You might feel completely comfortable explaining to friends at the dinner table why you should make more money. But if you’re like many people, asking for a raise on the other side of your boss’s desk is a much scarier prospect.
Nine out of 10 full-time office workers believe they deserve a pay increase, yet less than half plan to ask for one this year, according to a recent survey by recruiting firm Robert Half.
Neglecting to advocate for yourself could lead to substandard pay and gnawing resentment at work. Here’s how to ask for a raise — and actually get it.
1. Keep track of your wins
Why it’s important: When you’re busy, it’s easy to forget a gushing thank-you email from a client or the successful lunch-and-learn you organized.
But when you ask for a raise, your boss will respond best to tangible evidence of your dedication and value. Don’t scramble to remember why you’re great at the last minute, potentially forgetting worthwhile examples.
How to do it: In a notebook, Google doc or note on your phone, list work wins as they happen — preferably consistently, but at least in the three months before you ask for more money, says Lauren McGoodwin, founder and CEO of Career Contessa, a career development platform for women. Include the small, such as praise from a colleague on an efficient meeting you ran, and the large, such as an uptick in sales as a result of the newsletter you launched.
Collect at least 10 anecdotes and metrics that illustrate your work. Include hard numbers whenever you can, such as increases in revenue, membership, downloads, visits, volunteers recruited — whatever relates most to your organization’s goals.
It’s also OK if you don’t have numbers to show that you directly generated revenue, says Marlena Edwards, vice president of talent operations at Huge, a marketing agency based in Brooklyn, New York. You can include processes you developed to help employees work more efficiently or your new-hire training program. You’ll incorporate the most compelling pieces of evidence into a script later.
2. Research a realistic amount
Why it’s important: Your wins mean little if you request a raise that’s out of step with your market value or isn’t feasible for your company.
Plan to ask for a little more than you realistically want to earn, knowing the company might negotiate for less. Wanting $20,000 more per year, though, experts say, is a sign that you want a promotion or a change in roles, not just a raise — meaning you might want to look for a new job altogether.
Pay attention to clues your company is tightening its spending. It doesn’t mean a raise is impossible, but you should acknowledge the situation during your discussion and ask your manager what’s reasonable. This shows commitment to what makes sense for the company, not just what’s best for you.
How to do it: The typical raise across industries is 2% to 5% of current salary, McGoodwin says; if you’re an extremely high performer, try for 8%. Compensation tools — such as LinkedIn Salary, PayScale and Glassdoor’s Know Your Worth estimator — can show what your responsibilities may be worth.
For a more nuanced view, ask trusted mentors in your industry what a reasonable request would be. (They can also help you decide how much to ask for when negotiating salary at the job-offer stage). It’s ideal if your contacts make decisions about allocating raises and bonuses at their own companies, Edwards says. They can offer tips on successfully positioning yourself for a raise and the examples to use when tying your contributions to the bottom line.
3. Prepare a script
Why it’s important: If you’re nervous about asking — and who wouldn’t be? — the best antidote is preparation. Your words shouldn’t come across as stale or over-rehearsed, but settling on a few strong phrases beforehand will boost your confidence.
How to do it: After completing your research and compiling your wins, schedule a check-in or professional development conversation with your boss in two weeks, McGoodwin says. This will give you a deadline and time to practice. Consider doing it around performance-review time, when your hard work is already up for discussion.
Go back to your list of wins. Choose three of your most highly valued skills or successes and build them into a script to share with your boss when you meet.
For example, say: “I’ve been on this team for 18 months, and I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how I see myself evolving with the company. I led the charge to redefine our brand strategy, my design work increased visits 20% to our homepage and I’ve taken on additional responsibilities as the team has grown. I’d like you to consider having my salary reflect that growth. With this increased compensation, I feel I can continue to make valuable contributions here.”
Your boss wants to hear that you’re dedicated to the company and that investing in you will pay off for it. But building the self-assurance to ask for a raise is also investing in yourself; after all, doing it will only get easier.
“This is a muscle,” McGoodwin says, “and if you don’t use it, you lose it.”