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How To Ask for a Raise (And Actually Get One)

Published August 20, 2021

8 minute read

David Ning

By David Ning

Living frugally is a surefire way to stretch your budget. However, it’s certainly easier to live within a budget when there’s more income to go around. While you might be able to earn extra money by taking on a second job, it would be easier if your current gig just paid you better. One of the ways that you can attempt to make more money is by asking for a raise. If you can manage it, it’s basically win-win. You keep doing roughly the same job and your paycheck gets a slight increase. As a loyal, experienced employee, you may have more leverage with your employer than you think. So, let’s talk about how to ask for a raise.

Before you get excited about the prospect, you need to think through the situation. Despite the economy coming back to life, money is still a little tight for many small-to-medium sized businesses. You can consider negotiating for higher wages at your current job, but be prepared to meet some resistance. You’ll definitely want to make sure you’re completely prepared for the coming conversation/negotiation with your boss. Here’s how to get yourself ready.

Do Some Research

Merely suspecting that you could make more in your current position is different than knowing for sure. Consult a pay scale calculator to discover the customary salary range for your position. You can also check sites like GlassDoor to find competing salaries in comparable positions. Finally, consult your own professional network. You friends, family, and even co-workers may be able to give you some valuable intel about their roles and pay, which you can use to compare your own professional worth. Remember that it’s never actually against any rules or laws for co-workers to discuss their hour wages or salaries with each other.

What does someone in your position with your education and experience generally earn? Compare your salary with similar salaries in your area. You location (and therefore your cost of living) will play a part in this too, so don’t forget to consider it. Be confident (but realistic) about what you should be making. Know the facts before you go in and ask for a raise. This information will empower you to make the strongest possible case for yourself when negotiating for the wages you deserve.

Put Yourself in a Winning State of Mind

Adopt a “deserving mindset” to enhance your level of confidence. Only your professional persona is at stake – not your personal one. Professional assertiveness is an asset in and of itself. Asking for a raise indicates that you are proud of the caliber of the work you are doing. It shows that you feel you deserve to be amply compensated for your expertise and dedication.

Even if you end up not getting the raise, you are putting a seed in the superior’s minds that you should be paid more. This can help in the future when your annual review comes around. Or when opportunities come up for a promotion or the company’s profit margins allow for more budget to be allocated to employee compensations.

Prepare by Rehearsing

Quantify and qualify the assets you have brought (and continue to bring) to your position. Go ahead and write it all down ahead of time. Experience, qualifications, accomplishments, expertise, loyalty and diligence are all things you should try to highlight to your bosses. Those attributes have a value that less-seasoned employees might not be bringing to the table. However, they won’t benefit your case much unless you remember to bring them up during your negotiations.

Reading through your prepared list of contributions ahead of time will imbue you with the sense of confidence you need to present the strongest argument for higher wages. Even if you’re feeling confident, rehearse the exchange with a friend or colleague a few times. The exercise will help you be fully prepared for the negotiations. You’ll be able to present yourself as poised and assertive, no matter the reaction on the other side of the table.

Make an Appointment

Don’t just spring this discussion on your boss randomly. Instead, schedule a meeting or appointment with the relevant parties to discuss it. There are some theories about when the best time actually is. Usually, it’s a bad idea to schedule this important meeting for first thing Monday morning or late Friday afternoon. Your best bet is probably right in the heart of the work week, when people are the most focused.

You should also be sensitive to whether your boss is in the middle of something major. They may not appreciate the extra stress your raise request meeting brings when they are under a tight deadline or other pressing matters loom. You need to try to catch your boss at the right time (and in a good mood, if possible). If you can, they will hopefully be much more receptive to your well-reasoned case for more money.

vector illustration of work meeting with boss

Shutterstock

Be Flexible

Sometimes, your boss will agree that you are indeed worth a higher salary. However, they might also be unwilling — or unable — to meet your request at this time. Your boss probably has a budget to follow too, after all. Don’t get upset or immediately assume you’ve failed. You can suggest alternative solutions or even ask if you can have the raise at a later time.

If you do this, try to get your superior to commit to something specific. For example, it’s much better to get a yes to a 10% raise at your next performance review rather than a vague promise of “we’ll revisit this later in the year.” Go ahead and request a specific time frame. If your boss says “next quarter,” ask them to put another meeting on the books in three months to ensure your request isn’t forgotten about.

