Asking for a raise can be a nerve wracking and uncomfortable process, but it doesn't have to be. Learn how to get a raise by being prepared and confident.
What’s the best way to improve your financial situation quickly?
Make more money.
And one of the best ways to earn more money is to get a raise at work.
But asking for a raise and actually getting one are easier said than done.
Companies aren’t in business to hand out money to any employee who asks for it.
Employee salaries are one of the biggest expenses for every company. Controlling costs plays a significant part in a company’s ability to make a profit. So what’s best for you in terms of salary might not be best for your employer.
You can get a raise with a solid case, good timing, and a strong presentation. That takes research, preparation, and practice.
Here’s how to ask for and get a raise:
Before you ask for a pay increase, know how much money someone in your position with your level of experience can expect to earn in your area.
These job salary websites are helpful, but they’re very general in nature. Differences in background, job title, geography, and more get lost when data is lumped together. So the ranges they output might not reflect salaries in your market.
Ideally, you want to find out what the salary range is specific to your position at your level at a company of a similar size in your town. So how would you go about gathering more precise information?
Start with your professional network. Industry contacts, former colleagues, HR people, and recruiters can be fantastic resources for current information on compensation, pay grades, and salary trends. Someone in your current position isn’t going to tell you their salary, but someone higher up who has done your job before might be willing to offer some guidance.
Local job postings can give you a good sense of your market value as well. Not all job listings include salary information, but some will mention a range. That’s useful intel, which makes scanning job listings in your area worthwhile.
Once you know what your value in the marketplace is, you can begin preparing to speak with management about a raise. You’ll have a target number, the data to back it up, and you can mention your number confidently.
How often are employee evaluations conducted? When are raises granted at your company? Is it on the anniversary of your start date or is it at the end of the year?
If you wait until your annual review to ask for a raise, though, it might be too late. Your raise could already be decided or limited by budget constraints by the time your review rolls around.
If reviews are done at the same time every year for everyone, your boss might be drowning in employee evaluations and under pressure to get them done by a certain date. He or she might not be willing or able to spend extra time with you when your turn comes up.
Get ahead of your review date. Three months prior is a good time to start the conversation.
Your performance isn’t the only thing that factors into getting a raise. The financial health of your company matters. It affects the likelihood of being given a raise so it’s important to find out as much as you can then time your request appropriately.
If you work for a publicly traded company, you can find recent financials and investor sentiment with a few quick Google searches. You’ll get some indication if now is a good time to ask for a raise or if you should hold off until things improve.
If you work for a private company that isn’t required to disclose its financials, you can’t just walk up to the CFO and start asking about profit margins and cash flow. But there are usually signs of a company’s health all around you:
Glean what you can. Decide what it means to your chances of getting a raise.
Information is all over the internet as well. Find news about your company. Read online reviews to understand how your company is perceived by customers.
Industry trade publications are worth a read too. You’ll be on top of the industry, which could help your career in several ways. They’ll also give you a clue about where your industry is heading. Is your company keeping up or getting left behind?
You’ll see announcements in the trades from competitors, partners, and possibly your own company. These announcements can be very revealing about the near term and long term future of your industry and your employer.
If your company is hemorrhaging money, conducting layoffs, or getting a lot of bad press, asking for a raise in the middle of the storm is a waste of time. But if the time seems right…
Asking for more money isn’t a conversation you can have in the parking lot or break room. You’ll need to take some initiative and set a meeting.
If you regularly meet with your manager 1-on-1 and you’re prepared, approach getting a raise at your next scheduled meeting. Let your manager know beforehand that you’d like to discuss career growth so they don’t feel put on the spot.
If you don’t have a standing meeting with your manager, you need to get on their calendar so you can prepare and ensure that the meeting happens. Pick a day and time where you’re not sandwiched in between several other meetings. You don’t want your boss watching the clock while you’re trying to prove your worth.
Once the meeting is set, start prepping.
If you can’t identify how your performance has helped the company, you probably don’t have a strong enough case to get a raise. If you need some help identifying your strengths, answer the following questions:
Once you’ve established your starting point, get out a sheet of paper or open up a Word doc and…
One of the best ways to get ready for anything important is to put your plan in writing. Preparing to ask for a raise is no different.
