When was the last time you went to your boss to ask for a raise?
Perhaps it’s been well over a year since you last talked about money with your boss. Or maybe you’ve never asked for a raise at all. It can be intimidating!
According to a recent study, only 56 percent of men and 38 percent of women feel comfortable negotiating their salaries.
According to that same study, approximately 71 percent of employees have not negotiated their salary at their current job or most recent job. 71 percent!
Are you in the 71 percent who haven’t asked for a raise? If so, it might be time to do so, especially if you have some pretty serious financial goals ahead of you. But I get it—it can be awkward asking for more money. The stats prove it.
But if you’re going to start paying down debt, saving for retirement, or investing for your future, more money can’t hurt, right? So why not ask for a raise? Don’t worry—I’m going to guide you through the whole process.
Let’s get into it!
1. Understand that it’s Normal to Ask
When it’s time to ask for a raise, the first thing you have to do is understand that it’s totally normal. After all, the cost of living in America has risen 14 percent over the past three years, according to a GOBankingRates’ analysis of the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index.
If the cost of living is going up, your income should be too. If you’re not getting the raises you need to keep up with the world around you, it’s absolutely okay to ask. And even if you are getting raises from time to time, if you’re not getting paid what you’re worth, you should ask for a raise.
However, before you do, consider the remaining nine steps below.
2. Choose the Right Time
I’ve said this before, especially about goal setting, but timing is everything, and that goes double when you’re about to ask for more money.
If your company is anything like the one I work at, there are certain quarters when business is booming and others when things are a little slower—and it seems to follow the same cycle every year. Are you about to ask for a raise right in the middle of a dry spell?
Before asking for a raise, you should consider the company’s natural raise and budget cycles and wait for the perfect timing.
You should also try to use emotional intelligence to pick the perfect time.
How is the financial health of the company? How is your manager’s workload? I wouldn’t recommend asking for a raise in the middle of a tight fiscal period or when your manager is in a particularly foul mood.
So, when is the right time?
Typically, good times can include annual or quarterly performance reviews, after you’ve completed an important project, or when your manager is in a great mood.
But before you walk into your review, prepare a case for why you deserve a raise.
3. Conduct Some Market Research
We all want more money, right? I mean, duh!
Did you know that only 19 percent of people are comfortable with their rate of pay? I sure didn’t! But before you go in demanding more zeros on your paycheck, you need to know what your work is worth.
While pay scales vary geographically, you should attempt to do some industry research on what other people are making to do the work that you’re doing.
Indeed.com has a neat tool for learning the salary range for your job, and it uses 450 million data points. Jump over to their website, enter in your job title, and check the scales.
Again, you have to consider your market. It wouldn’t be accurate to compare rural community salaries to those of San Francisco or New York City.
4. Focus on Why You Deserve the Raise (Not Why You Need it)
One of the potentially worse things you can do when asking for a raise (in my opinion) is to explain all of the reasons you need more money. I once heard an employee make a case for a raise by stating that she didn’t make enough to buy the Xbox she wanted. Honest! That happened!
Now, I love playing Xbox as much as the next person, but your manager, supervisor, or boss does not want to hear you make a case like this. I promise!
We all have stuff we want and need—a new car, a new set of tires for your old car, a better apartment, a retirement account, and so on. Even people with the best budgets could always make use of a few extra dollars for something they want or need.
Leading with why you need more money isn’t the best case you can build, trust me. If you honestly deserve a new raise (and I know you do), then there will be an impressive track record of achievement for you to build a case around.
It takes more prep work, but if you start with your accomplishments and added value, you’ll have a rock-solid case when you ask for a raise.
5. Share Your Accomplishments and Added Value
When it comes to building a case around your past performance, it helps to keep a journal of your accomplishments all year long.
However, if you haven’t been doing that, take a stroll down memory lane for the past 12 months and note down all of your major milestones, accomplishments, successful projects, contributions, and so on. Review your calendar, time cards, project management systems, notebook, or planner—whatever you can to help jog your memory.
Focus on the value that you’ve added to the company over the past 12 months.
I always tell young professionals that it’s our job as employees to provide value to the company, not the other way around. It’s the bitter truth, but companies exist to make money.
Yes, some companies have excellent benefits like unlimited paid time off, free MacBook Pros, and free food, but as employees, we have to show value to the company if we plan on asking for a raise.
High Performance + Excellent Results = Value and, you guessed it, Higher Value = Higher Earning Potential.
When building a case for your raise, base it on merit and not on why you need more money.
6. Ask for a Meeting
Okay, so you’ve psyched yourself up, picked the perfect time of year, and built a great case—now it’s time to ask for a meeting. There are many ways to do this, but I found a fantastic technique on Glassdoor.
According to Glassdoor, it helps to set the tone by asking for a meeting by indicating you want to continue to work and grow with the company. Ask something like:
“As I’m looking forward to working and growing with the company, I’d love to discuss my salary and and future goals. Is now an appropriate time?”
Leading with “growth” and “future” sends the message that you very much want to stay with the company and that you want to build a positive future for yourself. Who could blame you for that?
