How (and When) to Ask for a Raise
Few people find it easy to ask for a raise, but rewards rarely come out of the blue. You can sit back and quietly carry on, hoping that someone above you in the chain of command will spontaneously reward your sterling efforts, but offering you a raise is not sitting atop management's to-do list.
Sometimes, the only thing to do is ask.
Hints, whether broad or subtle, are not the best approach. Generalized grumbling to fellow employees will not sway the people who matter. Instead, borrow a lesson from the world of sales: To make the sale, you have to ask for the order. The same principle applies to asking for a raise. The moment cries out for an explicit request backed by a plan of attack, best accomplished in a formal, face-to-face meeting in which you can make your case.
If this kind of meeting sounds intimidating, it is probably because the negotiation is seen as adversarial, but the discussion can be framed in a more productive way. First, avoid concentrating on your own needs and wants, which are of little relevance here. Second, think objectively about the benefits your company derives from your work. Focus on the ways in which your raise aligns with the best interests of your employer. Those interests, not yours, are the ones that matter.
Two factors contribute to an objectively persuasive case for a raise: your status in the company and your pay compared to industry norms. Both factors are meaningful, but the first will have the most impact.
Your performance on the job determines your worth to the company. A raise is the result of performance that is demonstrably superior, whether measured against the work of fellow employees or measured against the expectations implicit in your current job description. If you have done more than most, this is the time to highlight your accomplishments. Those accomplishments can include successfully completing a big project, exceeding goals or quotas, mastering new skills, impressing a big client or a thousand other industry-specific things.
If you can tie an accomplishment to a specific result, so much the better, but do not overlook attributes that are not easily quantified. If you are the person to whom others turn with knotty problems, make that part of your argument.
Your mission is to demonstrate that you are now worth more than you were last month or last year and to convince your company that your value has increased.
It also helps to know what other companies are paying people in your position. There are a number of online resources that allow you to research industry salaries, job boards are worth a look and the websites of professional organizations often provide industry-specific information. None of these sources will pinpoint your unique situation, but all will give you a range of salaries and a rough estimate of your relative worth.
When should you ask for a raise? There is no definitive answer, but the key to all questions of timing is your ability to see things through your employer’s eyes.
Seen through those eyes, some moments are inarguably wrong. If this is your second month on the job, bide your time until you have established yourself. If business is bad, understand that you may not get a cordial reception. If your performance has been average, you need better ammunition before you are in a position to make your case.
On the other hand, if you have just completed some dramatically superior work, consider broaching the subject of compensation before the warm glow fades. Perhaps your contribution has been less dramatic, but you have consistently exceeded your company’s expectations for performance at your job level. That situation is the very definition of the right time to tackle the issue.
If it coincides with a successful time for your company, marshal your facts and set up that meeting with your boss. It may turn out to be a rewarding experience. If not, you may be motivated to get going on updating your best resume.