How To Get the Raise You Deserve
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Asking for a raise is never easy. But it’s one of the most important things you can do to feel valued at work and improve your financial situation at home. One raise can change your life.
In fact, according to Ramit Sethi of I Will Teach You to Be Rich, one $5,000 raise can grow to $1,300,000 when properly invested. That’s right. Increasing your salary by $5,000 today can make you over a million dollars richer by the time you retire. So what are you waiting for?
When I saw this stat on Ramit’s site, I knew I had to act. I’ve been an avid reader of his for years, and implementing his advice has helped me throughout my career. Much of what I’m going to tell you today is adapted from the material he provides in his book, emails, and blogs. I’m not getting paid to hype his stuff. It’s just really that good. (And I’m not even talking about his premium courses!)
The steps I’m about to share helped me get two 15% raises in three years—on top of my normal raises. And I did it at a company with a set review process, where it’s very difficult to negotiate. Trust me, if I can do it, anyone can.
How To Ask For A Raise When You Are Underpaid
Full disclosure. The reason I was able to get such significant raises was because I was underpaid.
I started at my company in an entry level role. The set review process and percentage-based raise structure meant that my low starting salary made it very difficult to increase my salary. Due to the company’s flat organizational structure, there aren’t many opportunities for promotions, either.
That meant that, despite years of high performance and increasing responsibility, my salary was relatively low. So I took matters into my own hands.
Here are the steps I took to ask for a raise. And even though I was underpaid, it doesn’t mean these steps won’t work for you if your salary is closer to industry average.
The key in asking for a raise is to show your value to your company. My company is typically very strict about keeping raises to our official review process. Many organizations are more flexible. So even if you feel your salary is already okay, go for it! Remember, even a small raise can have an enormous impact over the course of your life.
Be a High Performer
The first step in asking for a raise is to be a top performer. Let’s face it, you have to provide value to your company for them to invest more money in you. Are they going to give you more money if you’re constantly slacking and not getting results? Probably not.
Don’t worry. Even if you don’t consider yourself a high performer right now, there’s a simple way to work towards that goal. That way, when you’re ready to ask for a raise, your manager will see your value.
So how do you become a top performer? Ask. That’s it.
Ask your manager for a meeting. Then ask straight up what she’s looking for in her top employees and how you can become one. And then, work every day to follow her suggestions.
Be specific. Ask her in writing for the exact steps you can take to improve and become a top performer. That way, when it comes time to ask for a raise, you can show her the vast improvements you’ve made and how you’re performing to her own stated expectations of a top performer.
Okay, maybe it’s not that simple. But you have to put in the work to get what you want in life. And if your manager says that top performers on her team come in early, dedicate time to learning their craft outside of work, and occasionally sacrifice a weekend to finishing a project, that’s what you’ll have to do.
No. I’m not suggesting you sacrifice your work-life balance just to make some more money. Your health comes first, and time is more valuable than money to many people.
But is it worth it to dedicate a few nights to learning a new skill? Or to spend one weekend a quarter perfecting a presentation so you can wow your executive team on Monday?
If you want to be considered a top performer, you probably will have to work outside normal hours once in a while. Or you will at least have to become an expert in managing your time, so every minute of the workday is used wisely.
However you accomplish your goals, know that you ARE going to have to work hard to get there. There’s no shortcut to success.
Remember how I said to ask your boss for specific examples on how to improve? That step is the key to getting your raise. Because the goal when asking for a raise is to show your value.
To do this, you need to document EVERYTHING.
Show exact examples of the steps you took to become a high performer. Did you take a class to learn how to code? Put the completion certificate into your file.
An executive emailed you last week to thank you for your work on a project? Right click -> save. That email goes right in your file.
Most importantly, calculate your impact on the company in numbers. Did you improve social engagement by 10% last month? Mark that down. Be specific.
If you can quantify your monetary impact on the organization, even better. If you’re in a position like sales, that can be pretty easy to quantify. But it’s more difficult if you’re in a role that doesn’t directly generate revenue.
Try to figure out your monetary impact on the company. If you’re an administrative assistant who found a different catering company that’s saving the company several hundred dollars a month, that’s a huge win! Calculate the savings over the course of the year and put it into your file.
When it comes time to meet about your raise, this documentation will be your saving grace. It’s easy for management or HR to say the company can’t afford a raise when you ask. But it’s much harder for them to say no when you show them how much money you have earned or saved them in the past year.
Research Comparable Salaries
When you’re getting close to asking for a raise, research comparable salaries in your industry. If you can get information on what your coworkers in similar roles make, even better.
Knowing what’s standard pay in your industry can help you target a number to ask for. You may be surprised to learn that you’re relatively underpaid in your market.
Sites like Salary.com, Payscale.com, and Glassdoor are all great resources to research salaries in your area, role, and industry. However, those sites aren’t always super accurate, especially for specialized roles. (One exception: if you work for a large organization and Glassdoor has a lot of salary information about your company, you can probably trust that you’re in the right ballpark.)
Once you have a general idea of salaries from online research, try and talk to friends and colleagues (both within your company and externally) in similar roles. You’ll be able to get much more accurate information straight from the source.
One word of caution. Although you are legally permitted to discuss your salary among your coworkers in most situations in the US, some organizations frown on the practice. Be cautious about comparing salaries with your coworkers if your company discourages you from discussing pay.
