Asking for a raise can be one of the most difficult conversations you have during your career. It can be difficult to advocate for yourself, and if you’re not a natural negotiator a conversation about a raise can be even more stressful.
However, if you’ve been mulling over the fact that you deserve a raise for some time and are feeling frustrated that you haven’t seen a bump in your pay yet, you are probably better off having that uncomfortable conversation than stewing about being underappreciated.
But how should you ask for that raise? I spoke with Erin Cambier, Executive Career Coach with Superior Career Solutions, about the best way to approach having the raise conversation with your boss in 2019.
Scared to Ask? Just Do It
One of the hardest parts of asking for a raise is working up the nerve to ask. Cambier stresses that asking for a raise can be one of the most important determinations of your long-term earning potential. If you’re worried about asking for a raise, keep this in mind. Knowing that your salary for the rest of your career could be based on what you’re earning right now is a pretty good motivator.
Plus, says Cambier, what’s the worst that could happen if you ask?
“You are worth a lot to your employer. The worst that could happen is a ‘No’ as long as you approach it in a professional manner,” she says.
To approach the conversation in a professional manner, be sure you aren’t whining or complaining. Don’t compare yourself to other employees and their salaries. Put yourself in your boss’s shoes and come at the conversation from that perspective. Remember, too, says Cambier, it should be a conversation with the goal of a win-win resolution. A raise for you, and your boss keeping a quality employee happy.
With a professional, respectful, and open conversation it’s possible that even if they do say no, it doesn’t mean no forever, Cambier explains. Your boss might be willing to reevaluate your situation in a few months.
The fact of the matter is your boss has a lot going on, and you are one of many people who they manage. Your salary probably isn’t top of mind for them until you bring it to their attention. So just ask.
Read on for tips about how to ask once you’ve decided to forge ahead.
Be Aware of Timing
Did your company just get some bad news about earnings? Probably not the week to have the raise conversation.
Did you just hear about a coworker getting a raise while you didn’t? Don’t just march into your boss’s office while you’re angry. A raise conversation should be planned out and done when you’re in a less emotional state, ready to negotiate and calmly lay out your argument.
So those are bad times…what are good times?
Cambier recommends the end of your company’s fiscal year as a good time to ask—as long as your company has had a good year. She also advises planning your timing around your annual performance review—but don’t ask at your review.
Instead, have the conversation with your boss four to six weeks before the review happens. Why? Often, the decision about your pay is made before your review. To get the edge and to get your boss considering building a raise for you into their budget, plant the seed early.
If possible, Cambier says you should also align your ask with a time when you have recently made a tangible difference for the company. Landed a big client? Completed a major project? Handled the job of two people for a lengthy period of time after an unexpected resignation? Take the opportunity to bring these accomplishments to your supervisor’s attention as direct and immediate evidence that you deserve a raise while it is still fresh.
And, says Cambier, the day of the week can even make a difference in how your request for a raise is received. She recommends mid-morning on a Friday as the best time, and first thing Monday morning as the worst time. By mid-morning Friday, they’ve had their coffee, are settled in for the day and probably have their eyes on the weekend and not the stress of the week ahead like they do on a Monday morning.
However, no matter what day of the week or time of the year you have this conversation, don’t do it spontaneously. Set up a meeting with your boss so they know what is coming and when. Approaching them out of the blue with a raise request is never a good idea.
What Evidence Should I Bring to a Raise Conversation?
In a guest post on the Great Resumes Fast blog, Erin Kennedy, President of Professional Resumes, Inc., said the following: “When asking for a raise, remember that your best weapon is your record of successful accomplishments.” This is advice worth heeding.
To best use those accomplishments to your advantage, you need to be prepared with evidence of them. In 2019, it is easy to print off data, have a spreadsheet ready, or create a visual that shows what you’ve contributed to the company.
Increased sales? Have the spreadsheet printed out and ready to discuss. Are you an HR professional who mediated an unprecedented number of disputes? Create a bar graph to show the increase year over year and hand it to your boss.
Cambier emphasizes that these materials need to be brought in to the meeting as hard copies. She strongly advises against just emailing it. Think about how many emails people get in a day. Bring in the hard copy, and put it right in front of your boss as you are having your raise conversation.
Going into the conversation with a prepared document to back up your arguments will also make you feel more confident. You’ll have something to point to, and evidence in writing is much harder for a boss to dismiss than a vague assertion from you about your accomplishments. Be prepared, and you’re more likely to get that raise.
Have a Number Ready
In general, says Cambier, asking for a 5% to 10% raise is a safe zone, and most bosses won’t increase a salary more than that. However, she also advises that you shouldn’t just pick a number blindly within that range.
After all, it’s 2019. Research is easier than it has ever been. Do not enter your raise conversation without a reason for why you chose the number or percentage you did. Being able to show that you did research rather than pulling a number out of thin air or basing it on something like your family’s needs demonstrates a diligence that reflects well on you as an employee. It might not have taken you more than a few minutes to do the research thanks to the digital tools available in 2019, but you took those few minutes and that will likely set you apart from many of your coworkers.
Unless you work in a sector like government where salaries are public, chances are you’re not going to have an exact handle on what your coworkers are making for comparable work to yours. However, there are some tools you can use to help put your request in the appropriate ballpark for your industry.
Glassdoor.com has a salary calculator that lets you enter a number of data points and then tells you what you should be making. Use this as a reference point along with what you know about your company and the industry locally to help set a number to ask for. Cambier also recommends salary.com and just a general search for industry salary information on Google. The goal here is to know your value to the company you currently work for, and to others in the industry.
“It’s going to come down to the value you bring to a company,” says Cambier.
If you’ve been sitting at your desk for all of 2018 getting frustrated as you get passed over for a raise, you need to start preparing to have the raise conversation with your boss. And you need to do it sooner rather than later. Your frustration will only build if you keep putting it off, and that’s unlikely to lead to a productive conversation. Above all else, your raise request conversation should be entirely professional. No whining, no accusations, no anger. Just laying out evidence and making a polite request. The more frustrated you are and the longer you let that frustration simmer, the less likely you are to be able to have that conversation professionally and calmly.
Not to mention, if you have been waiting on a raise for some time and have mountains of evidence to show why you deserve it, your boss’s reaction to your request might be an indication of a need to change companies. A raise conversation can be a tipping point in a career—perhaps 2019 will not only be the year you request a raise, but the year you realize it’s time to start looking at where else you can take your talents.
Hopefully, though, 2019 will be the year you get that raise you deserve.
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