HOW TO ASK FOR A RAISE
Photo by Mimi Thian
In today’s business world, it’s imperative that you ask for what you want. Securing a raise is no different. If you want more money, you must ask for it. It’s very simple: if you don’t ask, you don’t get more.
The biggest mistake people make when asking for a raise is a lack of preparation. When you are not prepared, you set yourself up for failure.
What is Your Market Value?
You must know what you are worth before you ask for a raise, so do your homework.
First, you can find out what others are earning in their companies. Some companies don’t hide the salary range for different positions. Check out GuideStar if you’re in the nonprofit field.
Second, you should perform a comprehensive market analysis. Utilize career portals (like glassdoor.com, payscale.com or salary.com), forums, salary calculators, and talk to your friends. Make sure you factor in your own performance and longevity within the company as well.
Once you’ve done thorough research, you should have a specific number in mind. It may change in negotiations, but it will give you and your employer something concrete to work with.
What to Ask Yourself Before Asking For a Raise:
Here are some questions to ask yourself before negotiating a raise:
1. Am I actually underpaid?
Do your research. Are you being paid fairly already?
2. Do I deserve a salary boost, or do I just want one?
How has your work been lately? Have you recently completed a big project with great success or has your performance been average? You will increase your chances of getting a raise if your work performance supports it.
3. When is the last time I got a raise?
Did you just receive a raise? Have you ever gotten a raise before? According to Forbes, if you’ve been with the company for one year and more without a raise, then it is time to ask. However, if you just received an increase in pay or benefits within the last year, it may make sense to wait.
4. Am I aiming too low?
Don’t sell yourself short. Your employer will most likely want to negotiate to a lower amount during your salary meeting, so don’t ask for the amount you actually want. Ask for slightly more than you would be happy with to give yourself room to come down a little if needed.
5. Should I ask for benefits instead?
Don’t forget about benefits – sometimes they matter more than a dollar figure. If your employer won’t budge on salary, have extra vacation days, a private office or another perk in your back pocket to ask for instead.
6. What will I do if they say no?
Have your worst-case scenario in the back of your mind just in case. An initial “no” doesn’t mean no forever. Turn a negative into a positive. Be prepared with a different request if your first one is turned down.
7. How am I performing compared to my colleagues?
Are others in similar roles outperforming you in any areas? Even if you’re making personal improvements, it may be hard to convince your employer to give you a raise if you’re surrounded by people who are performing at a higher level than you.
By answering these questions before your meeting, you will feel more confident in yourself and what you’re asking for. Remember: no amount of preparation is too much.
Mindset is everything!
If your mind isn’t in the right place, you’re likely going to fail no matter how much research you’ve done.
Across many cultures, women are often conditioned to be submissive basically from the time they are born. Even the most powerful women may struggle to maintain a positive, success-based mindset in a male-dominated business world. It’s easy to get caught up in self-doubt and to chronically undervalue yourself.
The more self-defeating your outlook, the less likely it is that you will receive what you ask for. On the other hand, the stronger your mentality, the higher the likelihood of success.
Before you ask for a raise, make sure you have adopted a powerful frame of mind.
Before Asking For a Raise
These next strategies will help you build a case for why you should get a raise. These are not “quick fixes.” They are long-term tactics, so don’t expect results right away. Anticipate three to six months to see real results.
Once we dig into these strategies, you will see why they will take time – and why they’re worth the effort.
1. Become Indispensable
Who does your boss call on when they need something important done – and done right? Is it you? If not, look for opportunities to position yourself as the go-to person for high-level tasks. Your name should be the first one that comes to mind when your employers need someone they can count on.
2. Find an Advocate Within Your Company
Who thinks you’re great? Who is willing to support you and comment on your excellence within the company? Perhaps there is someone in another department who loves to partner with you on projects. Maybe it’s someone at the executive level who has taken an interest in your professional success and sees your current or potential worth within the company.
