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5 Smart Strategies for Getting a Raise

By C.J. Prince

  • PUBLISHED January 08
  • |

If the thought of asking for a raise at work sounds just slightly more appealing than a root canal, you’re not alone. One survey found that a third of workers believed they lacked either the skills or confidence to press for a higher wage. But with the economic recovery in full swing and unemployment at historic lows, now might just be the perfect time. As you prepare for the big conversation, keep these five tips in mind.


Speak Up
Automatic pay raises were once the norm, but in the wake of the Great Recession, companies put them on hold, and they’ve largely remained there. These days, it’s the squeaky wheel that gets the increase, and while there are no guarantees that being vocal will lead to more money, it does better your odds. Seventy percent of workers who asked for a raise got one. And 39% of those who asked got the amount they requested, while 31% got a different increase, according to one 2018 study.


Have the Conversation Early
It might seem logical to wait until your performance review to discuss an increase, but companies typically set budgets for the next fiscal year months in advance of scheduled reviews. Find out when raises are granted at your company—the beginning of the year, end of the year, the anniversary of start date—and begin broaching the topic with your manager at least three months prior.


Be Aware of Your Company’s Performance
Did the company just have a breakout quarter? Is management hiring like crazy? Or have they cut back benefits and it looks like jobs might be next? Research your company’s financial health—quarterly and annual filings, share price, recent hiring trends—before making your request. If you met your personal performance targets, but the company’s overall revenue declined by 5%, you may want to delay. But if the balance sheet looks good, the likelihood of your request being well received increases.


Do Your Homework 
Before meeting with your manager, gather as much comparative salary data as you can for your specific job and geographic market. Asking a recruiter in your field or asking a trusted colleague to share their own pay are both good ways to find this information, along with online research.

While outside research on salary is always helpful, you may also consider asking your internal human resources department for any information they can share on your company’s salary levels, or “bands.” Many companies have a maximum and minimum salary for a particular position, title or level. Finding out where your current income falls on their scale will help you assess whether to negotiate for a raise—or a promotion to a higher band. 


Make a Compelling Case
The most persuasive argument is backed by solid data and, employers tend to tie financial reward to performance. Prepare a bulleted list of your contributions, and connect those achievements directly to company goals and profit. To boost your comfort level going into the meeting, consider role-playing with a friend or trusted colleague before meeting with your boss.

Remember, a raise isn’t a favor or a gift, and asking for one isn’t a show of greed. If you’ve been doing a stellar job or have taken on more responsibility than when you first joined, you should be making more money. In the worst-case scenario—your boss says no—use it as an opportunity to find out what specifically you would need to do to earn more. Then you’ll be better prepared to make your case again the next time.

C.J. Prince is a freelance writer who covers finance, business strategy and leadership. Her work has been published in Working Mother, Entrepreneur and New Jersey Monthly, as well as many financial websites and magazines.

Once you get that raise, what do you do with it? Learn more about tax-advantaged savings accounts.

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