Networking and Career Advice

How to Ask for a Raise at Work

Lauren Hamer

Professional Resume Writer, Career Writer and Career Coach

Here we go again; it’s time to talk money. Whether you’re one year in at a new company or approaching year five on the same team, learning how to ask for a raise should be part of your long-term career plan. These conversations are rarely fun (thanks to society, which has conditioned us to believe that money is taboo), but they are necessary if you want to, well, get paid what you’re worth. Trust us, there’s a lot of money on the table for taking. Below, we’ll discuss tips on timing, approach, and follow-up.

Remember, what’s comfortable for someone else may not work for you. This article is a guide, but you should customize your approach until you’re confident that you’ve planned a conversation you won’t flake on.

It’s Okay to Ask For a Raise When You Deserve One

For many, asking for more money can feel a bit grimy, slimy, and all the other dirty words. But the only way to guarantee stagnant wages is to never ask for more. It’s perfectly acceptable to ask for a raise. Frankly, you probably deserve one, or else you wouldn’t be reading this article contemplating a strategy.

Salary bumps are typically granted once a year, although the mood of the economy and the demand for workers in your industry can sway what’s deemed appropriate. If you’re a top performer and can make a case for why you deserve a raise sooner rather than later, or if you’re in a super-competitive industry like tech, then you could get away with a more frequent bump.

Before You Ask For a Raise

a black woman holding a bag of money

There are a few things to keep in mind before asking for a raise. We’ll go into more detail below, but in general, prep your request by doing these things:

  • Choose the right time (for you and your manager)
  • Ensure your past year’s work has been reputable
  • Collect positive feedback on your contributions and accomplishments
  • Set your salary or total compensation expectations
  • Confirm the company is in good financial standing

When’s The Perfect Time to Ask for a Raise?

So, maybe avoid this conversation during times of company chaos or while mercury is in retrograde. There are a few things that make it the perfect time to ask for a raise, such as after you scored a big professional “win,” the company posted strong quarterly earnings, or during annual review cycles. 

The company is in good financial health

A company that’s struggling financially won’t exactly jump at the bit to offer raises. Do research and study recent financial reports. Look for warning signs, such as cutbacks in spending, layoffs, or recent press stories that may indicate that now is not the best time to ask for more money. Good or bad, this is vital information to have before your meeting.

Manager isn’t under much workload/stress

Like a kid who asks their parent for a snack during a “camera’s on” virtual meeting, your raise request will likely flop if the timing is off. Consider your manager’s state of mind. Are they harried, stressed, or pulled in too many directions? Choose a time when their workload is manageable, so they can dedicate significant time to your conversion and thoughtfully consider your request. 

You have pulled off some great work recently

Recent good performance can go a long way in justifying your raise. Choose to chat after you just landed in the top three sales representatives for the month, or after you rallied a team around a successful project cycle. Bring these wins to your manager’s attention to remind them you’re due for a reward. Better yet, take steps to quantify your achievements wherever possible.

According to the company’s raise & budget cycle

Every company follows a raise and budget cycle. You have much better odds of success when your company is doing well. When profits are up, managers often have more money at their disposal to reward their employees, especially their top performers.

In contrast, if your company has recently laid off employees to cut operating costs, it’s probably best to hold off on asking for a raise until things begin to improve.

Annual performance reviews

Salary discussions are expected during annual performance reviews. If you’ve just aced your performance review, then by all means, dive into a raise conversation. Most companies are willing to reward top producers, but as the decision-makers are often inundated with other tasks, it’s up to you to present and make your case.

Learn The Salary Trends & Fix Your Expectations

asking for a raise - salary on cubes and black arrow pointing upward

Don’t go into salary negotiations without knowing the salary landscape for the type of work you do and the geographic area you do it in (compensation can vary greatly by region). It’ll be easier to make a compelling point if you discover you’re underpaid for the market. Asking for a raise is not out of the question if you’re already making competitive wages, but whatever you find, use the information to gauge how much of a raise to ask for.

Compare the numbers

In practice, learning the appropriate salary trends can be tricky, as your colleagues are notoriously tightlipped about their earnings. Websites and salary calculators can be a good starting point, as can networking with people in your field. While networking, don’t ask, “how much do you make?” Instead, try coming in a little softer with, “what would you expect a job like X at a company like Y to pay?” Use their answers to calculate a new salary range you feel is fair and competitive. 

