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How to Ask for a Raise

You’ll only get that pay bump if you make it happen

A man in search of a higher salary

iStockphoto/Getty Images

Ditch these myths and ask for a raise the right way.

When it comes to getting a meaningful raise, it’s up to you. You’ll need to take charge and ask your boss. Success will require preparation, timing and a heavy dollop of self-confidence.


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Not sure you're well placed to get one? Think about your situation. Have you been asked to take on another employee's responsibilities because your company downsized? Have you been laying down extra hours to help your department meet its objectives? Has your company profited from your top-of-the-charts performance? Yes to any of these? Then it may be time to ask for a raise.

You’ll need to channel your inner salesperson. “Like it or not, we are all in sales,” Daniel Pink, best-selling author of To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth about Moving Others, told me when I interviewed him for my book Love Your Job: The New Rules for Career Happiness. “It’s not about going door-to-door selling products, but about moving people, convincing them to go along with your idea.”

You can succeed, because your workplace's payroll accounts may have money set aside for people like you. U.S. salary increase budgets are expected to grow by 3.2 percent in 2018, up from a 3.1 percent increase in 2017, according to Planning Global Compensation Budgets for 2018, a report by the compensation analysis firm ERI Economic Research Institute. Its findings are based on data from more than 20,000 companies and government statistics.

There are a lot of misconceptions out there about how to proceed. So here are seven salary negotiation myths that you’ll need to set aside if you’re going to land a raise.

Myth 1: You're not in the driver's seat. Not so. You have more power than you believe. Employers are worried about losing their best workers. Few younger workers can fill slots that need the kind of experience you have as a more seasoned employee. Millennials switch jobs more frequently than boomers, so employers really do have a motivation to keep you happy.

And it's expensive to replace you. The total cost if you leave can range from thousands of dollars to 1.5 times your annual salary. This includes costs of recruiting, advertising your job, bringing people in for interviews and training the one who gets hired. And there's the cost of lost institutional knowledge that goes out the door with you.

Myth 2: Your boss knows you're worth more. The truth is he or she may very well not have a good focus on your specific accomplishments and hard work. It’s your job to show why you’re worth more than you were last year, or even last month.

So, before you have a meeting to discuss your salary, prepare like mad. Practice your sales pitch so it comes off as smooth and professional, yet conversational.

Think of this as an exercise in show and tell. You need to provide specific examples of how you helped the company increase revenue by a certain percentage, solved major problems for clients, or brought in a project under budget and ahead of schedule. If you've added a new credential or degree, be sure your boss is up to date on that.

Scan for flaws in your work where your boss might ask what happened. Have an answer ready for those criticisms.

Above all, show your passion for your work and the company’s mission. Passion is contagious.

Myth 3: Your boss is your adversary. This does not have to be a prickly discussion. Most supervisors want you to be happy and engaged. When you are a star, it reflects back on them and their management skill. Step into his or her shoes. What are challenges your boss is facing? Is she under pressure to keep costs low? Is his own job precarious?  Do your research before the “ask.”

Myth 4: It’s now or never. Your boss may need time to consider your request. Avoid ultimatums and “I need to know right now”-type pressure.


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Myth 5: The best time to request a raise is at your annual review. No! When your boss announces a future salary level at your annual review, it’s simply too late. The money for the year already has been allocated. You’ll be fighting a losing battle to try get more now.

Instead, ask for a raise three to four months before your evaluation. Or ask for one after you’ve finished a key project or fixed a delicate problem with a client. Take advantage of those notable moments before your work is forgotten.

Myth 6: Your salary is unique. While salaries vary by region and experience, there are general guidelines that can help you get a bead on what you should be making. Check out websites such as glassdoor.com, linkedin.com, payscale.com and salary.com for national averages and pay ranges in your industry, city and region.

Then dig a little deeper. Ask recruiters and people you know with similar jobs, if you can get them to share. You can find U.S. government salaries around the country at the website of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. If you work at a nonprofit, check out its latest online tax filing (Form 990) to see how much its key executives and employees earn.

Myth 7: Ask for a specific figure. Instead, suggest a range. If you want to earn $5,000 more, ask for a $5,000 to $7,000 increase. Make your request in a direct, practical fashion. Say something like, “I’m dedicated and passionate about the work I do here, and I see myself working here for years to come. Based on my research of the current job market, however, I should be making between X and Y.”

If your employer refuses to give you the raise right now, you might negotiate to revisit the issue in three to six months. Another option is to seek something else that has a benefit beyond your paycheck.

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