The idea of asking for a raise is intimidating in the best of times, and in a difficult economy like the current one, it can seem even more risky. But sometimes, you really do deserve more pay than you’re getting. If that’s the situation you’re in, consider these tips for negotiating a raise:
Do your research. Find out who in your company has requested and obtained a raise in the past, and ask how they did it. Find out what other people who do the kind of work you do make in your geographical area, especially if they have a similar job history and work experiences. Although there is a social taboo on discussing personal finance and especially income, shared information can be critical to everyone in your peer group earning a salary they deserve. You can also check the Occupational Outlook Handbook produced by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which aggregates information about a multitude of jobs, or try using an online salary calculator (a Google search of “salary calculator” yields nearly three million results).
Check your timing. If your company is going through hard times, your boss may not be able to afford to give you a raise, even if you deserve one. You can ask for a raise anyway, but be prepared for a negative response. You should also wait until you’ve been in the same position long enough to establish a proven track record (i.e., don’t ask for a raise if you’ve only been with your company for a few months). A good time to ask for a raise – especially if your regular performance review is a ways off – is after you’ve done a great job on a project.
Assemble your ammunition. Speaking of proven track records, the best way to make your case with your boss is to show how valuable you are to the company. So gather your performance evaluations, list your successes (especially recent ones), and document how you’ve saved the company money and/or increased revenue. List the responsibilities you’ve taken on, especially of your own initiative. Note the ideas you’ve had in the past that have helped the company, and suggest a few more for the future.
Get clear on what you want. Obviously, you want more money, but exactly how much? Identify a number that seems reasonable in light of your research, but also be prepared to negotiate with your boss, who may be able to give only part of what you want. If that’s the case, consider what other non-salary benefits you might want instead, such as additional vacation time, stock options, tuition reimbursement, or 401(k) matching. You should also be prepared to ask for clear parameters regarding the requirements for your next raise.
Rehearse your pitch. Before you ask to meet with your boss, practice what you will say during the meeting. While you don’t want to sound robotic, you do want to project confidence, and practicing will help you avoid awkward stumbles and pauses.
Be prepared for your boss to refuse your request. If your boss says no, be sure to ask what you need to do in order to get a raise. But if you’ve fulfilled all of the requirements laid out by your boss, and you still don’t get a raise, it may be time to consider finding a new job. Regardless of your emotions, you should remain professional and polite at all times. A simple statement along the lines of “Thank you for your time” or “I understand your position” should be sufficient to get you out the door. You can then take your time deciding on your next move.