Asking for a raise can feel like a delicate social situation. Using our step-by-step method, you can use your past successes, strong work ethic, and industry knowledge to prove why they should invest in you. It may not be easy or feel socially comfortable, but we’re going to consider the entire picture. You did the work, so let’s show you how to ask for a raise.
First, let’s get comfortable with just the idea of asking for a raise. Some companies have an annual performance review and salary raises are part of that process. Others have pay raises built-in based on performance or tenure, maybe both. That’s great for them, but not every company does.
So let’s consider the cost of having a job in the first place, particularly one that requires you to be there in person. There’s the cost and time of the commute. Dress code? The cost of purchasing and maintaining those clothes. Unless you work at a place that offers you free lunch, you’re probably going to have the cost of a meal, either going out to a restaurant to eat or bringing one from home. And that’s not including anything outside of directly going to a job, such as childcare, elderly care, pet care, etc. None of these things are free. There is an initial investment that everyone has to make before being able to go to work. Your paycheck should make all of that hassle worthwhile.
You deserve a raise. You’ve done the hard work, you’ve paid your dues, you’ve put in your time, and now they should understand it from your perspective, right? Try approaching it from their perspective. You’re asking for a raise because your work has earned you one. Let’s prove you deserve a raise because your contributions to your workplace are worth it to them.
Before You Ask For a Raise:
Make Sure You Did Your Research
While salaries can vary widely from one employer to the next and are often determined based on experience and location, it’s still a good idea to research a reasonable salary for the job. There are free salary calculators on sites like Glassdoor, Payscale, and Salary.com. When searching your job title, don’t forget to add in any certifications or skills. Pay attention to the benefits and perks, because it might make sense for your situation to take a lower salary for more time off or better benefits. Your goal is to show you deserve a better title and pay, every step of the way.
Open Yourself Up for Feedback and Figure Out Their Goals
It’s worth it to share your goals with your manager and to see what could be done to excel in them. There’s no point in asking for a raise if you’ve spent the last six months focusing on something they don’t think is important. Save yourself time and figure out their priorities first.
“If you’ve been in your current role for at least six months, then in a non-pushy or self-serving way, have a conversation with your supervisor to let them know that, while your first priority is to excel in your current role, your long-term goal is to advance and that you want to make sure you’re doing everything that you can to set yourself up for success,” says Danielle Harlan, Ph.D., the founder, and CEO of The Center for Advancing Leadership and Human Potential. “Ask for their recommendations on how you can improve in your current role and what you can do to position yourself well for the next role.”
Exceed Expectations and Then Keep Track of Them
To deserve the raise, you must first show that you’re deserving of it. Consistently exceeding expectations in your current role and responsibility will set the tone that you already know what you’re doing, can contribute more, and should be promoted as a result.
Relying on your manager to remember everything you did is dangerous to your paycheck. Your boss might not be aware of or remember all of your achievements. It’s important that you go into this meeting with a list of what you brought to the table already, which is why a raise is essential. Some people keep a “brag” folder in their email, others keep an Excel sheet, or maybe you’d prefer a regular pad of paper. Whatever system works for you, be sure to keep that information handy.
Clearly Communicate Your Wins to the Right People
Clearly communicating your wins to the right people means more than giving your manager all the good news at once and in the same breath asking for a raise. Space your good news out as appropriate. Don’t wait to share all of that good news at once. Proactively communicating the good news will set the tone so that the manager knows you’re worth the raise by the time you ask. Communicate your accomplishments clearly, to the right person, and on a regular basis instead of all at once. You’re building a pattern of success that’s easy for anyone to see, not dumping an avalanche of good news, which can be seen as manipulative and therefore counterproductive.
When to Ask For a Raise
Be aware of the entire situation before asking
Beyond asking your boss, there are a few telltale signs your company won’t be giving you a raise. When they report low earnings and slow growth, that’s certainly a sign. Another red flag pertains to a hiring freeze. When budgets are frozen, there’s no emphasis on spending.
It might be time to ask if it’s been a year or more since your last raise.
It’s not enough to assume your boss will notice that your successes and feel inclined to give you a raise. If there aren’t annual meetings or a system set up to annually raise everyone’s paycheck, it may be on you to decide to ask or to jump ship.
Know your company’s raise and budget cycles.
If they’re laying other people off due to budget cuts, it’s not the time to ask for a raise or you’ll be gone as well. Figure out their quarters and when what is done when. If they’ve already figured out the budget and it’s been set in stone for a while, you may have to wait and ask again later.
What to Bring When Asking For a Raise
Don’t walk into that discussion empty-handed! Before you start this discussion, it’s easier to negotiate if you have the information ready of how you succeeded and what you did so well that you asking for a raise is only natural.
Hard Numbers of Your Successes
Bringing hard numbers to the table takes your negotiations from vague to specifics that can’t be argued against. Just like on a resume, having quantifiable results, such as how much you increased sales or the percentage amount you’ve helped the company save in some way, always trumps vague statements.
Be Prepared to Leave a List
If you suspect that they might pass the buck to someone else or try to push this conversation until later, bring a short (one page or less) list of key bullet points as to why a raise is justified. Include hard numbers on that list, so no one has any wiggle room to argue.
