How to Ask for a Raise

7 Tips for Getting a Salary Increase

Man reaching for dollar bill hanging on string from large finger
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You are long overdue for a raise, and your boss doesn't seem to be doing anything about giving you one. Even if you know you deserve a higher salary, you, like many people, may be nervous about asking for a raise. You have three options. You can do nothing and probably stay at the same salary indefinitely. You can look for a job that pays more. Or, you can ask for a raise. Clearly, sitting around and waiting for your boss to make the first move hasn't worked so far and looking for another job can be a big hassle.

What are you waiting for? Here's how to ask for a raise:

1. Find Out What Salaries Others Who Work in Your Field Are Earning

Before approaching your boss, you need to do some research. It's time to learn about typical salaries in your field so you can then figure out if you are actually earning less than you should. You can try talking to colleagues in your field. Be forewarned, however, that many people are reluctant to discuss money. Don't ask your current coworkers to reveal this information until you make sure there aren't any company policies prohibiting it.

You can also get salary information from published resources. Websites like O*Net Online publish median salaries for a variety of occupations based on government data. You can even find salary information by state. If you belong to a professional association, check to see if it has salary information available. Begin by looking at the organization's website.

2. Figure Out How Much You Can Earn

It is important to remember that because of the influence of certain factors like education and experience, your salary may differ quite a bit from the median published salary for your field. You must be realistic when thinking about your expectations. Consider the number of years you've been working in the field, your education and credentials, and the length of time you've worked for your current employer.

You should even take the location of your job into account. Jobs in big cities, for instance, usually pay more than ones in small towns.

3. Evaluate the Financial Health of Your Employer

You should be very cautious about your timing when you ask for a raise. Don't ask for a raise if you know your employer is having financial problems or if there is a lot of uncertainty in the industry. While, as an employee, you are probably well aware of your company's financial health, you shouldn't rely only on what you observe. Do some company research, which includes looking at financial reports and following business news.

4. Prepare Your Case

Once you're sure your timing is right and you are armed with all your information, you can finally get ready to meet with your boss. It's time to start preparing to make your case for why you should get a raise. Even though you think you deserve one, your boss may not see that as clearly as you do. It's up to you to convince him. You must sell yourself just as you would if you were trying to get a prospective employer to hire you.

First, make a list of all your accomplishments. Start with the most recent ones and work your way backwards. Describe how those accomplishments benefited your employer.

Be very specific. For example, don't just say you increased profits. Prepare to tell your boss how much they increased and what role you played in making that happen. Next, make a list of your relevant skills—what makes you successful at work. Include your hard and soft skills. Finally, get ready to describe all the things you plan to do for the organization in the future.

5. Decide What You Will Do if You Get Turned Down or Don't Get the Raise You Want

Before you walk into your boss's office to ask for a raise, think about what you will do if she says "no" or agrees to give you one that is much smaller than what you want. Will you quit your job or will you wait a while and then ask for a raise at a later date? Your answer may depend on what your boss says. For example, has she turned you down because of your performance or because of other circumstances?

6. Set Up an Appointment to Talk to Your Boss

Now that you've done all the preparation, it's finally time to speak with your boss. This is not something you should discuss with him in passing—it's serious business! Treat it as if it were a meeting with a client or a job interview. Set up an appointment. Don't discuss your request for a raise by email, at the water cooler, or by telephone. The exception to this rule would be if you and your boss don't work at the same location.

7. Present Your Case

Your boss may agree to give you a raise immediately. Wouldn't that be nice? You may have to do nothing more than ask her for one (which may leave you wondering why she didn't offer before you asked). More likely you will have to present the material you gathered. Stay calm and stick to the facts. It will not benefit you to get emotional. Don't bring up your personal expenses because they are not your boss's problem. Your salary is all about what you do to benefit your employer.

8. Respond to a "No"

Your boss may turn you down. What should you do next? It all depends on the reasons he gives you, if any. If he says he is rejecting your request because of your performance, you have to decide if his feedback is valid. If it is, think about what changes you can make to turn things around. If you conclude that your boss is just making excuses and there isn't validity to his criticism of your performance, you may want to go where you will be appreciated. If there is some other reason you were turned down, talk to your boss to find out if he expects the situation to change. If he does, ask when you can approach the subject again.

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