When To Ask For A Raise (And How To Get It)

By Chris Kolmar - Dec. 9, 2020

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Asking for a raise can seem like a very daunting and anxiety-provoking event for many. For most people, making requests or asks, especially from someone in a position of power over them, is uncomfortable and something they’d rather avoid.

However, making an argument on behalf of yourself is a crucial workplace skill and one that you need to practice if you are going to achieve your career advancement goals.

It doesn’t need to be painful, though, and the right approach to this situation can prove incredibly positive and constructive. Your manager already knows your accomplishments, but it’s up to you to present a compelling argument.

In this article, we’ll walk you through the basics of asking for a raise, including how often you should ask, when you should ask, and what to do in preparation.

How Often Should You Ask for an Increase in Pay?

Ask for a raise when you think you’ve put in the time and work to demonstrate your value to your company. As a general rule of thumb, you’ll want to ask for a raise no more than once a year. For practical reasons, it’s more efficient to keep an employee’s salary stable over the course of a fiscal year.

However, there are some small exceptions to asking for a raise more than once a year. For instance, if you’ve previously asked for a raise that year and were told your request could be revisited after your company’s “slow season,” you may consider having another meeting where you formally ask for a raise.

It’s a good idea to wait until a major workplace accomplishment before asking for a raise and then approach the subject quickly, while the achievement is still fresh in their minds.

If you’ve worked at your current position for less than a year, you should wait to ask for a raise unless there are exceptional circumstances for why you deserve a pay increase.

Be Prepared Before You Ask

The most important thing you can do to increase your chances of getting a raise is prep work. Your supervisor wants to see that you are well-prepared for this conversation, and they want to be thoroughly convinced of the case you are making for your salary increase.

Before you begin your preparation, it’s essential to dig deep and ask yourself some honest questions about your work. Consider whether or not the raise you’re asking for is reflective of your demonstrated value as a team member and company asset.

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Also, consider whether this is a realistic request or whether you may need to have some more experience under your belt before re-negotiating your pay.

You might also want to think about (or plan on discussing) how a raise might affect your title or job duties. You may need to take on new responsibilities or report to new people. Be prepared to have these conversations when you ask to discuss your salary.

Once you’ve decided to pursue a raise, it’s time to begin preparing your case. Preparing for your raise conversation involves the following:

  • Collecting data on your major accomplishments. The most important part of your prep work is building the case for why you are an excellent employee, deserving of pay to match. Start keeping a regular record of your on-the-job wins and moments when you went above and beyond.

    Think back on your greatest work achievements and contributions since your last raise or how you’ve become a more valuable employee. This could be successful projects, new skill sets you’ve built, goals you’ve over-achieved, additional duties you’ve taken on, or any accomplishment outside of your position’s regular responsibilities.

    Focus on your efforts’ outcomes and how they’ve added value to the company (especially monetarily). Whenever possible, use specific numbers and data to bolster your claims, as it makes for a more compelling case.

  • Researching a fair salary. It’s important that you collect evidence of your ability to work beyond what’s required of you before you begin thinking about what a fair salary would be. This is because if you are only doing the regular responsibilities listed in the job description (even if you are doing them well), your employer has already determined that you are receiving a fair salary for your position.

    However, once you’ve made a case for yourself and proved that you are outperforming your job description’s detailed duties, begin research on what a fair salary for you might look like.

    Your job title, the industry you work in, the amount of experience you have, your unique skills, and the location of your place of work all factor into the estimation of your salary.

  • Coming up with a concrete number. Use both the data you’ve collected on your own performance as well as your research on the market value of your labor to come up with a salary number to present to your manager.

    Don’t just use a round number. It may seem simpler to present a rounded estimate of your desired salary, but an exact number communicates that you know exactly what you deserve and you’ve done the math to come up with it.

    When it comes time to discuss this number with your manager, explain your thought process to them by laying out your research. Don’t do all this prep work just to keep them in the dark on how you’ve come up with these conclusions.

How to Ask for a Raise

It may take a while to collect all the necessary data and get your research together, but be sure to complete that step before you think about asking for an increase in your pay. Compile all your evidence and save it for later; you’ll need it.

After getting all your evidence ready, it’s time to start making a plan for how you will approach the meeting with your manager. You don’t need to be robotic or have every word scripted out, but prepare a clear structure and some key points to address.

