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Are you among the 43% of Americans that think they are underpaid? Ready to get that pay increase or new job title?
Getting ready to ask for a pay raise can feel like interviewing for a job, but it is an incredibly important part of advancing at work. Advocating for yourself and your work is a great skill to build, and earning more earlier in your career is a strong way to build up your retirement savings.
Similar to an interview, you will want to go into this discussion ready to make your case, informed about the figure you are aiming for, and with responses handy if your boss says yes or no.
When to Ask for a Raise at Work
Picking the wrong moment to ask for a raise could harm your chances, so it is important to time this discussion well. Some opportunities occur naturally, while others are planned in advance by the company.
Understand your company’s review schedule
Does your company have a rigid review cycle for salary check ins? Great, you have a deadline to work towards for your raise discussion, and your manager should expect you to ask at that time. If you have a quarterly review system it could also be important to note when financial planning happens for the next year, so you can ask before your boss has finished their fiscal year plan.
If you are reviewed on an annual basis make sure you know how much time you have to discuss your performance with your manager and bring up a compensation review before the last five minutes of the meeting. Annual reviews can be packed, but you can work your raise into a larger conversation about the great work you have done in the last year.
When in doubt about the review cycle, ask Human Resources for guidance.
Consider how long it’s been since your last raise
Were you granted a raise within the last six months? If your workload or title hasn’t changed significantly in that time, you might want to hold off if you are reviewed more than once a year. It is a good idea to keep track of your work during this time so you have a long history of your excellent work since your last raise discussion.
After completing an important project or title change
If you are taking a victory lap from a major achievement at work, you might consider scheduling a discussion for a one time bonus or raise discussion—capitalize on your success and your manager’s happiness with your work.
If your company only discusses raises at set times, make a note of this achievement so you have it handy for a future compensation discussion.
How to Prepare to Ask for a Raise at Work
Before you ask for more money, make sure you have a solid case ready for your manager. This will require some research and preparation but think of it as investing in your future salary.
Reflect on your recent work
Look back at projects that you have completed since your last compensation review and be sure to highlight those where you went above and beyond expectations. Quantifying your work will also help your boss more clearly see the value you are adding to the company. Review your job description as well to make sure it reflects the work you did in the past year, or if you were working beyond your current level.
Salary research and knowing your market value
Are you making the market rate for your current role in your city? Take a look at Glassdoor for other roles with similar responsibilities that are hiring at this time, and compare your current salary to the salary range of what other companies are offering. This will give you a clear target to aim for when asking for a raise.
If you are already making above average for someone in a similar role in your area, make this a part of your consideration when asking for a raise. You might actually consider looking for a change in role at your company, not just a salary adjustment.
Solicit feedback from your manager and peers
Beyond including your quantified performance, you might also want to get qualitative feedback as well. Ask your coworkers for feedback on your recent performance and include those quotes in your raise discussion.
You could also pull comments from your most recent performance review with your boss to help support your position. This is one way to remind your boss that they have valued your work for a while and that this request is based on their own feedback.
Offer to take on additional responsibilities
If there is a way to expand your role to justify a higher salary, consider adding this to your raise discussion. This could also be a great way to take on new responsibilities and grow professionally. If you are looking to take on significantly more or different responsibilities, consider asking about a change in role, not just a salary adjustment.
How to Ask for a Raise During Your Meeting
You have done all your research, you have a number in mind, and a clear list of reasons why you deserve this raise. You can go in prepared and still be nervous about having this discussion. Here are some key points to remember when defending your case.
Stay positive and enthusiastic
Asking for a raise can be uncomfortable, but if you set the tone by being positive and enthusiastic about the work you have been doing you can help alleviate some of the awkwardness. Share what you are excited to achieve at the company going forward, and remind your boss that you are invested in this role (so they want to invest in you).
Focus on the future and your goals
Make sure you are on the same page about what this raise would mean for your workload. Is this an adjustment based on the years of experience of work you are already doing, or are you asking to take on more tasks with this raise? It is important to be on the same page as your boss and highlight what you are excited to accomplish in the coming year.
It is equally important to keep the reasons for your raise related to work, and not personal reasons that you might be looking to make more.
Be prepared to answer questions about your work and your value
Don’t be caught off guard by your boss asking “why do you deserve this raise?” Pretend you only have 30 seconds to summarize all of your work and hit your key reasons right away, but also be ready with details.
This question usually isn’t because your boss doesn’t think you deserve a raise. It is because they need a clean list of reasons to write down when they request further budget for your raise. Make their job easier by having an answer handy.
If you are asked to go into details make sure you have your quantitative and qualitative data memorized. What are the key data points behind your achievements? What feedback did you get from your boss and coworker recently? Use specific and recent accomplishments that your boss can recall as well.
Be specific with your desired salary
You may not want to start by asking for this figure, but you don’t want to draw a blank if your boss asks what you are hoping for. If you open with a specific figure you can expect your manager might negotiate down from there. Instead, you might wait to see what your boss is able to offer and compare how close that is to your goal salary.
It is also important to know what a 10, 15, or 20% raise would mean in dollar terms before the meeting. Your boss might say “we are able to offer you a 15% raise at this time,” and you don’t want to be doing mental math on the spot.
Consider asking for other benefits beyond salary increases
You should always have a plan B if a raise is not an option at this time. Your boss might really want to show that your work is valued, but not have the budget for a salary increase. There are other perks you could ask for, including:
- Extra vacation days
- Work from home flexibility
- A title change
These may not be an option for every role. Consider which would not only be a benefit to you, but could work at your company.
Be prepared to hear no
You may present an air-tight case for why you deserve a raise, and the answer could still be no. Take this result with grace and figure out why a raise is not possible at this time in a non-confrontational way. Understanding what is working against you is the first step in setting yourself up for a successful salary discussion in the future.
This mature and measured approach is also a way to show your boss that you can keep cool even when things don’t go your way, always an admirable quality in a coworker.
What to do After Your Raise Discussion
No matter the outcome of your salary discussion, you don’t want to slack off now. If you got the raise you worked hard to earn, you have to continue to prove that your boss made the right decision. If you didn’t get the raise then you need to show the value you add and set yourself up for future salary negotiation.
Be prepared to negotiate
If your manager has proposed a salary that doesn’t match the number that you were aiming for, don’t settle right away. Understand why they are proposing a lower figure and where that fits among the industry standards in your area. Maybe there is an opportunity to ‘ladder up’ to your desired salary over a set time period? What would your manager need to see from you to get to that desired number?
Create a plan with your manager to get the salary you desire
If it was a failed raise conversation, it is important to understand why and make a plan for future success. Set clear and defined goals with your boss to help you reach your desired salary.
If variables were out of your control, it is still important for your boss to know that you had worked hard and deserved further compensation, even if they are not in a position to grant it at this time. It might be that you will need to be promoted to earn more, and they can keep you in mind for future opportunities.
It is also up to you if you want to stay at this company after a failed compensation discussion. Moving on to a new company might be the best option for your career progression. Knowing what is blocking your raise will help you make an informed decision on if it is time to start job hunting.