The other night, hanging out on my sofa, I started texting with a friend. She wanted to ask for a raise, after killing it at her company for more than a year. “But I’m nervous about seeming ungrateful or entitled,” she said.
It’s true. All our lives, we’ve been taught not to talk about money. But asking for a raise is different. Your salary isn’t a gift your boss is giving you. It’s money you’ve earned because you’re valuable to your company.
Below are 10 tips I’ve read and learned through the years (and I’d love to hear yours)…
1. Be awesome. Are you crushing it at work? If not, ask what you can do to help your team, request more responsibilities, ramp things up and then ask in six months.
2. Choose a time to ask. I usually vote for asking for a raise every year — basically on the anniversary of the day you were hired. But if you’re not sure, you can always be honest and ask, “If I’d like to discuss my salary, how and when would be the best time to do that?”
3. Know that you won’t upset your boss. Employers are rarely shocked to be asked for a raise. Usually they’re more shocked NOT to be asked. Most companies work raises into the annual budget. One friend, who works in human resources, says she sometimes wishes she could tell their company’s employees to ask for raises — half the time, they’re already approved!
4. Make a list of your accomplishments. Keep a running list during the year of projects you’re proud of, lessons you’ve learned, praise you’ve received. Work is often invisible, so now’s the time to show your boss all you do for the company.
5. Don’t bring up personal stuff. Your rent went up, your commute is expensive, you’re planning a wedding — these are important to you, of course, but aren’t relevant to a salary discussion. The only thing that’s relevant right now is your worth to the company.
Having the talk:
6. Request a review. Ask your boss if you can discuss how you’re doing and how you can grow. Not only will this show her that you’re excited about working even harder, but it will give her a head’s up that you’ll likely want to discuss salary. Plus, once you have a meeting in the calendar, even if you’re nervous, you can’t back out!
7. Be confident. Take a deep breath. My brother has a weird trick when he’s nervous to do something: “I count to ten, or I’ll pretend my whole family’s going to die if I don’t, and then I do it.” Nice! Personally, I imagine what will happen AFTER the conversation. I’ll go home, order a burrito, drink a glass of wine and watch Frasier reruns. See? Not so scary, right?
8. Figure out how the numbers. Many companies budget for annual raises of 3% to 5%, so you could ask for that amount. Or you could go higher, especially if you’ve taken on many more responsibilities, you believe you make less than market rate, or you’ve blown expectations out of the water.
9. Say you’ve earned a raise, versus that you deserve one. Because it’s true!
10. Always be polite and gracious, even if the answer is no. Forbes suggests replying with, “What would it take for me to earn a raise in the future?” And if she’d like to give you a raise, but the company’s budget is too tight, consider asking for vacation days in lieu of money. And remember: Even if boss doesn’t give you the raise right now, she will still respect you for asking.
Are you happy with what you make? What’s your company culture like? Are you going to ask for a raise this year? Good luck, if so! We’ll be rooting for you!
(Photo of Gloria Steinem and Dorothy Pittman Hughes.)