How To Ask For A Raise

Estimated reading time ~ 4 min
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No one likes talking about money. Summoning the courage to ask for a raise, especially when you think you’re being underpaid, can feel downright uncomfortable. We all wish our employers would recognize our value and pay us accordingly. Unfortunately things don’t always work out that way. You need to ask for what you’re worth.

To do this, you need to understand your own market value, how it intersects with your immediate and long-term goals and the benefits your employer will get by keeping you on board. I once had a client tell me that she felt she couldn’t ask for a raise because it was simply “too hard to speak up.” She was paralyzed by her fear. She, like most people, didn’t understand that there is a way to negotiate from a respectful-but-firm place. Here are five steps to help you ask for – and actually get – that raise.

1. Assess your career.

You’ve been with your company for a while now and, after several noteworthy contributions, you feel the need to ask for a raise. But where do you begin? Start by defining your own brand. Take inventory of past accomplishments, professional goals, and your performance to date.

Ask yourself:

  • What did I achieve professionally and personally in the last couple of years?
  • What are my major accomplishments? (Include any certificates, awards, or adventures)
  • What do my accomplishments reveal about my success?
  • Are there any repeating themes?
  • What are my immediate and long-term goals?

Make sure to take the time to fully sit with these questions and develop thoughtful responses. Your answers will become the bedrock of your negotiation leverage.

2. Craft your story.

If you walk into the room with a thoughtful pitch prepared, you’re more likely to prove your worth. Creating a blueprint for why and how you have succeeded in the past will help you when you encounter resistance (and, trust me, you will) and it will anchor expectations as to why you deserve what you are asking for.

Review your answers to the questions above and build a narrative around them. Remember to use examples, be humble, and practice out loud several times.

Here’s how one client did it:

Jennifer was a program manager with five years experience leading small-to-medium sized teams at her current company. She approached her manager with the following pitch: “My latest project saved the company thousands of dollars by being both ahead of schedule and under budget. I continually build relationships in an effort to streamline communications and ensure that the marketing department has easy-to-follow guidelines as to what the latest product offering is, ensuring we’re never late. I’ve had stellar performance reviews and I know the company has greatly benefited from my collaborative, results-oriented mindset.”

For clients like Jennifer, knowing the tangible benefits they bring to their role and their employers empowers them to ask for more money. Whether you seek a $1,000 raise or more, providing and clearly articulating those successes grounds the conversation in a reality the employer cannot dispute.

3. Gather a support system.

For most of us, we didn’t get to where we are professionally without the help of a mentor, boss, or fellow industry maverick.

Take a look at the people in your networks and create a list that highlights who they are, and what they’ve offered you. Based off that list, create a smaller classification of individuals that’ll be known as your “support system.” They should be people you feel safe approaching regarding private, confidential advice as well as any additional support you may need professionally.

Then, in order to leverage this group properly, ask yourself:

  • Who can recommend me?
  • Why would they recommend me?
  • What do these relationships say about me professionally?
  • What specific relationship(s) should I leverage now?
  • Is there any way for me to reciprocate now and be of help?

While it may feel self-serving to do this, this process of gathering your support group is important. This is the network you’ll go to for advice, including understanding industry norms relating to your role and salary requirements, and that will anchor your confidence with its support.

4. Define your market value

This is the most important step of all.

Defining your market value, researching how much people in similar roles are being paid in your industry, identifying your company’s health and position within that industry, and acknowledging your years of experience, are necessary tasks in determining objective measurements and bolstering your ask.

Ask yourself:

  • What is your company’s current market position?
  • What are competitors willing to pay for you?
  • What future benefits are you expected to bring to the company?
  • What do your past accomplishments say about your future prospects?
  • What will you bring to the table that others cannot?

Based on this research, create a salary range of what you might be expected to bring in if you were out in the free market vying for a position. This will inform your future conversation regarding compensation and ground the discussion in objective market research.

5. Prioritize your requirements.

You’ve done some research into how much you could make, but you should also start thinking about the “extras” that are important to you: extra vacation time, telecommuting opportunities, etc.

Write them all out and rank them, ascribing a monetary value to each ask. That way, once the salary conversation has started, you’re aware of the value of each item and will have no problem conceding an issue that is of lesser value to you than something that is extremely important.

As I tell clients, research shows that the best agreements are those where both sides to a negotiation give a little to get a little. Knowing what you’re willing to give up and where you won’t bend prior to the start of the negotiation allows you to prepare for the unexpected nature of a salary negotiation.

Bottom line: Any successful salary conversation requires that you prepare beforehand. By crafting a story that points to specific examples, using your network as a basis by which to garner support, and researching your fair market value, you will position yourself for success.

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