Factor in your qualifications and experience

Remember, how much you are worth goes beyond salary trends. You must also consider your education, years of experience, your company tenure, and any specialized skills you have learned along the way—all things your employer would take into account when determining your compensation.

Set a number in mind

Immediately following your request for more cash, you’ll usually get asked something along the lines of “how much?” Make sure you have an answer. Consider all the factors above and come to the conversation with a number in mind. While an exact number could work, identifying a salary range or percentage increase in pay that you’d be happy with would work better.

Set a Private Meeting, & Pitch!

Once your proverbial ducks are in a row, it’s time to set a meeting. It’s best not to have a third party present because that could sway the direction of the conversation or add extra opinions that could deter your negotiation. So, make this one a private meeting where you’ll both feel comfortable speaking your mind.

And most importantly, don’t blindside your manager with this conversation. If caught off guard, it’ll be hard for them to give you their most thoughtful response. So, put time on their calendar and give them a heads up that you’d like to discuss your role and current salary.

So as you prepare your pitch (because preparation is the most important step of this process), here are some strategies to keep in mind.

Build your case to justify the raise

In this case, try to “show” not “tell.” To justify your raise, arm yourself with data and numbers that justify your ask. Best case scenario, you’ve been regularly tracking your past achievements and recent accomplishments. If so, good work; data and facts speak the loudest. But if self-evaluations haven’t been a part of your weekly or monthly tasks, ask yourself these questions to help build your case:

  • How has the company or department directly benefited from your work? Get specific.
  • What extra projects (or high-visibility projects) have you been asked to play a role in? What were the results?
  • Over the past year (week, month, etc.) when did you receive positive feedback? What was it?
  • What do you do better than anyone else? How do you go above and beyond at work?

Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse

Now is not the time to wing it cold turkey. Before your meeting, practice your approach to make sure you deliver as planned. Talk to yourself out loud, write a script, host a mock meeting with a friend. The more prepared you feel, the more confident you’ll come off.

Know how to act in the meeting

How you ask for a raise is a real balancing act—strive for fifty percent humility and 50 percent confidence. Making eye contact and showing enthusiasm for your job can go a long way toward getting what you want. 

You should approach asking for a raise with the same level of seriousness you would have for a job interview or an important presentation. Dress accordingly. Even if your remote first workforce goes all-in on the t-shirts and sweatpants, now is the time to put your best foot forward in a blouse or collared shirt.

What to Expect

More than likely, this first conversation will jumpstart a longer conversation. Part of learning how to ask for a raise is managing expectations. For one, your manager will ask questions. They’ll want to know your desired number, why you deserve it, and more. Some supervisors might even try to negotiate. Be prepared to state why you think your number is fair, and decide early if other arrangements could be made in place for a higher salary (WFH, more paid-time off, etc.).

If you know your boss will need to get approval from HR or the leadership team, provide them with a short, bulleted list of key points in your favor. Highlight your most significant new responsibilities or accomplishments. If you have compelling data about competitive salaries, you could include that too.

Then, set a time to follow up on the conversation, so that your request stays top of mind. Say something like, “would you mind if we plan to revisit this on [day]?”

What To Do If The Answer is “No” or “Maybe”

Most managers won’t respond with a “yes” right away, especially if they need to get approval first. After your chat, thank them for their time and draft plans to revisit the conversation. Make sure both parties have clear next steps.

Sometimes, no matter how powerful your closing argument is, your supervisor might respond with, “I’m sorry, but our current budget does not allow us to adjust your salary at this time.” Or maybe a raise is in the works, but it’s a measly 3% raise given to employees across the board. No doubt these are crushing blows, but it’s not the end of the world. When the conversation doesn’t go as expected, press on for details. Ask, “what’s contributing to your decision?” or “what would it take for me to earn the raise in question?”

If your boss is deflecting or the company can’t support the raise financially, you have a decision to make. Can you follow along with the guidelines (or timelines) they’ve given you? If not, it may be time to refresh your resume and consider other opportunities.

If a raise and promotion aren’t going to happen right now, think bigger about other enticing workplace trends. Would professional development opportunities satisfy you? Hybrid work schedules? Flex PTO? Remember, you can negotiate much more than just salary.

The Bottom Line

No matter how you slice it, learning how to ask for a raise is not an easy task. It requires prep, proof, and positive vibes. But you didn’t get where you were today without a little gumption and perseverance. Companies expect you to negotiate and ask for more money. In fact, they are probably busy planning their own next raise request right now. So, what do you say? Are you ready?

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