What’s stopping you from asking your boss for a raise? Does this sound like something you would do? Like most people, your initial reaction might probably be to reject this idea. Maybe your company just laid people off… maybe you’re certain your boss won’t give it to you… maybe you don’t want to seem too greedy. Whatever it is, I’m sure there are a hundred reasons for why you shouldn’t ask for a raise right now. Also, nobody wants to force an awkward conversation on their superior or put themselves in a position to get rejected.
But I’m sure having an uncomfortable 10 minute conversation would be worth it to you if you knew it could bring you tens of thousands of dollars more a year. Your mother has probably told you that you’ll never get what you want in life unless you go and get it yourself. So, let me help you get yourself a hefty raise with a couple of simple, easy-to-follow tips.
Be a Top Performer
This is essential. You can be as bold as they come, but you’re not going to get the raise you’re asking for unless your work can back it up. Don’t bother your boss about more money until you are certain you are one of the most valuable members on the team. Currently not a top performer? No problem. Ask your boss to sit down with you and very specifically discuss what you need to achieve in order to become a top performer. Then go achieve those things.
Learn to humble-brag
It doesn’t matter how great you are at your job if nobody knows about it. Improve your personal brand by taking credit for your good work. You want to make sure everyone is aware of the weight you are pulling without being annoying. Master the art of the humble-brag. Telling someone you’ve been working out on your bicep curls is too obvious. Instead maybe tell them you accidentally set your dryer to high now your shirts don’t fit.
Practice your speech
Talking about your personal achievements and asking for more money with your superior can be very nerve-racking. It is very easy to get flustered and forget some points you were hoping to make. You may also get thrown off by any rebuttals they may have. On your own, practice exactly what you are going to say prior to meeting with your boss. And by practice, I mean actually verbally talk aloud like you were speaking to him. Think about every counter point he can possibly make and think of a rebuttal to that beforehand. You might even want to give a copy of bullet points you want to go through to your boss at the beginning of the meeting so you don’t miss anything.
When discussing your achievements with your boss, make sure everything is quantifiable and therefore measureable. Telling your boss you improved efficiencies is not enough. Tell him exactly how much time you saved the company and exactly much that is represented in dollars. Try to put a dollar figure on everything you do. This will make things objective and will also help rationalize the amount you are asking for.
Talk in dollars not percentages
What’s considered a good raise nowadays? 10%? That’s a big number. But if you’re making $50,000, that’s only an extra $5,000 a year. After taxes, that’s barely $150 a paycheck. That won’t do much to increase your standard of living. Use actual dollar amounts when negotiating instead of percentages. Try to make your previous salary as irrelevant as possible. Ask to be paid what you’re worth now, not a percentage increase of what you were paid before.
Your boss is your biggest ally
Most likely your boss isn’t the final decision maker on whether or not you receive a raise, but he will play a very critical role in the decision process. He will need to speak on your behalf to his superiors on why you deserve more money. Provide him with a printout summary of your measureable and objective achievements, which he can easily send up the chain. This not only makes his life easier, but also helps ensure he doesn’t forget to mention anything.
Think in their shoes
Don’t think about negotiating a salary as ‘you trying to get as much money as you can’ and ‘your company trying to give you as little as they can’. Think about it as the two of you working together to find something that works for the both of you. Companies want their employees to be happy and they’ll be willing to give you the money you want as long as you can show why you’re worth it. So think about what new responsibilities you can take on to merit an increase and ask accordingly.
Up your asking price
A lot of people are scared of asking for too much. In reality, the worst that can happen is that they say no. A few thousand extra dollars is a lot of money to you and me, but it’s most likely a drop in a bucket to your company. When asking for a raise, think of a number that will make you happy and then reach a bit further. Muster up the confidence to ask for what you really want or else you won’t be happy with the end result. With that said, be sure your request isn’t outrageous, just a stretch.
Take advantage of opportunities
Timing is important. I’m sure you know there are times when you are excelling at work and times when you’re messing up. It’s probably obvious that you want to ask for a raise when the majority of your boss’ short term memories are of you doing a good job. There will also be other small windows of opportunity that are more ideal to ask for a raise. Most of them involve you having some sort of leverage, such as, if a co-worker quits and you will be the one to cover their work for the foreseeable future, if you publicly get stellar reviews from a client, or if you’ve taken up critical responsibilities that aren’t easily transferable to anyone else.
Search other options
It never hurts to look at what other opportunities are out there as long as you keep it on the down low. It also gives you a realistic view of what you’re worth in the current marketplace and can give you the confidence to negotiate for a higher pay. Also, you never know what you might find; maybe you’ll find something you’d enjoy more. But be sure to never use another offer as a bargaining chip unless you’re actually willing to take it.
Ask for later
Sometimes you can do all the right things but they just won’t budge. In this case, you can try to set expectations for the future. Instead of negotiating a salary increase now, you can discuss what steps you would need to take now to be considered for a raise in the near future. It’s likely that your boss would to be interested in discussing ways for you to improve productivity or increase your responsibility. Make sure your boss sets very specific and measureable goals with timelines for you. Also, make sure to document these goals and timelines in an e-mail paper trail. Once you’ve achieved these goals, you will have more than enough ammo to request a raise.
Thank everybody involved
There is probably a lot of work being done behind the scenes on your behalf in order for you to receive a raise. Be sure to send a personal thank-you note to all of your superiors who were involved in your negotiation. This is not only the right thing to do, but if you show appreciation for their efforts, they will be more likely to help you again in the future. Nobody wants to help someone who seems ungrateful.
So there you have it. It may not seem like much, but I spent a good amount of time putting this list together and I really think it is solid, actionable advice. I’m by no means a great negotiator or even very articulate under high pressure situations, but in the past 2.5 years, I’ve received five raises, averaging one every six months or so. Furthermore, my two largest were off-cycle, meaning I requested them. The total of all the raises is roughly 50k on my base salary. So yes, I am making 50k more than I did less than three years ago by following the exact advice I had just listed. It’s not exceptionally hard, but it takes good planning and some guts and almost anybody can do it as long as they want it bad enough. So… what’s stopping you from asking your boss for a raise?