Want to ask for a raise? Try these tips

If you’ve thought about asking for a raise but hemmed and hawed over it, consider this: according to a recent study reflecting a broad variety of industries, about 70% of people who asked for a raise received one.

The experts recommend that if you want to be in that number, take the time to gather information and plan your strategy before you make a request. And keep in mind that a pay raise is always based on your current salary, so one of the best ways to earn more money over time is to negotiate for a higher salary and benefits package when you start a job.

How to ask for a raise

  1. Demonstrate your contributions. Review your own performance from the perspective of the employer:  what have you contributed? how has your performance affected your team and the organization? Create a list of your accomplishments, spelling out specific impacts, such as cost savings, sales and earnings brought in, customers helped, positive customer reviews received, projects successfully completed, or other measures your organization uses to determine its success. You could also note your future goals to demonstrate the value of their investment request.
  2. Time your request right. It’s typical to request a raise as part of your annual performance review, although timing a request after a standout performance on a project might be strategic. A couple of “don’ts”: Avoid making a raise request when company earnings have sunk, other workers have been laid off, or your manager is stressed; and if your performance hasn’t been stellar, work toward improving it before you make a raise request. Some organizations don’t provide regular performance reviews; if that’s true in your case, request a meeting rather than bringing up your request as a surprise.
  3. Aim for an appropriate range. A solid range to ask for is a 10-20% increase over your current earnings. That’s a starting place; for most jobs, a 4-5% increase would be notably high, and higher than that, exceptional. If you have done extraordinary work, then the higher request could be justified, but if you’ve just met expectations, a standard increase is probably more appropriate to ask for.  The more typical 3% increase is still a respectable raise and increases of that size add up over time. Note that companies set a narrow range for pay increases, so you may need to aim for a new job if you are determined to get a bigger salary jump, though salary jumps of 10-20% are not as common as they once were.
  4. Do salary research. It’s important to have perspective on what the job market currently pays for your field to aim for a realistic raise. You may find typical pay in your field is considerably higher than you earn and showing that evidence could help support your request. Or if you find your salary already tops out the upper range typically paid in your city for your occupation, you may need to support a raise request based on extraordinary job performance. Use CareerOneStop’s Salary Finder to find the typical pay range for your field in your local area.
  5. Gather your confidence. Even though it can be pretty uncomfortable to ask for a raise, it is an acceptable step to take after being employed for a year (typically) and your performance has met or exceeded expectations. Putting the request and your rationale for it in writing will help you build a strong case and help you keep your clear focus, especially if your employer pushes back or challenges the points you’ve made. It’s much easier to feel confident when you know that you have done a good job, and trust that your employer wants you to be effective and stay in the job.
  6. What if they say no? Keep in mind, that the best request, based on the best rationale, will not necessarily result in a raise. If you get a “no”, aim to remain positive and professional, and ask what you could do to qualify for a pay raise in the future. If you get a “yes”, still aim to be positive and professional, and keep the momentum in your work performance. In most circumstances, it’s counterproductive to suggest that you will leave if a raise is not offered.

What factors influence your potential for getting a raise?

  • Length of employment at an employer. Many employers offer raises once an employee has been successfully employed for one year, and then annually afterwards. Some employers have no such schedule, so it really is up to you to make the request happen.
  • Location. Where you work/live has a significant impact on the salary you can expect to be paid. Salary rates are often higher in cities with more competition for workers and a higher cost of living than in cities with lower cost of living and/or less competition for workers.
  • Job Sector. Although it can vary, overall it’s more typical for workers in private industry to see greater pay increases than government workers.
  • Inflation. Inflation is the overall increase in prices in the economy. It often refers to products we all need, like food, fuel, clothing. But it also affects businesses and their costs. Pay raises that help people keep up with rising costs are called cost of living raises.
  • Performance. Merit raises are based on how well you have met your goals and helped your employer meet theirs. A 3% increase is the national average for a merit-based raise. To understand your organization’s pay increase policies, review your employment contract, employee handbook, or internal website.
  • Changes to job duties. When a position’s job duties have changed significantly, that may warrant an increase. This could be temporarily or permanently adding tasks from a colleague’s or supervisor’s job, adding significant travel to your position, or other.

What if a raise is off the table?

A pay raise decision may involve many factors you may not have influence over, including the organization’s bottom line, earnings, priorities, and direction.  But there are other factors that can contribute to a great work experience. When a pay increase isn’t in the cards, it may be possible to request additional paid vacation, one-time bonus, paid training or a career development program, contribution to health care insurance, greater flexibility, or other items.

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