7. Express Confidence, Gratitude, and Enthusiasm
Attitude, attitude, and attitude. Those are the three most essential traits in an employer’s eyes when it comes to hiring and promoting. If you’ve decided to ask for a raise and you’ve built a case for yourself, you should be feeling pretty confident in yourself. If not, your boss won’t feel very confident either.
Asking for a raise can be intimidating, but you need to walk into the meeting feeling self-assured and positive. Your attitude will be infectious.
In addition to displaying self-confidence, you need to bring loads of gratitude and enthusiasm. First, show your manager that you’re beyond grateful for everything you have so far. Showing gratitude helps avoid looking entitled or unappreciative.
The visionary leaders in your organization want to see that you’re invested in the company’s future success, so show enthusiasm for your job and your goals. If you get the raise, they’ll want to know that you’re going to continue to improve, continually raise the bar, and spread the positivity while you’re doing it.
8. Share Your Future Goals and Ask for Honest Feedback
A huge part of growth and improvement is goal setting and seeking feedback. People who grow tend to make more money.
When you ask for a raise, share your future goals with your boss. He or she will love to know just high you’re aspiring to go.
True story: in the 6-month review I had at my current job, I told the CEO I would love to have his job when he retired. That was nearly seven years ago, and that goal is something I’m still working towards today.
Sharing your long-term goals is a great way to show your boss that you’re invested. If you’re invested in the company, the company will not hesitate to invest in you. One of the ways they can invest in you is by sharing real feedback that helps you grow.
If they tell you that you’re doing a fantastic job, challenge them. Ask for some areas for improvement. Ask them what you can work on to reach the next level. One great way to do this is to ask for a mentor.
Whatever you do, don’t become complacent. With every raise you get, the next one will demand higher performance and better results. Keep improving!
9. Be Prepared to Negotiate and Compromise
Okay, so far you’ve done everything right, but sometimes that’s still not enough. Sometimes, the company may be experiencing stagnant growth or even hard times, so money may be difficult to come by.
If your boss agrees to give you raise, but it’s lower than you had hoped, or if the answer is a flat “no,” be prepared to negotiate. Last year, a colleague of mine pressed for her desired raise, but the money just wasn’t there. But a little later, things changed, and the money came in.
Because she made a good case, pushed back politely, and asked how she could get where she wanted to go, we gave her the raise anyway. Better a month later than not at all, right?
If your request for a raise isn’t going as well as you’d hoped, ask if it would be okay to reevaluate again in 90 days or ask to substitute other benefits instead. Things like extra retirement contributions, more time off, a title change or promotion, or even stock options can often be fantastic supplements to a raise if you’re willing to ask.
The trick is to negotiate and compromise confidently and politely.
If you’re rude, pushy, or offer threatening ultimatums such as “I’ll quit if I don’t get a raise today,” you’re likely to lose more than just today’s raise. If you’re not immediately fired, you’re most likely not going to end up on the list for future raises.
That’s a list you want to be on!
10. Get a Raise and then Raise the Bar
Lastly, if you do get a raise, it’s time to raise the bar and deliver even more value.
With higher pay comes greater responsibility. Employees often look at raises as a reward for a job well done, but company leaders view a raise as paying for more value going forward. A salary increase is an investment in more results, not a payment for past performance.
It may be difficult to hear, but why would business leaders keep paying you more and more for the same results or output? Sadly, it wouldn’t make sense. That’s why everyone gets upset when the cost of milk keeps going up! It’s getting more expensive, but the milk isn’t getting any better.
Therefore, with every raise you get, you have to ask, “How can I raise the bar? How can I reach a new level? How can I deliver more value?”
Like I mentioned before, Higher Value = Higher Earning Potential. What will you do to raise the bar in your organization? If you haven’t had a raise in a long time, could your performance be flat? What can you do to improve?
It may be tough to hear, but if you’re not growing, you’re depreciating in value for your organization. Seek out new education online, read leadership and personal development books, practice new skills—whatever you do, just keep raising the bar.
What Happens if You Get a No?
If you’ve tried everything in this post and you still got a hard “no,” keep your head up. First, consider any feedback for improvement you may have received. Work on those improvements and try again in 3-6 months.
If you received a no because of the company’s financial situation, ask yourself if you’re willing to wait for a rebound or if you should consider moving on. If you decide to wait, remember that it’s your choice to stay so you can’t become bitter, complacent, or discouraged.
You have to keep a positive attitude and continue delivering high performance so that when the financial situation improves, you’ll have a strong case for a raise and proven loyalty to back you up.
If you simply cannot accept not getting a raise, don’t burn any bridges or make any unprofessional comments. Instead, update your resume, refresh your LinkedIn page, and hit the job search.
While you’re searching, maintain the utmost professionalism and performance at work. You never know when you’ll need a glowing reference or might need to come back to the same job in a pinch.
Over to You!
So, there you have it! Ten tried and true steps for maximizing your success in asking for a raise. Are you going to give them a try? If you’ve already tried them, did they work? Did I miss any crucial steps?
Drop me a comment below. I’d love to hear from you, and until next time, Take Care!
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