3. Develop a Good Relationship with Your Boss
Nothing beats positive, strong interpersonal relationships in the workplace. You want to be a trusted colleague, not just another employee. Don’t hide away at your desk – become a creative collaborator with your boss.
4. Make Your Boss Look Great
This is the person who has the power to give you a raise, so it serves you to help them appear amazing to their boss whenever possible. For example, if you have a deadline, turn your work in early so your boss can meet their deadline early.
5. Volunteer for Tasks No One Wants to Do
Be careful not to overload yourself, but if you have the bandwidth to take on undesirable but important tasks – do it. This could include training new employees, filing or creating documents, logging reports, or any number of other tasks. Everyone loves the person who is willing to do what they don’t want to do.
6. Get a High-Profile Assignment
Look for any chance to join a major project. Sure, high-profile means high-risk. But it also means a major opportunity for visibility and success. If you help bring your business big money through an important assignment, you will be in the perfect position to ask for a salary increase.
7. Acquire New Skills
The more you know how to do, the more valuable you are. Show that you’re invested in becoming the best employee you can be. Take classes, ask for additional training, read books on leadership and business – anything and everything you can do to increase your abilities.
8. Add Value by Bringing in New Customers
When you bring in more business, you show that you are a much-needed asset to the team. Without you, that additional business would not exist. The more money you bring into your company in the form of new clients or customers, the more you show yourself to be a valuable member of the company – and the more likely you are to be compensated for that value.
9. Do What You are Asked
If you already got feedback from your boss about what you have to do to earn a raise, follow their recommendations as long as they are reasonable and possible to implement.
For example, if your boss said that you needed better programming skills and stronger Spanish, enroll in online courses.
These strategic examples of making yourself more valuable to your employer will take work on your part, but it will be worth the investment.
Explore other options beyond salary
Quite often, people who ask for a raise fail to consider their overall benefits package. There are other ways to be compensated besides a salary increase. An increase in benefits may satisfy you just as much as receiving more money.
Consider what you want from these common benefits before you walk into your raise negotiations.
1. Vacation Days
What if you were able to take double the amount of paid vacation per year? Would that achieve the same level of contentment that you imagine a higher salary would provide? There are a lot of options when it comes to vacation days. Consider several positive outcomes of negotiating at this point and be ready to counteroffer whatever your employer comes back with.
Maybe a larger base salary is out of the picture, but what about quarterly or annual bonuses? This can be a lucrative negotiation point if handled carefully. Do the math beforehand and be ready with some numbers for your employer.
3. Flexible Work Hours
Perhaps you would be more satisfied if you could work from home or while traveling? This is a great aspect to negotiate as it can improve your quality of life without costing the employer anything.
These days, an exceptional insurance package can be even more valuable than an increase in salary. Investigate the type of insurance that you want and be ready with concrete information for your employer to consider.
Those are some common examples, but there are so many other benefits that you could negotiate. Decide what matters to you—whether that’s one of these benefits or something else like tuition reimbursement or retirement contribution.
So now you’re ready to enter into a raise negotiation. What’s next? There are a few steps to a successful negotiation that are important for you to know.
As we’ve mentioned, you must prepare before you walk into the room. This includes research, deciding what you’re going to ask for and settling on your non-negotiables. It also includes rehearsing the meeting, which we will talk more about in just a moment.
2. Communicate Effectively
Be able to clearly state your desires in a few sentences. Respond calmly and with grace no matter what you’re met with on the other side of the table. If you want to know more about communication, read our Guide to Effective Business Communication.
Pay attention to the words as well as the body language of your employer. What are they saying to you between the lines? Are they happy, angry, calm? Listening must happen on multiple levels – not just with your ears. You can only respond well when you listen well.
If you don’t like the offer or counteroffer from your boss, continue to negotiate. Negotiation is defined by two sides working together to come up with a solution. It is meant to be a healthy discussion of needs and wants that – hopefully – leave both parties equally satisfied.
