Are you worth more than you’re paid?
It might be a more difficult ask due to the economic effects of the pandemic. A third of all U.S. companies are lowering their projected salary increases for 2021, according to a survey by insurance company Willis Towers Watson.
But if your company is doing relatively well and you’re consistently a high achiever — and have concrete evidence to prove your worth — it might be time to talk to your manager about a raise.
Don’t let nerves keep you from asking for the money you deserve. Boost your confidence by preparing yourself with our guide to how to get a raise.
How to Get a Raise: 5-Step Guide
If you’ve been working in your current position for at least a year and haven’t seen an increase in your paycheck, it may be a good time to ask for a raise.
Read on for how to complete your own assessment, decide how much to ask for and approach your employer.
1. Decide What Is Most Important
Before you ask your boss for a raise, first ask yourself what you really value.
Although a raise may be highest on your list, that may not always be an option.
Some companies have rigid policies about pay ranges for a particular position or level. As frustrating that may be, consider this an opportunity to talk to your manager about what you can do to reach that next level that triggers a pay bump.
Check your employee handbook for the policy on pay raises — and don’t be afraid to reach out to your HR department to ask about flexibility on the policy. It never hurts to ask.
Then rank the relative importance of what you want — and what you’re willing to compromise on.
And remember that cash isn’t everything; benefits are also part of your compensation package. If you’re willing to give up extra money for more vacation time, education reimbursement or flexible work arrangements, you have more room for negotiation.
2. Research and Prepare
The better prepared you are for the conversation, the more likely you are to hear a positive answer. You need to know how much you can reasonably ask for, and how to ask for it.
Before you even consider negotiating, investigate whether your current employer is in a position to offer you anything. If your company has recently taken a financial hit or is facing a big lawsuit, this might not be the best time to ask for additional money.
Next, consider your own standing within the company.
One of the best ways to calm yourself and approach a salary negotiation with a level head is to do your homework about the company and your role. Don’t stress over manipulation tactics.
Review your work to make sure you’ve been doing a good job. If you’ve been consistently getting great feedback and hitting your targets, you’re on the right track.
It’s best if you can directly link your work to an increase in sales or profits, but at least offer evidence that the company is doing better because of your efforts, and be specific with numbers and dates.
Along with your last performance review, compile your accomplishments in a document that your boss can review.
3. Calculate How Much to Ask For
How much are you worth?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics compiles wage data for over 800 occupations. Locate the job title on their list that most closely fits what you do, and you’ll find the average hourly and annual wage. Click on the title for more details.
For example, the “mathematician” data shows an annual mean average of $107,280, but when you click through you’ll see that federal government mathematicians average $112,060 per year, while mathematicians working at colleges and universities make $72,810.
National averages are a place to start, and you can look up salary information on websites like Dice, Glassdoor, Robert Half and Payscale. But talking directly with your peers in similar positions and looking at actual job postings that mention wages might be even more accurate.
In salary negotiations for a new job? It’s not exactly the same as asking for a raise, though the two share a lot of similarities.
It’s also a good idea to base the amount on your achievements. You can do that by assigning a monetary value to each of the accomplishments you listed in the previous step — from the extra hours you put in on the weekends to the times you helped on projects that fell outside your assigned duties.
In terms of negotiation, your argument will be much stronger when it’s based on research and numbers rather than emotion. If you really do need that extra $5,000 for child care costs or relocation costs or rent, that’s OK to mention. Just don’t let that be your whole argument.
4. Time Your Request Right
You’ve done your research and preparation, created a fact-based argument for higher pay and planned your pitch to your manager.
But when is the best time to ask for a raise? When you look most valuable, ideally.
Setting yourself up for a successful discussion starts with making sure your accomplishments are front of mind for your manager — such as after you complete a major project or discover a way to save your company a lot of money.
Remember: Even though this raise might be important to you, your boss is human, too. Consider their perspective and mindset before you launch into your demands.
If there’s a looming deadline for a major project, for instance, wait until after everyone is under a little less stress. Schedule the appointment with your employer at a time that you know they can focus on the topic
5. Negotiate Smartly
You present your argument, provide the data to back it up and ask for a raise you consider to be reasonable and fair.
Even though you do all this, you may not get the raise. Or at least, not the raise you wanted.
First, hear out your employer — and prepare yourself for more than a simple yes or no.
If your employer’s response is that they like you but they can’t afford pay raises, that’s not necessarily a no. It could just be a “not now.”
If your boss makes a counter offer, be polite and ask for time to consider it — especially if your initial instinct is to be insulted by the offer.
If your employer says that there are criteria you need to meet to earn the raise, ask for the goals in writing and set a follow-up appointment during your meeting to hold your boss accountable. Then make it your priority to meet these goals, documenting your achievements along the way.
Salary negotiations show that you’re confident in your skills, you’ve done your homework and that you’re not going to dart off to another better-paying position as soon as it’s available.
Then, consider your options. Is this a fair offer? Is this a deal-breaker? Reflect on how this decision will affect your work life going forward.
Regardless of the outcome, remaining calm and professional throughout the negotiation and after is essential for maintaining a long-term work relationship with your employer.
And if you do get the amount you ask for — congrats! Be sure to ask for the new salary in writing (email is fine) — after all, you don’t want all the hard work of negotiating to go to waste.
Steve Gilman is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder. Staff writers Adam Hardy and Tiffany Wendeln Connors also contributed to this report.
This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, a personal finance website that empowers millions of readers nationwide to make smart decisions with their money through actionable and inspirational advice, and resources about how to make, save and manage money.