How to ask for a raise at work

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 effectively. Maybe you think the economy is too rough to ask. Maybe you think asking for a salary increase will annoy your boss. 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. Asking for a raise is not only normal but expected, no matter the state of the job market or company stock price. Follow these steps to ask for a raise effectively.

1. Market Research

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

2. Quantify the Impact of Your Work

The biggest mistake professionals make when asking 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? By what percentage did you increase sales? How many days early did you meet your deadline?

When crafting your pitch, 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, 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.

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? 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 raise 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 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 beforehand. While you don’t need to memorize a 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 starting 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 effectively. After helping thousands of our fellows negotiate higher salaries, we at Pathrise know just how nerve-wracking this process can be. However, uncertainty is often the most stressful part of asking for a pay bump.

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.

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