How to Ask for (and Get) a Raise

8 Tips to Convince Your Boss to Pay You More

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 hesitant to ask for a raise. You have three options. You can do nothing, but then you may 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 that you can then figure out if you are 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.

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. Glassdoor.com is also an excellent resource for salary information.

2. Figure Out How Much You Can Earn

Remember that because of 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 major cities, for instance, usually pay more than ones in small towns.

3. Evaluate the Financial Health of Your Employer

Be very cautious about your timing. 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 are sure the timing is right and you have all the relevant information, get ready to meet with your boss. Start preparing to make a case for your raise. Even though you think you deserve one, that might not be as obvious to your boss. It's up to you to convince him. 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 backward. 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 rose 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. Remember to give details!

5. Decide What You Will Do If You Get Turned Down or Don't Get the Salary Increase 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

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 to discuss your request. Don't ask for a raise by email, at the water cooler, or by telephone. The only reason for not having this conversation face-to-face is 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. It is more likely you will have to present the material you gathered. 

Stay calm and stick to the facts. Getting emotional will not benefit you, and may even harm your negotiations. Don't bring up your personal expenses because they are not your boss's problem. In your employer's eyes, your salary has everything to do with how you benefit the employer and nothing to do with your needs.

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 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 his criticism of your performance isn't valid, you may want to go where you will be appreciated.

Find out if there is any chance the situation will change. If you learn that is a possibility, get your boss to commit to a time to revisit your request. For example, you might want to have another conversation during your next performance review. Ask your boss to help you come up with a plan for what you will need to do to improve your chances of getting a raise by that time.