How to Ask for a Raise in an Uncertain Economy

When seeking a salary bump, understand what's happening at your company and consider a few strategies. Research and preparation are key.
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Written by Melissa Lambarena
Senior Writer
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Edited by Kathy Hinson
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Fact Checked
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Co-written by Tiffany Curtis
Lead Writer

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Asking for a raise isn't easy in these days of interest rate increases to battle inflation and lingering worries about the economy. But it may be necessary for your quality of life or simply because you'd like to be making more money. And if you're excelling at your job, that also can merit a salary discussion, even in uncertain times. Here are some strategies to help.

Research the market

Understanding the market for your job is critical, according to Lindsey Pollak, author of the book “Recalculating: Navigate Your Career Through the Changing World of Work.”

“You can look at websites like Glassdoor, and Payscale and see what’s standard,” she says.

These websites offer a minimum and maximum salary range that you can reference to give your boss a realistic request. Pollak also suggests networking with professional associations in your industry and asking about the appropriate salary range for the job in your particular city.

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Tally up your contributions

If you’re working remotely, Pollak suggests being more self-promotional about big wins. Your boss may not know the extent of your contributions.

Haley Jones of Michigan saw her job evolve during the coronavirus pandemic, expanding beyond a marketing specialist role. She created a slideshow presentation with links to her work, a list of tasks completed and her overall impact on the company when asking for a raise.

“If you want someone to do something for you, make it as easy as you can for them to say yes,’’ Jones says.

Dive as far back into your contributions as is necessary or gather evidence up to the last annual or midyear review. And be as specific as possible.

Lay the groundwork for the conversation

Be strategic as you plan the conversation and gauge your level of confidence at every step.

  • Put it on your supervisor’s radar. Give your boss a general but serious reason for the meeting. Pollak suggests saying that you want to have a “career conversation” about your role and future at the company.

  • Time it right. Set up a time to discuss a raise with your supervisor when they have the bandwidth and when things at your job aren’t too hectic.

  • Practice until you’re confident. Jones built confidence by rehearsing in front of her mirror and loved ones. If you have a professional mentor or a trusted colleague, consider rehearsing the conversation with them.

  • Be intentional with your environment. If it’s a video call, use sticky notes to remember key points. In an office environment, Jones leaned on slides and hard copies to move the conversation along.

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Maintain control of the conversation

Don’t allow emotions or nerves to steer the conversation away from your goal. Note these three key points for your discussion:

  • Lead with gratitude. Jones began by thanking her employer for many learning opportunities, then pivoted to her excitement about the company’s future and her role in it.

  • Get comfortable with silence. “Say the amount you want and then stop talking,” Pollak says. Don’t negotiate against yourself by saying that you’d like a $15,000 increase, but you’re willing to settle for $8,000.

  • Focus on the value for your employer. Keep in mind your personal bottom line and the salary range for your position, if you have that information. Be aware of economic impacts to your company and its priorities, and keep the focus on how you’re saving the company money or contributing to its bottom line.

Be prepared for the response

If your employer can’t meet your request this time, all isn’t lost. You have promoted your work and carved out the path for the next conversation, according to Joel Garfinkle, executive coach and author of the book “Get Paid What You’re Worth." You can also consider negotiating for nonmonetary benefits.

“Maybe it’s a title change, or they’ll pay for an executive coach, or they’ll provide some training, or additional benefits or retirement contributions,” Garfinkle says. “There are other things you can get that might be beneficial for you.”

If your employer is willing to offer a pay increase or an alternative, get it in writing. Send a thankful email to your boss summarizing the conversation and alert them that you’ll be following up on the next steps.

In the case of a firm “no” or “not right now,” let your boss know that you would greatly appreciate the chance to revisit the conversation in the future.

Following up is key with any response. Jones followed up twice in a month, once through email and another time in person. Eventually, she was promoted to marketing director and received $5,000 more than the maximum amount she requested.

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Turned down? Consider other ways to access more money

If you’re not able to get a raise from your employer and you need breathing room in your budget, you could try things like adjusting your withholding. If you routinely get a tax refund each year, that means too much is being withheld each paycheck. Adjusting your W-4 form can give you more cash in hand throughout the year.

If you need to make more but a raise isn’t forthcoming, you could also consider adding a side gig to earn extra money.

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