Open up a new document in your word processor. The question you should be asking yourself is, “Why should I get a raise?”
Type up your answers and don’t leave out any details.
Make a list of your accomplishments. Got any nice notes or praise from clients or colleagues? Copy and paste the best parts into your document.
Getting your thoughts out of your head and onto a document is a good way to organize your key points and prepare for your meeting. You’ll be clear on what to emphasize. You’ll gain confidence from knowing how strong your case is.
This document will also come in very handy as you’ll see later.
Be as exact as possible when you’re writing down your accomplishments so you can point to specifics during your meeting. Demonstrate how your work has directly impacted your department or company.
Tell your boss how much the company saved when you found a way to slash costs by 10%. Mention those 5 new clients your brought in. Remind your boss how you were able to streamline a process that resulted in a 7% increase in sales. Bring up the fact that you’re managing 3 more people now than you were last year.
It’s hard to argue with numbers. Go in armed with what you have, but don’t take credit where it’s not due. If you’re part of a team you can’t take sole responsibility for the team’s outstanding performance.
Once you have your document prepared, you’ll have a set of talking points. Now you just need to work on delivery. So…
Asking for a raise isn’t at the top of anyone’s list of fun things to do. It’s a difficult conversation. Especially if you’ve never done it before.
Minimize the awkwardness with practice. Know what you’re going to say before you get in front of your boss. You don’t want to sound stiff or like you’re reading off your notes, but you don’t want to sound unprepared or sheepish either.
Practice in a mirror. Build comfort and confidence talking about what you’ve accomplished and what you want.
Download a voice recording app to your smartphone if you don’t have one then record your pitch as well. Without being overly self critical, how does it sound? If it sounds bad to you, it’s probably not going to blow your boss away either.
Practice with a friend. Practicing with another person and getting their take on your pitch will be even more helpful than talking into a voice recorder.
Look for honest feedback, though. Your incredibly supportive spouse or your mom who was so proud of your 8th place ribbon are not the best people to ask.
Don’t ask a colleague. There are just too many ways that telling a coworker you’re going to ask for a raise then giving them your script could come back to bite you.
The more you practice the more confident and less nervous you’ll be.
Once the meeting starts, there are a number of things you need to do to keep the discussion flowing and increase your chances of success.
You might be unhappy with your current compensation, but that’s not the mood you want to set. You want to establish an air of collaboration and mutual respect. Don’t make the tone adversarial.
Open with how much you enjoy being at the company and how challenging you find the work. Segue into the purpose of your discussion without using loaded words like “underpaid” or “unfair.”
Remember that file you put together with all your kudos? Bring it with you.
Your clients and coworkers might love working with you and be very grateful for the job you’ve done for them. They might express their gratitude to you, but not all of them will go out of their way to tell your manager.
There are things you do in your job your manager might have no clue about. Your manager might not understand how much your customers and colleagues appreciate your work. Make sure your manager knows how you contribute and how valued you are.
Your success file is concrete proof. Use it.
You know you’ve earned that raise. That’s why you’ve done your homework, built your case, and scheduled a meeting.
You’re making a reasonable request. You have the data to back it up. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want.
Don’t sabotage yourself by using weak words that minimize your contributions.
You don’t “just feel like your compensation could be more inline with industry standards.”
You’re confident you’ve earned a salary increase based on your accomplishments. Speak that way.
Instead of asking for your desired salary or a specific percentage increase, ask for a range that includes your target number.
Wait…I’ve heard that asking for a range a terrible idea. You probably have since a lot of people seem to think so.
The conventional wisdom is that the decision maker is only going to focus on the low end of whatever range you throw out there. Conventional thinking isn’t always the best way to get what you want, however.
A series of studies conducted at Columbia Business School suggest that asking for a range is the better play. That might not be intuitive, but it’s easy to understand why it works.
Requesting a range appears more reasonable. That leaves the door open for counteroffers and negotiations. Being seen as reasonable also won’t harm your relationship with your boss.
Asking for a specific number looks rigid, which makes negotiations less likely. And being perceived as inflexible isn’t going to do your professional relationships or career path any favors.
