How to Ask for a Raise Without Costing You Your Job

Investing

Here is something I have learned time and time again throughout the course of my career: it is extremely rare— we’re talking UFO-sighting rare— for a raise to be handed to you. 

So many people, especially young people, tell me that they expected (when they made it in the “real world”), that they’d be working for a company that guarantees an X-percent raise every year. Where did this idea come from? I don’t remember seeing the Raise Fairy in any of the Disney movies I grew up on. No, kiddos. This does not happen. Especially not in today’s world of start-ups where the “grindset” is so glorified.

So more than likely, if you want a raise, if you deserve a raise, you’re going to have to ask for one. However, a lot of us have the same problem: we get anxious about whether asking for a raise will make us seem ungrateful, or hurt our relationship with our boss. Plus, because of how unemployment skyrocketed this year, if you have a job, you want to keep it. 

I have been there. I have asked for raises, and have gotten both noes and yeses. Here are the five tried-and-true-tips that have worked for me: 

Set Yourself Up for Success

Think carefully about the best time to approach your boss. 5:30 p.m. on a crazy-busy Monday? Probably not the best time. At 5:30pm on a summer Friday? Hard no. Instead, shoot for a time when you know your boss will be in a good mood. Is there a team birthday on the books? A pitch you know is going to go well? That’s a great time to make your move. 

Next, tell your boss that you are going to put some time on his or her calendar to talk about a “growth plan.” One of the key ways to protect your relationship with your boss during a raise negotiation is to convey that this conversation is about more than the money for you (even if it’s not). 

That’s why I like calling this topic of conversation a “growth plan.” From your boss’ perspective, giving you a raise is basically your boss advising your company to invest in you. A conversation on a  “growth plan” implies to your boss that you’re planning on staying with the company, that you want to grow in your role, and therefore, want to add increasing value to the company.

Plus, putting time on your boss’ calendar and setting the topic in advance will force you to have the conversation if you’re tempted to chicken out.

Do Your Homework

When you have the time set on your boss’ calendar, don’t go into the conversation without a number. Studies show that people who approach a raise without a set, reasonable number in mind are less likely to climb the pay scale. 

Talk to friends in similar industries to see what they’re making. Then, find averages for your industry and level of experience on sites like Payscale.com and Salary.com. These sites allow you to search geographically, which is important as you decide what you need to live on in your area. And remember: the idea isn’t to get a raise just to get by, but to have a little extra to dump into savings. 

Ladies, here’s a special side-note for you: when you’re getting some industry intel on how much your peers are making, make sure that you’re talking to men and women in your field. As we know all too well, there is a pay gap where women make less than the men that work in the same roles. By talking to both men and women, you can make sure you know the true pay scale across your industry.

Once you’ve done your research, shoot for the high end of the averages you find. As my grandma used to say, “Reach for the moon; even if you miss, you’ll land among stars!” (Or as one of my girlfriends amended, “Shoot for the moon and don’t mess it up. Earth is a long way down.”)

Bring the Receipts

When you meet with your boss, come prepared with specific examples of your stellar performance and positive feedback that you have received from colleagues and clients. You don’t need an entire laundry list of the awesome things you’ve done at work, but a few key examples that demonstrate the qualities of a superb employee including professionalism, work ethic, creativity and cooperation (which, by the way, are all good buzzwords to throw down in your conversation). 

Cite a few important lessons you have learned during your time at the company, and express the desire to continue to learn and grow within that environment. Your employers will be more likely to invest in you if they see the raise as having long-term value.

Get Creative

Sure, a salary bump is the most typical kind of raise, but there are lots of other ways to reward your performance, and some might be even more valuable to your current financial and personal situation. Perhaps it’s a more robust health-care package, which will help mitigate your monthly health-care bills. Or you can ask for better stock options, or to be included in the company’s bonus structure should they have one in place. Or, maybe your side hustle is heating up and you want some extra PTO. Whatever you ask for, the point is to know your worth and to make work work for you. 

Give Them a One-Sheet

Make a document recapping the raise you’re asking for, your industry research on salary ranges, and some highlights from your time at the company. Once you’ve talked to your boss, give him or her the one-sheet to keep. If your boss is going to bat for you with HR, it will be helpful for them to have something to reference, and let’s face it, jog their memory if they don’t entirely remember all the killer points you made in your meeting.

I promise you, I have tried every tip and trick in the book (within reason) to get a raise and these five tips are your best bet for getting the raise you deserve, without costing you your job. Good luck!

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