Also, don’t forget to bring your research as to how much the industry pays people in a similar position at other competitive companies. You want to consider your level of experience, the city you work in, and your education and compare it to others.
Between bringing hard numbers of what you’ve done to improve things for the company, a list of your past successes, and the comparison to what everyone else is paying, it should be obvious why you deserve a raise.
How to Ask for a Raise
What to say when you ask for a raise.
- Focus on why you deserve it.
Your goal is to show how much MORE you have done, such as how much money you brought in, how many sales you’ve made, how many somethings and how many whats.
- Demonstrate your added skills and value- now and in the future.
Now’s the time to show why you’re invested in the company and all your wins and successes. “Every manager values loyalty. Start the conversation on a positive note, and explain how much you like working for your manager and the company. Then explain what you want to do in the future, and how you plan to contribute to growing the business,” explains Mandy Gilbert, founder of the recruitment firm Creative Niche and tech school RED Academy. Showing how what you do now and what you can do in the future will have them focusing on the successful results you’ll deliver.
What not to say when you ask for a raise.
- Don’t make this personal.
There’s no point in raising your voice, yelling, or taking any of this personally. This isn’t about your personal value – it’s your professional value. Every employer has a max rate of what they can afford to pay someone, and you’re asking for a fair market value for your work. Your employer won’t feel compelled to give you a raise if you base it around how long you’ve been there, how you can’t pay your bills, or basically anything that is personal to you. This isn’t going to sway anyone into giving you more money. Sympathy, perhaps, but companies rarely run on sympathy. For most CEOs, it’s about the bottom line. Try to negotiate from a professional value base to keep yourself from getting upset or hurt personally.
- Don’t compare your pay to another coworker.
Be forewarned! Don’t compare your pay to a specific coworker’s pay! This can be dangerous for both you and your coworker. It’s generally viewed as immature, unprofessional, and counterproductive. This conversation is about what you bring to the table: your successes, your triumphs, your strong work ethic – no one else’s.
- Don’t combine asking for a raise with any other topic.
This will give any manager an excuse to not address the issue and draw you into an entirely different discussion.
After You Ask for a Raise
They say: “no” or “maybe.”
It’s important to stay professional even if you don’t get the answer you want. That includes keeping your temper, not threatening to go elsewhere.
“If you don’t get the pay increase or new position you requested, it doesn’t have to be the end of your negotiation. Request an interim performance appraisal with clearly defined goals and salary adjustment before your next annual review. This puts you in line for a possible increase sooner and also communicates how seriously you take your career,” says Julia Bonem, a senior career consultant at Resume Strategists.
So before you go in, be sure to have a few ideas of how to phrase your question of how you’ll request a performance review with clear goals and salary adjustment. It also helps to be open to other benefits besides a pay raise, such as more paid time off, further education, etc.
They say: “It’s not in the budget”
Managers often use this sentence as a common way to cut the talk short.
First, acknowledge that times have been difficult. Secondly, your goal is to make sure your boss acknowledges all of the hard work you’re doing. Thirdly, if a raise isn’t available right now, request to have the conversation revisited six months from now. Meanwhile, could you have a more flexible schedule or more paid time off? Just because the budget isn’t flexible, doesn’t mean anything else isn’t.
Alternatively, you can ask “do you know when the budget will be available for this?” or ask for more information. Repeating their own points back to them as a question is also a way to show you’re an active listener – and not going to be ignored easily.
They don’t say anything
That’s fine. Don’t fill the silence. Ask the question and wait for the answer. Even if you feel uncomfortable with the silence, just wait it out. This is a classic sales technique. Don’t fall for it. As long as you’re sure they’re still alive and breathing, don’t say anything.
They offer too small a raise
Perhaps your boss isn’t open to any higher than X amount. Now you can ask if there’s anything else that could accompany the compensation, such as working remotely or having more paid time off. If the company standard is two weeks, ask for three. How about any education help, etc.?
They say “I’ll have to check with so-and-so”
Leave a list if you know your boss will need to get your raise approved by someone else. There’s nothing wrong with leaving a short (one page or less) list of bullet points of key reasons why a raise is justified. Keeping it to your most significant new responsibilities or successes and competitive salaries will make it easier for them to skim the information, comprehend, and remember why later.
They say “no” or “maybe”
If they say “yes – and I’ll get back to you”, that’s fine if you know they’ll get back to you. But what about a “maybe”? That’s when we recommend making it clear when you’re going to follow back up with them. “Can I plan to check back in with you on the 30th?” will let them know you’re not done.
If they say no, then now is a good time to ask “what do you think it would take for me to earn a raise in the future?” Any decent manager should have some sort of feedback. If your manager can’t give you ANY feedback about how you can earn a raise in the future, that’s a sign you might want to consider a career elsewhere.
If you don’t get what you want and they’re not willing to negotiate, stay calm. Stay professional. Be prepared for every outcome before you ask for a raise. Don’t issue any ultimatums! It can be tempting but don’t do it. Stay calm, stay professional, and let them know that you’d like some time to think about it and come back to them. Be sure to end on a positive note.
If you consider the outcome and you’re still not happy, it might be time to think about looking for another job where the pay is closer to what you deserve.
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