Show That You Are a Team Player

If the answer to your request is a flat out “no,” remain calm and collected. It’s not the result you wanted, but all hope is not lost. Instead, ask if there’s a way to move up the ladder within the company to a position that will pay more. This initiative shows that you’re interested in remaining with the company (if possible) but that you genuinely feel you deserve greater recognition than you’re currently receiving.

Mention that you’d be open to renegotiating in the future at a more opportune time for the company. This way, you are setting yourself up for success in the future without damaging your current prospects.

Show Your Value

You can’t start by complaining to your boss that you need more money because you have a family or just bought a house or your car broke down. None of that stuff is relevant to the value you bring to your company, so focus on that and that alone. Unless your boss is the owner of the company, they may need to bring your raise request to the higher ups for approval. So you need to remind your boss just how valuable you are, so they can remind their bosses too.

Have you been given extra responsibilities? Did you spearhead a project that did particularly well? Have you increased sales or saved the company money in any way? You need to show specific examples of the great work you’ve done, the money you’ve earned (or saved) the firm, and why you’re such an important asset. Demonstrate clearly why you deserve this raise, and then back it up with salary data from competing companies or similar internal positions.

Consider Offering to Do Something Extra

You may want to let your employer know if there’s anything extra you can likely do for the company. You don’t need to take on a large amount of new responsibility to get a raise, but it does help to show that you are doing what you can to “add value” to your position.

If you are asking for a promotion along with that raise, though, you had better be ready to take on more responsibility. Take a look at what you are willing to do on behalf of the company. Make it clear that you plan to step up your performance to match your new position — and your new salary.

Remind the Company Of Your Loyalty

There are still some companies that reward loyalty with raises. And why not? It’s often less expensive to give current employees modest raises than it is to find and train a complete replacement. That’s assuming you leave for greener pastures and need to be replaced.

If you are doing a good job and becoming better at what you do, it can make sense to give you a raise based on your years of service. There are still plenty of bosses that value loyalty. Don’t underestimate the value you bring by just showing up day in and day out.

Try To Avoid Ultimatums

It’s one thing to walk into your boss’s office with another job offer and ask them to match it. It’s quite another to threaten to leave when you actually can’t afford to and have nothing else lined up. Try to avoid ultimatums like “give me this raise or else I’ll quit.” You may get called on your bluff, which will foster plenty of hard feelings when you can’t follow through.

There’s nothing wrong with doing your research, gathering information about your value to the company, and then making an appointment with your boss to say, “I’ve got an offer from someplace else. I’d really like to stay here and continue this great work I’ve been doing. What can we do?” Just don’t burn any bridges. It never helps.

Employee asking for a raise at work

Shutterstock

Do You Really Need More Money?

Instead of just asking for more money, you could consider asking for other things instead. There are additional benefits and perks that companies are sometimes willing to offer, without increasing their payroll. If you’re willing to compromise a bit, you can get a compensation package that is worth more than a mere raise. It all goes back to being flexible. Maybe you can get a few more paid vacation days. Or a new company cell phone. Perhaps they can add on perks like child care or a gym memberships? Maybe they’re willing to bump up their 401(k) matching percentage or implement an annual bonus program. None of these things increase your weekly take home pay, but they all add value to your life in some way.

One of the things to take into account whenever you are negotiating compensation — whether you are starting a job, looking for a raise, or asking for a promotion — is the big picture. What’s the total package? Sometimes money isn’t everything. In some cases, there are other benefits that are just as valuable as a raise. These benefits are sometimes easier for management to sell to their superiors, since there may be companywide policies that govern how much they can spend on salaries for certain positions.

The Bottom Line

Really think about what you have been adding to the company (and what you have been getting in return) before you ask for a raise. When you are ready, prepare by making a list of what you bring to the table and rehearse your talking points.

Then just make an appointment to talk it over with the boss. The worse thing they can say is “no.” You may not get everything you want. However, if you do things professionally, you’ll still pave the way for a brighter future. This is ultra-important, so it bears repeating here – never get anyone upset by burning bridges, no matter what happens. In business, what goes around often comes around. Never forget that.

What techniques have been successful in your salary negotiations?

David Ning

Experienced Finance Writer

David is a published author, entrepreneur and a proud dad. He firmly believes that anyone can build a solid financial foundation as long as they are willing to learn. He runs MoneyNing.com, where he discusses every day money issues to encourage the masses to think about their finances more often.

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