The best practices for asking for an increase in compensation include:

  1. Propose a meeting and be explicit about the subject. Let your manager know that you’d like to meet with her or him to discuss your salary. Don’t obfuscate that you’d like to discuss a raise. Instead, let your supervisor know so that they can better prepare for the meeting.

    After being clear on your request (using a direct phrase such as “I’d like to discuss my salary”), leave it to your manager to decide the best time for this meeting to take place.

    If it seems appropriate to you, you may also consider making your case over email rather than having an in-person meeting. This may be less effective as it puts less upfront social pressure on your manager to consider your request, but it might also make it easier for you to present your case clearly.

  2. Plan a meeting agenda. Like we said before, you don’t need to have an overly rigid script, but you do need to have an agenda laid out so you can be sure to cover what needs to be covered.

    Gather all of your documents and data together and keep it handy and ready to present. Use this data to develop a short thesis that argues why you should have a higher salary. Practice asking for the salary number you’ve come up with, and have responses prepared for any possible rebuttals.

  3. Dress business professional. As the old saying goes, you should dress for the job you want, not the job you have. Even if it may be unfair, sometimes our clothing communicates a lot to the people around us, and it goes a long way to shape people’s perceptions of us.

    Even if your office has a more casual dress code, now’s the time to amp it up a bit. You don’t have to go overboard, but putting in a little effort to present a professional image shows that you are taking this seriously and that you wish to be taken seriously as well.

  4. Keep a confident, enthusiastic attitude. Be 100% sure of yourself during this meeting. After all, you’ve done all the work to prove that you do deserve this raise, and now is the time to show it.

    However, don’t be cocky in your confidence. Don’t act like you’re better than the job you have. You need to balance graciousness for the opportunities you’ve already been given at this job with the confidence and drive to advance your career.

    Be sure to express gratitude, as well as an enthusiastic desire to continue working and achieving new goals within the company. If you don’t seem to love the company or have any desire to stay with them long term, a salary increase is less likely.

  5. Present your evidence and justifications. Now’s the time to pull out all the data you’ve collected and all the research you’ve done. Bring up specific accomplishments; the more recent, the better. Present your proof of the value that you’ve added to this company.

    Be as thorough as you can in backing up the claims you make with tangible evidence. Use hard data, specific numbers, and formal awards you’ve received to give your manager concrete reminders of your accomplishments. Also, present the factual data you’ve collected on how you determined your fair salary.

  6. Be specific in your proposals. Specificity and decisiveness denote confidence. Being specific in your proposals also leads to less confusion after the fact.

    Using the data you’ve collected to estimate your salary, give a specific and concrete number for your desired salary. Share as openly as your manager cares to hear about how you’ve come to this number.

    Clarify when you’d like your new salary to be effective, and be clear on all other potentially ambiguous factors about your raise.

  7. Prepare for compromise and negotiation. In an ideal world, your manager will agree upfront to all your stipulations with no questions asked. However, it’s more likely that your manager will have a few questions or push back on some of your proposals.

    You should anticipate some specific questions about the data and accomplishments you’re presenting. Your manager may also ask direct questions about how long you plan to stay with this company and your plans for advancement within the company.

    It’s also likely that you’re going to have to negotiate on some of the details you’re proposing, or you may be told that your raise can’t be initiated at that very moment. Be sure that whatever agreements you come to or whatever promises are made are clearly recorded and documented.

    You might also be given a simple “no.” While this can be a big blow to confidence, remember that you have options. You can always revisit this conversation in the future. Or, if you were banking on that raise, you can consider pursuing other job opportunities.

Time Your Request

Timing is everything. Picking the right time to ask for a raise is almost as important as the meeting itself. Consider when your company does budget planning and time your meeting accordingly. If your company is really in dire straits at the moment, maybe wait until you’ve reached calmer waters.

Also, consider when your company usually awards raises and promotions. Time your request about a month or two before this period so that you can be the first to make your case and so that your manager has time to consider it.

Make sure that your manager isn’t particularly stressed out or in a bad mood when you ask for a raise. You want to make sure that your manager has enough time and patience to hear you out.

Specifically, two great times to ask for a raise are during performance reviews or after a significant achievement. Performance reviews lend themselves well to asking for a raise because the topic of salary naturally comes up. It makes sense to ask for a raise after successfully completing a project as well because your achievements are fresh in their mind.

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Chris Kolmar

Author

Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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