Sunday, September 22, 2013

How to Ask for a Raise

So you'd like to make more money.  Who doesn't?  But how do you go about asking for a raise?  And how do you do it in a savvy way that actually has a chance of succeeding?

Here are some tips to keep in mind when you go to ask for an increase:

  1. Do your research.  Find out what the average salary is for someone in your role.  Be sure to take into consideration where you live, how many years of experience you have, and the amount of education you have completed.  I have found Indeed to be quick and fairly accurate. is another popular one, but I have personally found the free salary reports to overshoot the market by quite a bit.  There is a version that employers can pay for that allows you to input specific data, but most people do not have access to this.  I just tried Payscale and found it to be a really good resource.  The website walks you through a series of questions related to your job, but I found the free salary report at the end to be more valuable and on target.  Be sure to save all this information and put it into a nice professional looking format that you will be able to share.
  2. Define your goal.  Now that you've done your research, you should, in a sense, know where you stand.  If you are making 70-80% more than your peers, asking for a raise might not make sense.  In that case, you should research what position or role you would want to set as a goal for promotion.  If you are underpaid, then perhaps asking for a raise makes sense.
  3. Assess the corporate environment.  Has your company been going through layoffs or mandatory pay decreases?  Probably not the best time to ask for a raise or promotion.  Where are you in the fiscal year?  Are annual merit increases coming up soon?  Make sure your timing is right.  I would recommend even taking into consideration the mood of your manager on a given day.  You want to give yourself the best chance possible.  Set up a meeting with your manager and let them know you want to discuss your goals.  I say "Discuss Goals" because that, at least, gives your boss a heads up on the topic of the meeting and is less likely to put them on the defensive, like the subject line "Discuss Raise" would do.
  4. Practice and be purposeful about framing your case.  A common mistake people make is asking for the raise "now."  Unfortunately, while it may seem to make sense to you that you get paid more money, then agree to do more work and take on more responsibility, it's a rare case that this happens.  Instead, I would recommend you present your case in this manner.  Start by sharing the research you did on the market trends for your role.  Let's say you are making slightly less than the average.  Proceed to share the responsibilities or job descriptions of the roles you researched and highlight the similarities and/or differences from your own job.  Express how committed you are to the success of the team and the company.  Explain how the role you researched will help the team and lines up with your personal career goals.  Ask for your manager's help to get you there.  Share what you have brainstormed so far as the action items you plan to take to perform at the next level.  Ask for their input.  Close by saying that in ___ time frame, you would like to check back in on your progress.  Then ask if it would be reasonable to expect that if you step up and achieve these goals that they could help you reach the shared market compensation levels.
  5. Make it easy for your manager.  Realize that your manager is going to have to present a case to their boss and to HR/Finance to get your raise approved.  If you complete all the previous steps, then you will have gift wrapped the case for your raise and made it easy for your boss.  He/she will be able to easily present the market research, your current role, your recent successes, and the reasons why you should be fairly compensated.  This is usually what HR and Finance/Accounting will require to make a decision anyways, and you have done most of the legwork.  This should cut down on the time it would normally take for your boss to put this together by themselves and thus cut down the time you will have to wait to get your raise.
  6. Be Patient.  Raises are not approved overnight.  In many cases, depending on the company, not only does your manager need to approve, but so does the department head, HR, Accounting/Finance, and even sometimes, the CFO and CEO.  With hectic executive schedules and priorities, this may mean weeks and possible months before all signatures are collected and an appropriate effective date picked.  Do not assume anything or read into the amount of time that has passed.  Raise your hands and trust that you have done all you can to set things in motion.  Asking your boss where it stands may not do any good if the decision is out of their hands anyways.  Plus, you risk coming off as a whiny employee who wants more money, than the super successful and career oriented individual you want to be seen as.
  7. Decide what you will do if you do not receive a raise.  In some cases, you can do everything right and still not get a raise or increase.  At this point, you need to reevaluate the situation.  In most cases, while many people think money solves most problems, employees never really leave just because of money.  Employees will usually leave a manager before they will leave a company.  Ask yourself what is really bothering you and why you think this raise will solve it.  Is it your team dynamics, the corporate culture, the inefficient processes, the new strategic initiatives, or doing more with less?  Then ask yourself if the grass is really greener on the other side.  Sometimes it is, and sometimes it is not.  If you find yourself at your fifth company in a few years, pause, and realize that maybe this is an opportunity to learn how to deal with a difficult colleague, adopt a new process/technology, or be an enthusiastic change agent.  Because at the end of the day, most companies are dealing with all of these issues, and you will be a more dynamic and successful individual if you can cope with and even thrive when these issues pop up.  Set yourself up to be an essential playmaker in tough situations.  That kind of individual will be nicely rewarded anywhere.
If you can employ all these tactics, you will be in a pretty good place to succeed.  When you go to ask for a raise, make sure you are being purposeful and thoughtful about your approach.  Good luck!

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  1. I was interested in this post because I am at this place in my job. I've been in the same job for more than 10 years and while I've had a few title changes and reclassifications, I've never actually had a promotion. So I actually put it on my list of written goals for this year. I don't know how helpful is going to be in defining salaries because they can vary so widely and salary info is extremely confidential, at least at my company. But I do have some good facts and figures on my side - I am one of the top performers in my group. Interesting thing - I went to a seminar a while back called Women Don't Ask. One of the main reasons women get lower salaries is because they are culturally inhibited from asking for more money and don't negotiate as hard as men do. That has motivated me to be a little more bold (but just a little or you are seen as a bitch) in asking for that extra money that I definitely feel I am entitled to.

  2. Well it sounds like you have some good facts and figures on your side, especially as one of the top performers in your group. It can definitely be hard to ask sometimes, but I think knowing that women don't ask in general and sometimes hold ourselves back is great motivation to get inspired to ask. Good luck!

  3. A vital source for the audience that takes the reader step by step.


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