The study also concluded that both the high and the low end of the range are perceived as signals for what you really want. People don’t just focus on the low side as you might assume.
So if your target is a 10% pay increase, ask for 10-15% instead of just asking for the 10%.
When suggesting a salary range or a percentage bump, make sure it’s reasonable. You’ve gathered your salary data and researched your company’s health so you shouldn’t be making any outrageous requests.
Don’t ask for a raise that’s not going to make you happy if you get it. If you want 6%, but you ask for 3-6%, getting 3% might feel like a gut punch.
You’re asking for a raise today because of what you’ve done in the past. But what about the future?
You’re not going to get a raise then start slacking off, right? Tell your boss how you plan to continue to perform and grow.
How will you make your manager’s life easier? How will you make the company better and contribute to its growth? Make sure your pitch isn’t all about you.
You’re a loyal team player dedicated to growing professionally. You want to help the company grow.
Get that message across. Demonstrate what’s in it for your boss and what’s in it for the company if you get a raise.
Knowing what to say is extremely important when you’re trying to get a raise. Understanding what not to say is just as important.
Starting off with anything that sounds like a grievance undermines everything that comes after. You can also make a very persuasive argument then completely trainwreck it by veering down the wrong path. Some examples:
“I haven’t had a raise in two years.”
That sounds like a complaint. Complaints weaken your argument for a raise by stealing focus from your achievements.
“Margaret makes more than me.”
Another gripe. Different employees earn different salaries for many reasons. Those reasons are none of your business.
Throwing someone else’s salary out there also lets your boss know you and your coworkers openly discuss compensation. That’s off-putting. And it’s no incentive to give you more money since your boss has to assume you’re going to blab to all your work friends about it.
“I do more than Harry.”
We measure ourselves against others all the time. It’s completely natural. It’s not a very productive habit in the workplace and it’s wildly inappropriate to do that while you’re in the middle of asking for a raise.
Compare yourself to coworkers during your meeting and you’ll sound arrogant and envious. Since it’s not your responsibility to oversee your colleague’s work, your boss will wonder why you’re worrying about someone else instead of focusing on bettering your own performance.
It also puts your boss on the defensive. That makes you the opposition. Creating an air of conflict practically guarantees you won’t get a raise.
Questioning your manager’s decisions, whining, and comparing yourself to colleagues are not the best ways to ask for a raise. Don’t make your boss feel like you called the meeting to air out your complaints and criticisms.
The takeaway is supposed to be that you’ve earned a raise, not that you’re burnt out, ungrateful, or disgruntled.
Nobody likes feeling extorted. Remember Mel Gibson in Ransom? He didn’t respond well to hostile demands.
Even if you don’t work for Mel Gibson, you’re playing a dangerous game if you threaten to quit unless you get a raise.
If you say you have another offer, then it better be true. You also better be ready to take the offer you’re trying to leverage. Your boss might actually encourage you to accept the offer if he or she knows the company can’t or won’t increase your salary.
If you have an offer and use it to try to get a raise, you might get that counteroffer from your present employer. You could also get escorted out of the building. Some employers would rather replace you than negotiate with you on a matter they consider already settled.
Getting a raise by threatening to quit might leave a bad taste in your manager’s mouth. The perception of you as an employee could change dramatically.
You could be seen as having one foot out the door. You might be labelled selfish or not a team player. Management might question your commitment to your job and the company.
Once you’re perceived negatively by your boss, it’s hard to get past that. It takes time and a highly focused effort. If that negative feeling lingers too long, nothing good happens.
Opportunities for advancement disappear. Maybe management starts looking for your replacement. Or you get overlooked repeatedly until you’re eventually pushed out.
Don’t make threats. There’s not a whole lot of upside.
Does your current salary make you feel underappreciated? Do you feel overworked or stressed out?
If so, that’s unfortunate. But you have to let all that go when you’re asking for a raise.
You called the meeting to talk about why you deserve more money. Money is emotionless. So is a well-constructed argument based on research and specific examples of your value.
Ask for a raise. Don’t ask for sympathy. You probably won’t get either if you let your personal challenges enter the discussion.
