How to Ask For a Raise 101

If you feel your paycheck is no longer reflective of the work you're putting in, here are some tips to make sure you get the raise you deserve.

First things first, asking for a raise is totally normal. You might feel nervous, and that’s normal, too. But it’s important to remember that while it might feel like a big deal to you, it’s not as big of a deal to your boss. You’re not the first person to ask for more money, after all. In all businesses, it’s a standard, expected conversation. So ease up on yourself a bit.

Assuming you have a reasonable boss, it’s going to go well. Even if you don’t get the exact answer you’re looking for, the likelihood of damage being done by asking is probably low. Unless, of course, you’re asking for some outrageous amount that’s not in line with your job performance, timeline with the company, or rank.

You should look at a raise as an acknowledgment that you’re consistently contributing more than you once were. And so should your boss. Assuming they want to keep you around, they also want you to be happy and compensated fairly. Otherwise, you might choose to leave. Ultimately, you should both be able to recognize when your work is worth more than it previously was and therefore, a raise is now well deserved and due. Still, it’s up to you to speak up.

If this is the position you’re currently in, here are some things to consider when asking for a raise.

Timing Matters

woman excited while reading good news on laptop

How has work been lately? Do people seem more swamped, stressed, or tired than usual? How about your boss? If so, this may not be the time to ask. No matter our role or rank, we are all only human. We all have our own stressors to deal with, and it’s important to consider that we never know exactly what others are going through. So, if they seem to be going through more than usual, you may want to wait until things level out.

For all you know, your boss is stressed about possible budget cuts. So until conditions improve, play your cards close to the chest. It’s important that they’re able to see you for the asset you are and not perceive you as an added source of already mounting stress simply because they’re overwhelmed right now. Perhaps everything has been great at work and on the day you’re planning to ask, your boss is visibly having a bad day. Wait it out. How well your request is received will have a lot to do with timing.

However, if you’ve just done something particularly impressive, and your boss has commended you recently, asking sooner rather than later may work out in your favor. You’ll be able to provide a recent example of how you’re an integral part of their team. Being able to point out your concrete contributions is one of the key ways to easily show that you deserve this raise.

Evaluate Your Work Performance

confident young woman raising hand in meeting

Put yourself in your employer’s shoes. How would you evaluate your own work performance? How does it compare to those around you? Take the past year into account. Some companies revisit your salary annually and provide performance reviews, but some don’t. When they don’t, you need to take matters into your own hands and above all else, be objective, thorough, and honest with yourself.

Also, just because a raise has not been brought up to you does not mean it’s not an option. Many companies simply don’t broach the subject if you don’t. Look to your employment timeline for guidance. If it’s been a year since your current salary was established and your work has been exemplary the entire time, asking your employer to review your performance with a raise in mind is not just reasonable, it’s well deserved. On the other hand, if you’ve had a year full of mistakes, setbacks, and a less than stellar job performance, asking for a raise right now is ill-advised.

Have you gotten a raise before with this company? If your salary was increased within a year, this is no time to ask. Typically, you shouldn’t be asking if you’ve been at a job less than 12 months, but situations do vary. For instance, the job may suddenly become much more of a workload than what you signed up for. Perhaps a coworker quit and you’re now taking on some of their workloads along with yours. But in most cases, you should give it a full year so that you both have time to assess what you should be asking for and why.

No matter how long you’ve been with the company, establish what you think is fair by evaluating your work performance. The timeline will help you decide an appropriate time to bring it up, but it doesn’t diminish your worth.

Familiarize Yourself With Your Company’s Budget Cycles

It’s always a good idea to note when raises typically occur. If you’re with a company that does annual pay increases, look into it. It may fall around your start date, so be prepared. Others may do raises more collectively. If so, this likely relates to their budget cycle, and you’ll want to get ahead of it.

Once you’ve found out when raises are scheduled to happen, you can plan the conversation accordingly. The rule of thumb is to talk with your boss a month or two before it’s time for decisions regarding annual raises. Otherwise, you might miss the window and things will be finalized before you plead your case.