Include your supporting research, as well. Bring any data you have on salaries and the cost of replacing employees. Remember, data is your friend.
Once you have an idea of all of your main talking points, practice. Ask a friend or family member to role play. Or simply sit in front of a mirror and go through several scenarios so you’re prepared for whatever questions your manager may ask.
Practice, practice, and practice some more. It’s imperative that you go into your meeting prepared to have one of the most important conversations of your career. The more you practice, the more natural your talking points will seem, and the more confident you will appear in the meeting.
Ask Your Manager for a Meeting
This is it. It’s finally time to ask your manager for a meeting. Send a polite email asking for a meeting to discuss your performance.
I do not recommend asking for a raise through email. It is much easier to turn you down via email than face to face. You want to be able to state your case directly to your manager, so don’t show all of your cards at once.
Be aware that your manager may not have the power to give you a raise. In some companies, that is left to human resources, executives, or even a committee. But you will not get a raise if your manager isn’t on your side first.
Even if your manager isn’t the ultimate decision maker for your raise, they can help guide you through the process and connect you with the person who does make that decision. It’s important to meet with them first. Just be prepared to make your pitch to multiple people throughout the process.
How to Ask for a Raise if You’re Working from Home
If you’re working from home, either temporarily due to COVID, or permanently, the process will be very similar. However, make sure you meet on your terms.
Remote teams often communicate via email or messaging systems. Make it very clear to your manager that you would like to speak directly with her, not in writing.
The nice thing about working remotely is you have options. If you’re really nervous about meeting face-to-face, ask for a phone call. If you’re concerned about not being able to read your manager’s expressions over the phone, ask for a video call.
Whichever way you meet, make sure you’re prepared for the situation. You can’t show stats to your manager over the phone. So be ready to send an email immediately after the call with your supporting documents.
If you’re meeting over a video call, have your supporting documents ready to drop in the chat and/or email. Make sure you’re comfortable with whatever technology you’re using to meet.
Meet With Your Manager And Ask for A Raise
When the time comes for your meeting, you’ll already be prepared. If you’ve practiced like I suggested, you don’t have anything to worry about!
Of course, you’ll probably still have some nerves. This is a huge conversation! We’re talking about over a million dollars down the road, right?
But you’ve got this. Be confident that you’ve done everything you could to prepare, and you deserve this raise.
You might find it helpful to practice mindfulness before your conversation to stay calm. I used Headspace’s “Difficult Conversations” meditation before my meeting, and it did wonders to help me stay level headed and focused. You might prefer writing in an affirmations journal or using affirmation cards to boost your confidence beforehand.
After you meet, follow up with a quick thank you note to your manager. Be sincere, and thank her for taking the time to listen to you and for her support. Then ask for the next steps.
Make sure you have this part of the process in writing. If she says she’ll get back to you in two weeks, send another email if you don’t have an answer at that point.
Be persistent. You may need to keep moving your request up the chain of command. Be respectful, but give deadlines to make sure your request doesn’t get lost.
If you have to meet with additional people, follow the same steps as above. Focus on communicating your value to the company.
Keep Your Messaging Positive
It’s very important that you keep your messaging positive throughout the process. You may hit roadblocks, and that can be frustrating. But you want to show your company you’re a team player.
The worst thing you can do is negatively compare your salary to someone else on your team and throw them under the bus. Don’t start slacking because you’re frustrated, either.
If you’re waiting for an answer, or even if your first response is a “no,” don’t give up. Continue showing your value to the organization.
What to Do If You Don’t Get the Raise
If, after everything, you don’t get the raise, don’t give up! Ask for specific reasons why you did not get it this time and what you can do to be considered for a raise down the road.
Work hard to follow the suggestions, and ask for a raise again in six months. Follow the same process you did this time.
If they don’t give you constructive feedback, consider why you didn’t get the raise. Is it because the company is going through difficult times? There will, unfortunately, always be circumstances beyond your control. If it’s simply an issue of poor timing, try again when the company’s numbers start to rise.
If you believe you didn’t get a raise because of company politics or for another unfair reason, it may be time to consider looking for a new job, especially if you are underpaid. It’s important that you know your worth and are valued by your company.
Sometimes you’re just in an unfortunate situation. If you honestly evaluate your performance and salary and believe you’re underpaid but can’t get a raise, start looking elsewhere. It will be the company’s loss when you leave.
What to Do After Getting a Raise
If you followed all the steps up to this point, chances are, you will get the raise. Make sure to follow up with a quick email or thank you note to express your appreciation to everyone you worked with throughout the process.
Just because you achieved your goal, doesn’t mean your job is over. Remain professional and show thanks to the people who helped you along the way.
Of course, keep performing at a high level. You want to show your company that you’re worth the trust they put in you, and are fully deserving of the raise they gave you (and much more)!
You never know. In another year, you may ask for another raise. Or maybe, you’ll be up for a promotion. Keep the goodwill you fostered during this process, and work towards achieving new goals.
Asking for a Raise Doesn’t Have to Be Complicated
Asking for a raise is pretty straightforward. Your goal is to show your value to your company.
With a little bit of research and A LOT of practice, you will be prepared to knock their socks off with your pitch.
YOU know you’re worth more money. You just need to prove it to the company. Remember, their priority is their bottom line. Your priority is you.
Show your boss why giving you a raise is also good for the company’s bottom line, and they won’t be able to deny you. You can do it!