager at least three months before your KPA. Be mindful of when budgets are planned as their hands will be tied once these have been locked down.

Prepare for the meeting by detailing your reasons for asking for a raise, keep repeating them and run through the conversation with someone you trust.

Remember that your boss doesn’t care that you insurance premiums have gone up or that you’d like to save more to be able to afford that trip to New York. Sell yourself based on what you bring to the company and to the role.

2. A pause button

Why do we feel guilty when we feel we need to take a break? I’m talking about getting up from your desk to take a stroll to stretch your legs or eat to applying for leave for a long weekend staycation or three week-long annual break to refuel.

Dining al desko should not be your default. According to Huffington Post, a 2008 University of Illinois study found that the brain’s attentional resources drop after a long period of focusing on a single task, decreasing our focus and hindering performance.

But the study also found that even brief diversions could significantly increase your ability to focus on that task for prolonged periods of time. 

Request leave for your next break, wander over to your colleague to irritate them for a few minutes and take that sabbatical or ‘gap’ year, you never got a chance to after school. You’ll be more productive when you return.

3. A pair of sneakers

The only and best stress relief is getting your blood flowing. There are so many cool ways to work out to suit your lifestyle, budget and personality. Lazy and on a tight budget – download a free seven-minute workout to your smartphone to use at home.

Need a bit of motivation, like to socialise and enjoy a bit of fresh air in the evenings – join a running group.

Like the gym but can’t stand jumping around – take a yoga class. A glass of wine when you get home every night and a crazy weekend of ill-advised behavior will only ever be a plaster. And remember after all, fit is the new skinny or the new rich depending on where your priorities lie. 

4. A lunchbox

As an addendum to a regular workout and taking a break, I’m not sure why this one took me so long to learn. Besides saving money and time, the panic of not being able to leave your desk to get lunch because of deadlines just adds unnecessary pressure to your day.

Which is too easy to take out on colleagues. Buy some nice tupperware and a coolerbox and make making your lunch before you go to bed part of your brushing-your-teeth-routine

5. A black book

I suppose when I say black book in 2017, I’m talking about the cloud. Save every contact to your phone and always back up. Save and back up. Make that your mantra.

You never know when you’ll need something from someone that you meet casually or could connect that person to a headhunter, journalist, or someone looking to make new friends.