If you’ve been offered something that doesn’t feel right to you, don’t take it. Try to keep the conversation going until you are pleased with the offer on the table.
5. Reach an Agreement
Once you are both happy with the new deal, get it in writing. Go over any documents thoroughly to ensure that you are receiving what was decided. Thank the other person for their time, openness, and generosity. Courtesy is key. We’ll talk about it more detailed in the last section of the course.
6. Follow Up
Keep in contact with HR to ensure that all documents are filed correctly and that you receive what was agreed upon in the time frame specified. Again, proceed with politeness and respect here.
If something goes astray in the finalization process, don’t fret – paperwork can be fixed but a soured relationship is much more difficult to repair. Be firm but nice as you work to make sure everything is finished properly.
Schedule a meeting
You’re ready to schedule the meeting! But not so fast – you need to think about proper timing. Timing really can be everything when it comes to asking for a raise.
There are great times to ask for more money, and there are also really bad times to ask. For example, if you know the company just took a dive in profit this quarter, asking for a raise right after those numbers come in is not a great choice. However, if you just booked a big client, completed a major project, or helped the company boost sales, you’re in the perfect position to ask for a raise.
If your boss is stressed out, wait to schedule a meeting. The more manageable their work level is, the more likely they are to agree to give you more money when you ask. If they’re swamped, they simply may not have the space for your request. Be smart and wait until they are in a calmer place.
The other thing to consider is whether or not you should wait until your performance review to ask for more money. Sometimes this is the best option – especially if you’re able to implement some of the long-term performance practices we talked about earlier in this section.
Excel in Your Meeting
Timing is everything
The time has come! You’ve done your research, you’re prepared and ready to go. No more rehearsing – the only thing left to do now is get in there and make it happen!
Here are a few final tips for the meeting itself. Follow these and get ready to win.
We communicate so much non-verbally. The words you say are important, but if your body language tells a different story your boss will notice – even if it’s not conscious. You see, bodies talk just as much as mouths do. Any nerves, lack of confidence, or doubt about what you’re saying will show.
Sure, it may not be possible to get rid of all your nerves – it’s a big moment, after all! But how do you make sure you present the most self-assured image possible?
What’s the best way to ask?
To actually pose the question can be a tricky matter. To just say “can I have a raise?” immediately places you below your employer in a way that makes it easy for them to say no.
So, try this – don’t ask! Instead, present your case and state clearly what you want and why you deserve it. If you don’t have a strong bond with your boss, you can start with this standard lead into a discussion:
“I appreciate you for taking the time to meet with me. As you know, in the past six months, I have [insert largest accomplishment]. As such, I’d like to discuss my salary.”
If you have a close working relationship with your boss, you may find that easing in slowly to the conversation is best. Start with some small talk – catch up! You’ll feel when it’s time to broach the subject at hand. At that point, you can simply say,
“I’m excited to discuss a raise in salary with you.”
Allow the conversation to flow from there.
It comes off as rigid to walk in with a stock question of a statement. It’s important to prep a general lead-in, but beyond that just talk to them! Your boss is human and so are you. As long as you have your facts straight, you know what you want and what you’re willing to negotiate, you’re all set.
Presenting your accomplishments
Don’t be afraid to sing your own praises! If you don’t do it – who will? Now is the time to offer up your list of achievements that support your position. Present each item boldly and with joy – be excited about what you’ve done and all you’re currently doing.
Make sure to include any statistics that show in concrete terms the value you bring to your company. Don’t be modest! This is your time to shine.
The truth is, negotiating a raise is tricky and takes work. Many factors contribute to the success of your meeting, and sometimes it doesn’t work out. If you asked for a raise and did not receive one, no need to be discouraged. It may be that in a few months you can try again and succeed.
However, if you feel you’ve tried everything possible and you still haven’t received a raise at your company, then maybe it’s time to look at other options. Our course “How to Land Your Next Job” dives deep into the details you need to get your dream job, even showing you how to find employers that share your values.