Prepare, Research, And Know Your Worth

focused man researching in home office

You need to go into this meeting as prepared as possible. They may have questions. Not only will preparation show your boss you’re a competent worker who is taking the process seriously, but it’ll alleviate much of your anxiety about asking. So start with research. For instance, what’s your company’s salary structure? Most companies have a set pay increase limit for their employees, with some being notably more rigid than others. Find out what’s possible before you have the talk.

Also, it’s useful to know what your employer typically pays others in similar roles and how much of a pay bump they tend to give employees at one time. It’s also good to know what other companies typically pay. Perhaps you’ll discover you’re wildly underpaid. This reality will be a good point to note when you’re explaining why you deserve a raise. On the flip side, you may find out you’re already making more than the average person in your position. If so, tread lightly. I’m not saying you shouldn’t ask for a raise, but you may need to be that much more tactful in how you approach the situation, how much you ask for, and when you do it.

Salary websites can help you decipher where you stand, but talking to people in your field will likely give you way more insight. That’s not to say people love to share their salaries. Most times, they don’t. But someone in your line of work will have a general understanding of what various types of companies should, or could, be paying you. They’ll also be the first to say you’re not getting paid enough when you’re not.

How To Ask For a Raise

man shaking hands with his boss

You don’t need to make a PowerPoint presentation or drawn-out speech to show your boss why you deserve more money. Considering they’re familiar with your work and you, your pitch can likely be much shorter than you think. With that said, you should explain why you believe you’ve earned it, including any new responsibilities you’ve taken on and significant contributions you’ve made in the past year. What makes you stand out? Once you’ve explained your worth succinctly, directly, and confidently, ask if you can discuss adjusting your salary accordingly.

If you already know how much you want or need to ask for, don’t hesitate to tell them the dollar amount you’re after. If you’re not sure, that’s okay, too. But be prepared to come up with a figure if you’re asked for one. Again, you need to show that you’ve prepared for this. The figure you present may prove to be a jumping-off point to start negotiations. Or, you’ll get exactly what you’re asking for out the gate. When you think about it, what do you really have to lose? Either you’ll walk away making the same amount of money or you’ll wind up making more.

Keep your pitch short, but give your boss whatever you feel they’ll need to make the decision. For instance, if you know that it’s not up to them, and they’ll have to ask someone else, provide them with brief bullet points that speak to your accomplishments, contributions, and increased workload. This way, they can present your case to their superior easily. No matter the exact outcome, making your boss’s life easier will always work in your favor.

What To Do If They Don’t Automatically Say “Yes”

You may not get a “yes” on the spot, but don’t let that get you down. Typically, managers don’t give an answer right away. If they respond with a “maybe,” that’s not the worst thing, either. Just don’t end the conversation without finding out what will happen next in the process. Walk away with clarity. It’s perfectly acceptable to ask if you can check back in at a later date or ask how long it could potentially take for them to find out or decide. Then again, if your boss is usually prompt and forthcoming, it might be best to just say “thank you” and wait it out.

If they say “no,” find out where you really stand right then and there. In other words, why not? What will it take to be more seriously considered for a raise in the future? And ask yourself: do you agree with their logic? Whether their reasoning relates to your job performance or the company’s budget, a good boss will offer honest insight and constructive advice willingly. If there are some areas you need improvement, it’s best that you know so you can work towards a raise. Think about it this way: a boss that wants you to succeed won’t withhold information that will help you do it. Improving will benefit you both.

Even if you don’t get the answer you’re after, discussing a raise will always help you gain a better understanding of where you stand with your employer. Not to mention, you may be missing out on money you’ve earned. If so, they may be quick to make an offer when you point out how you’ve earned it. Or, they may not. If you’re not given a yes, or even a “let me think about it,” and they’re unable to explain how you can make more money down the line, your next step might be getting paid somewhere else. But you’ll never know unless you ask.

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