How to Ask for a Raise (and actually get it)
When you accepted your job, you may have been happy with—or at least satisfied by—the salary that came with it. But over time, you might find that your growing expenses begin to climb higher than the average annual 2.9 percent salary increase. Is it time to ask for a raise?
If you’re happy with your role, get along well with your co-workers, and feel that you’re on the right career path, the prospect of launching a new job search for the sole purpose of a bigger paycheck probably doesn’t seem all that enticing.
1. Don’t be afraid to ask for a raise.
Many great employees are underpaid because they don’t ask for what they’re worth (or don’t make a compelling enough case to persuade their boss). It doesn’t hurt to ask for a raise if you ask in the right way. That means being strategic about how often and how much you ask for and being persuasive in how you present your proposal.
The key is to present data that shows why you deserve that pay raise. There is plenty of information available online about market salary rates by industry, position, level of experience, location, etc. Present your request as a business proposal with credible information about why you’re worth more.
If you don’t get what you want, at least you’ll know you tried. You can also get valuable input on what it would take for you to earn more and what the timeline might look like. This will give you a more realistic sense of whether it’s worth staying and where to focus your energies if you do.
You can make a stronger case for a raise if you’ve recently taken on new responsibilities, earned new certifications, or otherwise demonstrated your worth to the company. Read on for more on how to show your value and position yourself better for a bigger paycheck.
2. Build some street cred.
Whether you’re in financial planning, IT, software, or insurance, there are almost certainly opportunities to earn more certifications and qualifications within your industry. For example, if you’ve been working for a few years as a Certified Paralegal, consider taking the exam to become a Professional Paralegal. The more skills and accreditations you can list on your resume, the more of an asset you become to your company—and that can translate into dollars and cents when review time rolls around.
If there is no obvious next certification that would take you to the next career level, consider talking to a manager or mentor about the types of skills and training that would make you more marketable in the future. Learning a new software or taking a few classes can make your resume much more attractive to your current employers and other hiring managers as well.
3. Request feedback.
It can be a scary prospect to seek out feedback from higher-ups, but their input can prove instrumental in strengthening your performance. If you have regular check-ins with your supervisor, set aside a couple minutes to ask what you’re doing well and in which areas you stand to improve. Keep a list of the positive comments you receive, as they may come in handy when making the case for future pay increases or promotions. These comments will also help you stay on top of what’s most important to your boss and how you can best add value (and have a better shot at an increase).
You should also listen carefully to the constructive feedback and think about changes you can make to show that you’ve taken it seriously. Demonstrating performance improvements and general coachability can also help you make a case for a bigger salary someday.
4. Get out of your rut.
When you start a new job or get a fresh promotion, it’s easy to be motivated and energized to perform at your best. But as the weeks and months pass by and you get a better idea of what’s expected of you, it’s tempting to slide into your comfort zone and become somewhat complacent. We’ve all done it and it’s particularly tempting if you feel stuck in a role with no exciting future to work toward.
If this sounds like you, you may be holding yourself back. Do what you can to show some renewed enthusiasm for your work. Look for opportunities to exceed your manager’s expectations and draw attention to your rejuvenated work ethic. You can do this by trying one of the other strategies on this list like asking for feedback, requesting new responsibilities, or working on a new certification or skill.
5. Think outside the review cycle.
Most employees assume that there’s only one time to ask for a raise: During annual reviews. In reality, this may not be the best time to negotiate for a higher salary. In most cases, the company or department has been given a budget for annual increases that is spread across all eligible employees—which means you’ll be hard-pressed to get more than what’s been pre-allocated.
Instead, if you believe your experience and qualifications merit more than what you’re earning, consider requesting an increase outside of the review cycle. Because you won’t be competing with other employees for your slice of the pie, you’ll likely have a better chance of getting a significant boost. Plus, you might still get your regular annual merit increase when review time comes.
6. Ask for more on your plate.
If you feel that your role isn’t leveraging all that you have to offer—or if you simply feel less than challenged (a.k.a bored) in your current day-to-day role, consider asking your boss for more responsibility.
Do some brainstorming beforehand about specific duties you’d like to take on, such as training new employees, absorbing the tasks of a departing employee, or helping with functions that would lighten the managerial workload.
Not only will this show your boss that you’re motivated and not afraid to take initiative, it will also make you more valuable to the company, which could influence future raise decisions.
7. Ask for non-paycheck perks.
If budget cuts are forcing your company to cut back on salary increases, consider requesting other, non-monetary benefits, such as an extra week of vacation, a parking pass, an employee discount, or the flexibility to work from home. Although these types of perks won’t immediately show up in your bank account, they may trickle down to save you money in other areas.
Sometimes a non-financial benefit can be worth more to your quality of life than a small salary increase. For example, skipping the daily commute to work from home can mean saving money, time, and lots of aggravation.
8. Become a moonlighter.
If you can’t get what you need at your day job (in terms of money and/or challenge), you may be able to utilize your time and talents after hours to earn extra income. For example, a full-time newspaper reporter might write web articles on the weekends, a corporate marketer might do some consulting work on the side, or a web designer might take on freelancing assignments in her off hours.
Naturally, you’ll want to be discreet and avoid jeopardizing your main revenue stream. However, a good side gig can have many benefits – in addition to earning extra cash, moonlighting can help you improve your resume and add some more variety to your life.
9. Consider an internal transfer.
If you’ve tried other strategies without any luck, check your company’s internal job board to explore other open positions that may offer higher salaries. If you’re a good performer, most companies would much rather keep you with the firm in a different role than lose you to a competitor.
In addition to keeping an eye on internal job listings, make more of an effort to network with colleagues in other departments and learn more about what roles could be good next steps for you. Expanding your network is well worth the time even if you don’t end up transferring.
Don’t be too obvious in your desire to leave your current role. Your manager could make a transfer difficult if he/she would prefer you to say where you are. However, if you wait until you have a plan and solid interest from the other hiring manager, it’s usually easier to make a move.
10. Make a plan and stay focused.
It’s easy to get distracted from long-term career goals by the day-to-day workload. If you really want to make more money, make a detailed plan and set some deadlines for yourself. Choose one or more strategies to pursue and plan out the steps in the process.
Put aside time in your calendar to research that certification course, have a networking lunch with that VP, email your boss to set up a meeting. Estimate a time frame for how long you’ll try a particular strategy before re-evaluating.
It’s amazing how much better it feels to have a plan in place. A plan allows you to take some control over your financial future and stop feeling totally at the mercy of your employer.