If you think you deserve a raise, you should just ask.
-- Satya Nadella
Mr. Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, may seem to be pointing out the obvious, but many people who deserve a raise don't ask for it. Instead, they wait -- while their frustration or resentment grows. That's not a healthy situation, and it can be avoided by simply asking, as there's probably little to lose.
Here are some tips on how to get a raise:
Deserve the raise
First off, your odds of succeeding in getting that raise will be higher if you actually deserve the raise. If you haven't been working hard, if you've been spotted goofing off at work, if your work has been sloppy, late, or incomplete, you're probably not the best candidate for a raise.
Companies generally want to keep their best, most productive workers, so if you can be such an employee, your employer will likely want to work with you to make sure you're happy.
Do your research first
Next, you can increase the odds of getting a raise by doing your homework first, before asking for it. A first step might be to get a good handle, if you don't already have it, on how your company is doing. If it's having a tough year, it might not be the best time to ask for a raise. If it just posted record revenue, knowing and mentioning that can bolster your case.
You should find out what others in your position are earning, because if you're earning less, a raise will seem more reasonable. Some good resources are salary.com, glassdoor.com, salaryexpert.com, indeed.com, and the Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook. As an example, I looked up "senior technical writer" in Boston and learned that the median salary was $90,651. Information can be powerful, and information such as this can help you build your case for a raise.
Make a strong case for your value
Speaking of cases, you'll want to make one for yourself, and a strong case at that. Focus on the value you create for the company, as that matters much more to your employer than how long you've been in your position, how fair or unfair you think your salary is, or how you need more money in order to put your child through college.
Grab some paper and a pen and spend some time thinking about how and what you've done at your job. List your accomplishments, and be as specific as possible, especially when it comes to dollars. They should have measurable results. Here are some kinds of achievements you might note:
- Coordinated an advertising campaign that brought in $800,000.
- Cut costs in your department, saving the company $100,000.
- Signed three new clients in the past six months, bringing in business valued at $2 million.
- Designed new footwear products that are selling well.
- Served as project manager for a project that was finished early and that increased company revenue by 8%.
- Reworked production process, increasing efficiency by 20%.
Pay attention to the tone of your case, too. Don't come across as complaining or threatening, but instead, present your request as a win-win scenario, where both you and the employer benefit, with you earning more and the company continuing to benefit from your skills and efforts.
Once you've prepared your case, be sure you have a number in mind -- what you want your new salary to be. You can also prepare by rehearsing your conversation with your boss -- perhaps with a friend, or trusted coworker.
If you're not ready yet...
If it doesn't seem like the right time to ask for a raise, mark a future date in your calendar to look into asking for one. But in the meantime, get ready. Start keeping track of your accomplishments, because you'll be wanting to use them later.
It can also be helpful to meet with your boss and express your interest in a raise. Ask what he or she is expecting of you, and what it would take for you to receive the maximum possible compensation. Having such information can help you work toward a specific goal, and it can be effective down the road to demonstrate that you've met the conditions your boss laid out.
It can also be effective to think about how you might best serve your boss, solving or shrinking some problems he or she is facing, and making him or her look good. Your boss will likely greatly appreciate that and be more interested in rewarding you.
Thinking outside the box
If you ask for a raise and get "No" as your answer, you have some options. You can wait and ask again later, perhaps making a stronger case. Alternatively, you might ask for something other than more money, such as tuition reimbursement, more time off, or more flexible hours or the ability to work from home on some days. There are probably some benefits such as these that will be valuable to you while costing the company very little.
The idea of asking for a raise can be daunting, and you might think it's futile -- but you'd be wrong. Consider this: The folks at compensation specialist PayScale surveyed 31,000 workers in 2014 and found that less than half of them had asked for a raise. Among those who did ask for one, fully 75% succeeded to some degree.