Professional Development

How to Ask Your Boss for a Raise

how-to-ask-your-boss-for-a-raise
Written by Kate Lopaze

You’re sitting at your desk, working hard as always, when your boss walks up, smiling. “Congratulations,” she beams. “I’ve decided to give you a 25 percent raise!” Wow, you think, as you mentally run through the list of people you want to thank: your agent, your deity, your long-suffering spouse. Suddenly you snap back to reality, and realize it didn’t actually happen. No one walked up and handed you one of those oversized prop checks, just for being you. (Darn it!) But part of your fantasy could come true—with a bit of research, a little work, and a lot of confidence.

Asking for a raise is something you shouldn’t take lightly. In this economic climate and the chronic outbreak of corporate belt-tightening, it’s easier than ever for bosses and executives to shrug their shoulders and say “I would if I could, but….” That means it’s on you to show how you’ve gone above and beyond, or how your productivity has been an asset to the company in your time there. According to PayScale.com, 75% of people who ask for a raise get one. Be one of the 75%!

Before you start the process, ask yourself a few questions about where things stand at work right now. Have your responsibilities changed recently? Are you taking more initiative than ever?

Should You Ask for a Raise?

[via PayScale]

If you don’t feel like you’re quite at that point yet, that doesn’t mean you won’t be soon. Be more proactive at work, taking the lead on projects that involve other people, and start reaching beyond the limits of your job description.

If you are ready to start advocating for that raise, then here are some steps you can follow.

Step 1: Do Your Homework

Step 2: Settle on a Goal Amount

Step 3: Pick Your Timing

Step 4: Ask for a Meeting With Your Boss.

Step 5: Gather All of Your Information

Step 6: Ask

Step 7: Have a Plan B

Step 1: Do Your Homework

do-your-homework

The best tool at your disposal here is information–information about you, information about your industry, information about what other people make doing the same things you do. The great thing about this is that we have so much of this info right at our fingertips these days. There are entire websites out there devoted to how much people make in different industries, and what they can expect to make over the course of a career. It would be nice to think that we’re all priceless professionals, who don’t have a dollar figure. Yet in this cynical world, we all have a (professional) worth…and it’s absolutely essential to know yours. Let’s look at a few of the sites that can help you find out.

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics: Sure, it looks like dry government data—and, well, it is. But it’s also a wealth of information about your industry: median salaries, career outlooks over the next ten years, and basic career requirements.

PayScale.com: On the front page, it says in big letters, “What am I worth?” That’s a sign that you’re on the right track in your research. You can search by industry or job title, and download free reports that give you salary data about your field.

Glassdoor.com: This site has industry and salary data too, but it also has company data—including anonymous reviews from people who’ve worked there. So you get hard data about what people similar to you are making, but it can also give you insight into how your own company works behind the scenes. And if the raise request process doesn’t work out, it has some great resources for a job hunt.

Step 2: Settle on a Goal Amount

settle-on-a-goal

Once you have a ballpark figure in mind thanks to your extensive research online, it’s time to start refining that a bit. You should have a specific goal in mind for your salary negotiations. You may or may not reach that in the end, but you need a figure for your manager to work with. If you let the other person set the number, you risk low-balling yourself. And you really don’t want to find out later that your boss actually would have gone higher, but didn’t because you seemed satisfied with the lower amount. Moral of the story: you set the narrative here.

Here are 3 tips to keep in mind as you figure out your amount.

1. Be realistic.

Remember your research, and stay within shouting distance of what people in your role make at other companies, or what people have historically made in your role at your own company. Unless you’re about to sign a major professional baseball contract, asking for crazy amounts of cash (and a shiny new BMW convertible) will get you laughed out of your negotiation meeting.

2. Be specific.

Remember, you’re setting the conversation here. If you throw out a specific number or percentage of the raise, you open up a dialogue with your manager.

3. Be firm.

Once you’ve settled on an amount (or at least a narrow range), commit to it. The last thing you want is to be winging it once you have your boss’s attention.

Okay, so you’ve figured out what you’re asking for. Let’s move on to step 3.

