how to ask for a raise

You would like more money from your employer! Here’s how to ask for a raise.

1. Start by understanding the market rate for your work.

In order to build a case for a raise, you need to know how much is reasonable to ask for. How much would your work go for on the open market? The most obvious way to figure this out might seem to be to consult the many websites that provide salary information. However, many job-seekers report that these sites don’t account for the fact that job titles frequently represent wildly different scopes of responsibility. More reliable methods include:

  • Asking other people in your field for their opinion. Most people don’t want to be directly asked what their salary is, but you can bounce figures off them and see how they respond. Do they think the number you mention is about right, or does it seem too high or too low to them?
  • Asking professional organizations in your industry. They often do periodic salary surveys they can share with you, and even if they don’t, they can often give you general information about what range to expect.
  • Looking at similar positions on online job boards to see if salary ranges are listed.

As you gather information, remember that you’re looking for patterns and trends to inform your thinking; you’re not after one specific figure. That’s especially true because salaries are only one piece of a compensation package; many companies factor in other elements as well, such as benefits, bonuses, and quality of life issues.

2. Know the best time to ask for a raise.

The time to ask for a raise is when you have a sustained track record of accomplishment that you can point to. After all, a raise is recognition of a job well done, an acknowledgement that you’re now contributing at a significantly higher level than when your salary was last set. It says, “your work is now worth more to us.” So you need to make sure that’s true before you make your pitch.

And of course, make sure you’ve been on the job long enough to request a salary review. In most cases, you want to have a solid year of work behind you. Ideally, you also want the company to be in solid financial straits; when employers are going through a rough financial time, they’re looking for places to cut costs, not add them.

3. Make the request.

When you’re ready to make your request, lay out a case that shows you’re bringing increased value to your employer. Think about what achievements you had in the last year. You can also try pretending that you’re your own manager and ask what about your performance would really impress you, or what your manager should be upset to lose about you if you left.

Once you know what you’ll base your request on, rehearse it ahead of time. For instance, you might open with something like this: “I’m really appreciative of the opportunities the company has given me for greater responsibilities and more challenging work. However, I’ve been excelling at these new responsibilities for six months now, have consistently exceeded my goals, and have brought in new business as well. I’d like to talk about adjusting my salary to reflect these contributions.”

4. Know what to say if the answer is “no.”

If your boss turns down your request, don’t just skulk away! Instead, ask what you would need to accomplish in order to earn a raise in the future. A good manager will be able to show you what a path to a raise would look like. Then it’s up to you to decide if you want to follow that path – and remember to revisit the subject once you do!

And remember, it’s perfectly normal to ask for a raise when you’ve earned one. If your request is reasonable and backed up by your value to your employer, a good manager isn’t going to react badly, even if she can’t say yes.

I originally published this at U.S. News & World Report.

{ 10 comments… read them below }

  1. Jamie*

    The rehearsing ahead of time is great advice. Now, negotiating for myself is a weak point so I’m speaking from experience of seeing others do things well – be confident and pleasant. Some people psyche themselves up for the “no” they they come out of the gate with a defensive posture. Going in assuming the answer could well be yes, since you’re making a reasonable request.

    And if it’s now, done correctly at least you can come out of it with a time line of the next discussion and a list of things which can turn the no into a yes next time.

  2. Anonymous*

    Good timing! My supervisor recently resigned and instead of replacing her role my company is reorganizing my department. I’ll be taking on some, but not all, of her responsibilities and ownership for things like strategy, budget, planning. I’m not sure if now is a good time to negotiate a raise/new title, or if I should prove myself with the new responsibilities and wait until salary reviews, which always happen in the beginning of the year. I think they may be scared I will also bail and leave them in a lurch, and I feel like I have some power now. I did already receive a cost of living + merit raise this year. I’ve been here for over three years, always get excellent reviews and have been promoted once.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Ask for it now. This is closer to taking on a new position than it is to just taking on an extra project or two. In the latter case, I’d say wait and prove yourself, but in this case, ask now.

    2. Jamie*

      I would at least negotiate the title now. They are restructuring so it’s the perfect time, as things are being redefined.

      If you keep your same title but take on all the added work then the added work will be just considered part of your job by then.

      If it were me I’d get the title now, and wait until review time to negotiate compensation. I’m not sure I’m right on this, as I tend to be cautious (and suck at negotiating for myself) but I would be more confident in lobbying for a number once I had success under my belt and it wasn’t just based on stuff in a new job description.

      But I know titles don’t matter much in 99% of workplaces out there, including mine, but they are ROR and it can make a difference in how your perceived outside your organization.

  3. Holly*

    I actually just found out that at my non-profit, raises are only for cost of living. The culture here is that if you perform above and beyond, you get to keep your job for the next year.. you don’t get any other “rewards.” Promotions are difficult to come by as well, as the roles here are very defined and the only real way to move up is for them to create something for you (which is rare) or for someone in the role you want to get fired/they leave/they retire. Hm.

  4. Anonymous*

    you also want the company to be in solid financial straits

    That’s a turn of phrase I’ve never seen before!

  5. Anonymous*

    Understand your company’s budget cycle, not just for raises but equipment, software, furniture, etc. Know when the end of year funds or whatever will be given out and what you need to do to apply for them, who to talk to, etc. If someone leaves, their salary savings can sometimes be used to give raises.

  6. Vinodh*

    I have been working for a laboratory plastic consumables, research equipments and chemicals distribution firm for the last 20 years and the last 10 years in the capacity of Business Manager. My boss has cut down on my 0.25% of the promised incentive structure (1% of the total sales done )without any valid reason since last year . He had cut the salary to please someone who is working under me as an ASM who is 9 yrs junior to me and has demanded to be paid the equal of my pay structure. Also my boss has not paid any yearly increments to the staff for the last 3-4 years(5 years in my case) though we have ensured a min. gorwth of atleast 10-20% ovr all sales every financial year. We feel that he is not fair with his employees . How do we talk to him and explain him our difficulties.

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