How to Ask for a Raise | 6 Tips to get you paid

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I worked in television for nearly two decades and I only asked for a raise once. My boss quickly denied me without having much of a conversation about it. To be fair, I was already at the top of my pay scale and I worked in a union position. That said, I knew for a fact that it was possible to earn above scale if there was a case for it.

I certainly felt that I deserved a raise, and I had my reasons for it, but I was not fully prepared to make my case. I only gave two lines and my boss had an easy out as she was able to say that she couldn’t do anything due to the union rules.

I accepted the instant rejection and never thought about asking for more money again. Even though I knew I was worth more than what I was being paid, I accepted the fact that I was capped out on pay unless I got a promotion. Looking back, I realize that I had the wrong approach and things could have gone a lot better if I did things differently. Here are some tips on how to ask for a raise.

Make your goals known

When you first enter the workforce, you’ll likely take the first job you can get. However, most people don’t want to stay in that role forever. The odds are you’ll have a long-term goal that will take many years to reach.

You should always prioritize your current job and show your manager how valuable you are. At the same time, you should be learning skills that will get you to your next job. Talk to your supervisor and let them know that you’re interested in being promoted within the company and you want to know what it takes to be considered for the next job. The odds are they’ll be happy to put you on the right path. As long as you’re not letting your current duties slip, you would be a serious candidate if a position opens up.

The reality is that getting a promotion is the easiest way to get a raise. Many people prefer to get promoted within the company, but jumping around can get you more money quickly. That said, if you bounce around too often, potential employers will notice.

Learn more skills

This ties in directly to the previous tip. While you can learn some skills on the job, quite often you may need to pick up additional skills at home. For example, if you’re an engineer, you may want to take on additional professional courses that will get you additional designations. Software engineers could learn more computer programs that would make them more valuable to their current company and future employers.

List your accomplishments

If you’re going to ask for a raise from your current employer, you need to have a list of accomplishments handy. Quite often it’s something as simple as reminding your boss that you’re constantly exceeding expectations. If your manager has communicated this to you via email or during your annual review, then you have physical evidence to provide when you ask for a raise.

Think about your role and how you do it better than others. Perhaps you’re an expert on specific software or you take on responsibilities that are normally done by managers. Depending on your job, there might be a time where an accomplishment can be measurable such as exceeding your sales targets or finishing a project ahead of time and below budget.

It may sound weird to humblebrag about your accomplishments, but you need to do it so your supervisors know what you bring to the table. You essentially want your company to know that the cost of replacing you would far exceed any raise you ask for.

Have your comparables ready

If it’s at all possible, try to have some hard stats and comparables available. First, take a look at what you’re being paid compared to others in your company. This may be difficult if the information isn’t publicly available, but you might be able to find out on your own through casual conversations. You just don’t want to be too obvious or your coworkers will think negatively of you.

The idea here is to find out how much you’re getting paid compared to others. For example, if you’re doing the same amount of work as someone who is senior, but you’re being paid $10K less, you have a pretty good case. On the flip side of things, if you’re senior and only making $2K more than someone who’s fresh out of school, you could say you’re grossly underpaid.

You’ll also need to pull some stats about how your pay compares to the industry average. Take a look at Glassdoor as they list salaries, so you’ll have some actual numbers to use. You could also speak to recruiters via LinkedIn and find out what someone in your position could get if they were to change companies.

Focus on why you deserve a raise

A lot of people think they deserve a raise just because they’ve been at the company for a long time. While that certainly helps, it’s not enough of a reason to give you a raise. Others will also ask for a raise because their regular expenses have gone, but they’re not performing any better at their job. Your company is not going to give you a raise just because your bills are higher.

If you’ve focused on the above tips already, then you have a very strong case. When you have your discussion with your boss about getting a raise, be ready to present the facts. All you need to do is talk about your work performance and all of your work accomplishments. Note that this isn’t a one-sided conversation. Your supervisor will likely have questions or counter-arguments for you so prepare yourself. 

Be prepared to hear no

Despite your accomplishments and arguments, there’s still a chance that you get declined. One strategy is for your boss to say they want to give you a raise and they’ll take it to the next level. You’ll then find out that HR has denied the pay raise or that it’s company policy to not pay more. If that’s the case, have a conversation about what needs to be done for you to get a raise. Try to get an outline and timeline in writing so you can work towards that goal.

That said, if you’ve done all your research and you feel like you’re underpaid, it may be time to look for a new job. Change is difficult, but why limit yourself to your current company? It doesn’t hurt to apply around or to speak to a recruiter to see what kind of offers you can get.

Final thoughts

A lot of people spend months thinking about how to ask for a raise, but they still don’t take any action. Building a case for yourself is never a bad thing, but you still need to have a strategy when the conversation with your manager happens. Be prepared and if you don’t get the outcome you’re looking for, start looking for a new job.

How to Ask for a Raise | 6 Tips to get you paid

About Barry Choi

Barry Choi is a Toronto-based personal finance and travel expert who frequently makes media appearances. His blog Money We Have is one of Canada’s most trusted sources when it comes to money and travel. You can find him on Twitter:@barrychoi

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