How to ask for a raise at work

Hi, I’m Patrick, I write about the job search. After graduating from Cornell, I became a content lead at UBS where I helped professionals at Fortune 500 companies understand their stock options, salary, and benefits. When I’m not writing about the hiring process, I write novels for teens.

You’re probably underpaid. According to a 2021 survey, 56% of working Americans hadn’t gotten a raise or a higher-paying job in the past year. Millions of professionals just like you go years without a pay increase simply because they don’t know how to ask for a raise at work. Maybe recent tech layoffs make you too afraid to ask for a raise. Maybe you think asking for a raise will make your manager dislike you. Maybe you’ve been told no in the past and don’t know how this time will be any different.

The bottom line is that you should earn what you’re worth. Your skills develop as you gain experience as a professional-–your salary should reflect that. Considering the current 8.6% inflation rate, if you don’t ask for a raise, your salary is going down fast. Why should you earn less if you have more experience

Keep in mind that your supervisor probably won’t be personally affected by your raise–it’s not coming out of their paycheck. It’s not only normal to ask for a raise at work, but expected–no matter the state of the job market or company stock price. These steps will show you how to ask for a raise at work effectively so you can make what you’re worth.

1. Market Research

How much should you be making? Check average salaries for job titles similar to your own on websites like Payscale, Payasa, or Glassdoor. Be sure to factor in the location, inflation, your years of experience, and any in-demand skills or education you may have. Once you’ve found the appropriate salary range for your role, you can begin to craft your pitch to ask for a salary increase.

2. Quantify the Impact of Your Work

The biggest mistake professionals make when they ask for a raise? They ask directly. It’s easy to say “no” or “wait and see” to a one-sentence question. Rather than just asking for a raise, make an argument for why you deserve a raise. Present a thorough pitch backed by quantifiable metrics. What were your KPIs at your last performance review? By what percentage did you increase sales? How many days early did you meet your deadline?

When crafting your request for a salary increase, try using impact statements. These are statements that explain what you accomplished at work and what your results were. Rather than just sharing the tasks you completed, impact statements highlight the impact your tasks made on the company. They generally follow structures like ‘I accomplished X by implementing Y which led to Z’ or ‘I developed X to accomplish Y, resulting in Z’. While you don’t have to use this exact wording when you ask for a raise at work, highlighting your achievements and their impact will help sway your supervisor.

3. Audit New Skills and Training

If you have more skills, you should make more money. Besides more years of work experience, have you mastered any new tools or soft skills? Make a list of new technical skills, certifications, courses, and abilities that you’ve acquired since taking the job. Once you have a list of new skills and education, consider how they make you a more valuable employee and include them in your pitch. When you ask your boss for a raise at work, cite this list of new skills, training, and experience.

4. Craft Your Vision for the Future

Sure, you’ve proved that your work has had an impact so far. But how will your work impact the company going forward? Share your plans for the next quarter. Are you developing new software that will improve efficiency? Are you going to optimize the company landing page? Do you have a new strategy to connect with clients? When you ask for a raise at work, share how your work will continue to improve and make an impact at the new salary level. Presenting a vision for your work after you get a raise will make it easier for your supervisor to give you one.

5. Pick the Right Time

While you shouldn’t let timing paralyze you, try to ask for a raise at work after you’ve completed an important task or project. Don’t worry about the state of the economy or budget. But if your team is especially busy or under stress, your supervisor is more likely to say no or ask you to come back later.

6. Write Your Request, but Ask In-Person

It may be tempting to ask for a raise over email, but it’s much easier for your supervisor to say no to an email than to say no to your face. Prepare to ask your boss for a raise in-person if possible. Since asking for a raise in-person is so stressful, professionals may veer off-topic or overshare. Talking to an actual human makes it easy to share personal reasons why you need a raise such as family or increased cost of living. While valid and probably natural to share in conversation, such personal motivations actually make it easier to reject you. 

We recommend that you write down exactly what you plan to say before you actually ask for a raise at work. While you don’t necessarily need a salary negotiation script, writing your pitch down will help you stay on topic. Once you’ve streamlined your written pitch, practice it with a partner or in front of a mirror.

7. Don’t Say More than Necessary

After you’ve asked for a raise, anything you say will probably work against you. Remember your supervisor won’t make a decision on the spot–they will probably have to discuss the raise with HR. If you qualify your pitch or try to haggle for a specific salary, you’re only making it easier for your supervisor to ask you to come back later or never meet with HR at all. Of course, you should be professional and answer any questions they may have, but don’t fill the silence with unnecessary information, or worse, back peddle on what you requested. While sometimes awkward, silence is your friend when negotiating your salary.

8. Have a Plan B

If your supervisor does say no or tells you to come back later, ask for a specific date that you can discuss the raise again later. Consider looking for new jobs in the meantime. While a raise can bump up your salary, at a new job you can easily negotiate your salary by 10 to 15%. A recent Harris Poll found that roughly half of working Americans want to make a career change–about 39% of those Americans want to switch jobs for a salary increase

With these steps, you should know how to ask for a raise at work effectively. After helping thousands of our fellows negotiate a higher salary, we at Pathrise know just how nerve-wracking it can be to ask for a raise at work. However, uncertainty is often the most stressful part of asking for a pay bump. Asking for a raise is more normal than you probably think, with very little risk.

By leveraging recruiting data, we develop strategies guaranteed to give people the best chance of landing their dream job and raising their salaries. Learn more about our newest initiatives to optimize the job search in our manifesto.

Patrick Bohan

Hi, I'm Patrick, I write about the job search. After graduating from Cornell, I became a content lead at UBS where I helped professionals at Fortune 500 companies understand their stock options, salary, and benefits. When I'm not writing about the hiring process, I write novels for teens.

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