Don’t tell your boss your rent went up and you can’t afford it. You might be drowning in student loans or credit card debt, but that’s not your manager’s problem. The company doesn’t care that you need more money for Susie’s karate lessons.
Talk about how you’ve added value to the company, not about what the extra money can buy you. Keep the conversation strictly about your achievements.
Companies consider many variables when assigning salaries and granting raises. Some of them have nothing to do with you. All you can do is make your case as best you can and hope for good news.
What happens after you request a pay increase is out of your hands. You’re not done trying to get a raise as soon as your meeting is over, however. There are a few things you can do to improve your odds of getting a salary increase.
After meeting with your manager, send an email summarizing your discussion and reiterating your request for a raise. Why send an email about something you just talked about?
Documentation for one. You and your boss will have a written record of your request. It could prove useful at formal review time whether you get the raise you asked for or not.
Secondly, and more importantly, your manager now has something to forward to anyone up the chain who has to approve the request. It’s better than your boss just sending an email to the higher ups based on a vague recollection of your conversation or a message without any details simply stating you asked for a raise.
You typed out all your achievements and successes in preparation for your meeting. Use that document to draft your email. Add in anything important that came up during your meeting.
Your email should get right to the point and be skimmable. You want to get a raise. Don’t write your autobiography or a history of every wonderful thing you’ve ever done at work.
Open with a thank you for taking the time to meet. Reiterate your request for a higher salary. Include bullet points with your best achievements and strongest accolades. Close with a sentence or two making your case then sign off.
You probably won’t get an answer right away. Don’t read too much into not getting an instant yes or no. Your boss might need a few days to think about it or might not have the final say.
If you haven’t heard back after one full week, then it’s OK to follow up. But not before a week has passed.
Listen to your manager’s feedback very carefully. What you hear could be very revealing regarding your future compensation and your future at the company.
Your manager might feel that you don’t have enough experience in your current role to justify a higher salary and jumped the gun a little bit. You might find out that your request was poorly timed for other reasons. Or you might value certain skills and outcomes more than your company does.
All of that is valuable feedback. But it’s hard to hear. Don’t let it discourage you.
Take any constructive criticism on board. Use it to find ways to improve or deliver more of what your manager wants to see.
Your manager is probably not going to sit stone-faced and silent through your entire meeting. Not all bosses are capable of providing constructive feedback, unfortunately.
If you don’t get actionable insights you can use to help further your career and reach your goals, then it might be time to do some soul searching. The salary you deserve might not be possible in your current position or at your present company.
But it doesn’t have to end there. Hope for the yes. Create a backup plan in case the answer is no.
A backup plan doesn’t mean storming into your manager’s office and quitting in a huff. Here’s what you do instead:
If the answer is no or not right now, ask what it would take to get a raise in the future.
If you don’t get an answer, that could mean you work for an awful manager. It might mean the company is not as successful as they’d like you to believe. No explanation could also be evidence that employees are not valued where you work.
If you’re not able to get any direction, Plan B might involve thinking long and hard about your future then seeking other opportunities.
If your boss does give you an explanation, ask for help creating a plan and a timeline for you to reach your salary goals. You show you’re interested in growing with the company. You get a clear road map both you and your boss agree on.
Plan B then becomes stepping up your effort, further developing your skills, and documenting your successes. Look for opportunities to exceed the expectations that were set out for you. Demonstrate exactly what you know your boss wants to see the next time you address your compensation.
Plan B can also be about something besides a bigger paycheck. You didn’t get a raise, but are there any benefits you’d find acceptable in place of a salary increase? Perks like flexible hours, extra vacation days, stock options, or allowing you to work from home one day a week are often easier for employers to provide than money.
Asking for a raise involves putting yourself out there and having a tough conversation with your boss. Some people would do almost anything to avoid doing either of those things. If that’s you, you might be wondering if it’s possible to get a raise without asking.
It is absolutely possible to get a raise without having the talk. You probably won’t be fist pumping over your new salary, though.
Your company might give you a small pay increase every year to keep up with the cost of living. Most significant raises are merit based, however. So you’re better off demonstrating your value and asking.
Waiting and hoping that your contributions get rewarded with more than 3% is a recipe for disappointment.