Step 3: Pick Your Timing

pick-your-timing

If your company just released a disastrous earnings report, then now might not be the best time to ask for a raise. If you or your boss is overwhelmed in the middle of a giant project, now might not be the best time to ask for a raise. You want to pick a time when the powers that be might be more receptive to giving you more cash.

This is not to say that you can’t ask for a raise if things are shaky with the company. As with everything else, there may not be a “perfect” time where all the planets align for your request, and you shouldn’t put it off indefinitely. But if you’re conscious about what’s going on in general, you can find a time when people aren’t just going to dismiss your request right off because things are terrible. It’s a matter of shifting your opportunity window.

Also, knowing what’s going on can help you frame your request: “I know things are a little rough right now with our industry, but I’d like to talk about a merit-based raise.”

With many companies, raises and bonuses are tied pretty closely to the annual review process. Again, there’s nothing stopping you from taking this outside of the regular channels, but if you align your ask with a time of year where your company might be more amenable to adjusting your pay, it could increase your chances.

Step 4: Ask for a Meeting With Your Boss

Ask-for-a-Meeting-With-Your-Boss

No carrier pigeon necessary: just an invite that blocks out time for you and your boss to talk about this without distractions. There’s no need for cloak-and-dagger secrecy. A simple “meeting to discuss salary” subject works fine.

Step 5: Gather All of Your Information

information

Remember when you did all that research on salaries? Time to bring that back, and keep it in mind for the discussion with your boss. You should also:

  • Update your resume. It’s probably changed since you started, and the manager in charge of your raise may not have ever read your resume in the first place. So it’s time to rebuild or refine your resume, tailored to the points you want to emphasize in your raise request (skills you’ve picked up, tasks you’ve taken on, accomplishments you’ve accumulated). Bring a copy to the meeting with your boss.
  • Make a list of all of the talking points you want to hit in your discussion.
  • Practice what you want to say. It can feel silly to talk to yourself in the bathroom mirror, but asking for a raise can be a stressful situation. And in stressful situations, we don’t always remember to say what we needed or wanted to say. So if you practice ahead of time, it’ll be easier to stick to your points when you’re asking your boss.

Step 6: Ask

ask

Armed with your accomplishments and your raise-worthy activities on the job, gather up your confidence and walk into the meeting with your manager. There are some do’s and don’ts as you take this step:

    • Don’t be aggressive or defensive. Keep the tone civil and professional at all times.
    • Don’t make it about you as a person—make it about you as an employee.
    • Don’t try to make it about what you want/need. If you are having personal financial issues, or want to finance Mr. Fluffington’s cat botox regimen, none of that matters. Focus on your worthiness as a professional.

  • Do take it seriously. Even if you’re buddies with your boss, you want to treat this with the utmost seriousness. This is your salary we’re talking about! You want your boss to take this request seriously, so you need to set that tone.
  • Don’t be afraid to talk yourself up. It’s not bragging to list your accomplishments and explain why you deserve a raise. You should be a confident advocate for yourself.

Step 7: Have a Plan B

plan-b

Sometimes the answer will be “no,” or the amount will come in way under that you were hoping to get. If that’s the case, you have some follow-up decisions to make. If you feel like your company doesn’t value you, and now you have a dollar figure against that, it’s time to ask yourself if you’d like to stay, or try your luck elsewhere.

If the answer is no and you have no interest in jumping ship, don’t take it personally. This is a business discussion with business reasons behind it. It’s not a rejection of you (even thought it can certainly feel that way). Before you even walk into the meeting with your boss, know what your plan is for each potential outcome. Don’t lose heart—you can try this again in the future. Ideally, your boss explained why the answer was a no. And keep this open as a dialogue: you can ask whether there’s anything you can do to set yourself up for a better raise on the next go-round.

The most important thing with asking for a raise is that you go into it with every possible reason and justification at your disposal. The raise request is a not-so-distant cousin to the new job salary negotiation, in that you don’t get what you don’t ask for and you don’t want to have any regrets later on. Good luck seizing your opportunity!

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