You’re going to ask for a raise. Did your stomach just leap into your throat at the sight of that sentence? I can’t blame you—anybody will be quick to admit that asking for a pay increase is anxiety-inducing at best. As with anything, the key to making this conversation run smoothly is preparation. The more groundwork you can lay ahead of time, the less panicked you’ll feel when you need to look your boss in the eye and make that request. So, where should you start?
Ask yourself these four questions before even knocking on your manager’s door:
1. What specifically have I achieved in the past six months to one year?
There’s a big difference between wanting a raise and deserving a raise. And if you really want to make a strong case for yourself, you need to prove that you fall into that second category. What have you done recently that has contributed to your company’s success? Pick at least three key accomplishments that you can point to. Whether you planned a company golf outing or took the lead on a major presentation, having those wins and accolades in your back pocket will make it easier to show your boss that you’ve actually earned a pay increase.
2. How can I quantify those achievements?
You’ve probably heard a lot about quantifying your achievements in terms of the job hunt—it helps to have hard facts and statistics on your resume. But the same holds true when you’re asking for a raise. While you’re not looking to secure a new position, you are still aiming to prove why you’re worthy of something (in this case, more money as opposed to a job).
Take another look at the achievements you outlined in the previous step and see if there are any important numbers you should be highlighting. Did that golf outing include 250 participants and over 20 sponsors? Did that big presentation lead to $5,000 in additional revenue? It’s hard to argue with data, so work it in wherever you can.
3. How much of a pay increase do I want?
You know you want a raise. But that alone isn’t enough. Chances are, your manager is going to ask you exactly how much you’re looking for. You don’t need to give a super exact number here, but you should at least be prepared with a range. Exactly how much you ask for is up to you. But if you’re worried about seeming unreasonable, asking for a 3-5% increase is pretty normal. You can also do some research on competitive salaries in your area to get a better grasp on what you should be asking for. Knowledge is power.
4. Is now a good time to ask?
Timing matters. There’s a good time to ask for a raise and a not-so-good time to ask for a raise (and I’m not just talking about before your boss has had her morning cup of coffee). Is your company in a period of transition? Have there been recent layoffs or other instability? Have you only been there for a few months? Were you just given a raise not that long ago? Those are all indicators that you should probably wait on asking for a pay increase—unless you’re someone who looks forward to rejection.
How To Ask Your Boss for a Raise
When this conversation can be so incredibly nerve-racking, what do you need to do to approach your boss in a way that’s polished and professional? Here are a few key tips to keep in mind.
1. Set a meeting
This is a serious conversation that’s worthy of the full attention of both you and your manager, meaning it’s not something you can say in passing when you’re both grabbing coffee refills. The most common time to request a raise is during your performance review. But if you don’t have one of those coming up and feel like you need to ask for an increase now, set a meeting with your boss so you both have some quiet, uninterrupted time to have a productive discussion.
2. Focus on results
Everybody wants a raise, but why do you specifically deserve one? As we touched on above, your request is most impactful when you can highlight results that your efforts have achieved. Don’t fall into the trap of emphasizing your own emotions as justification for your request, and instead keep the spotlight on how you’ve served your company. You’ll make a much stronger case for yourself.
3. Rehearse (yes, seriously)
Admit it: You’ve done your fair share of practicing in front of your bathroom mirror before job interviews. You can do that very same thing before asking for a raise. This is an important conversation, and your nerves are going to be running high. Talking through what you want to say and any other possible scenarios beforehand will give your confidence a boost.
4. Prepare for rejection
In an ideal world, your boss would respond by saying of course you deserve a raise and that she’s thrilled to be able to offer you exactly what you’re asking for. Unfortunately, reality doesn’t always work that way—which means you need to know how you’ll move forward if your ask is met with a “no.”
Is there something else you’d want to ask for, like more vacation days or a more flexible schedule? Will you simply respond to your boss by thanking her for her consideration? Nobody wants to think about worst-case scenarios, but being prepared is one of the best things you can do when you’re entering any sort of negotiation.
Asking for a raise is enough to inspire sweaty palms and shaky knees. However, remember that you are your own best advocate in your career—nobody is going to ask for this pay increase for you. So take a deep breath, rely on these questions and tips, and prepare to approach the conversation feeling calm, cool, and collected.