Is it time for you to ask for a raise at work?
If you’re like most people, your job is your primary source of income. In fact, unless you’re working multiple jobs or “side hustling,” your day job is probably your only source of income.
As such, getting a raise at work is a critical part of your financial equation.
At the most basic level, improving your financial situation depends on your ability to do two things:
- Spend less
- Earn more
Most people choose to focus on frugal living. Learning how to spend less money can help your hard-earned dollars go further.
But let’s face it. At some point, it’s easier to earn another dollar than trim one from your budget.
So what’s the best way to start earning more money?
While there are many benefits to side hustling, it often takes months – or even years – of hard work before a side hustle starts earning a significant amount of income.
How to get a raise
If you’re serious about increasing your income as quickly as possible, then learning how to ask for a raise at work should be a top priority.
In this post, you’ll learn ten steps that will teach you how to ask for a raise at work.
Don’t worry, many of these steps are things you’re already doing or will take just a couple hours to complete. With just a little research, planning, and communication, you’ll potentially increase your income by thousands of dollars in just a few weeks!
Recognize that it’s okay to ask
The thought of asking your employer for a raise can provoke a handful of self-doubting questions:
“What if I damage my relationship with my boss or management?”
“Do I really need or deserve to earn more money?”
“What if they tell me no?”
Asking for a raise may be outside of your comfort zone, but don’t feel guilty or greedy about bringing up the topic (especially with some preparation and timing).
After all, you’re far from alone in your desire to increase your compensation. According to a Glassdoor survey, salary is the top reason why most employees decide to change jobs.
Replacing employees is an expensive and time-consuming process for most companies. Employers would rather offer their top performers a raise than deal with the hassle of finding, hiring, and training a new employee for the role.
Asking for a raise at work isn’t an outside-the-box idea either. Management and human resources are used to handling these types of requests constantly. This is a great opportunity to develop confidence in having crucial conversations and showing that you know how to adult!
Don’t forget, these individuals are human beings who also show up to work in large part for their compensation. There’s a good chance that your manager is interested in getting a raise soon, too!
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Find relevant salary data
Just because it’s normal to ask for a raise at work doesn’t mean you should do so without preparation.
One of the first steps in asking for a raise is determining how much to ask for. Of course, you can’t just pick a salary that allows you to afford your dream car and build generational wealth overnight.
As the adage goes, “In God we trust, others must provide data.”
Without a divine edict from the heavens, you’ll need to gather relevant data that justifies whatever amount of money you’re asking for. It’s important to find comparisons for what other individuals are earning who have similar:
- Work title and responsibilities
- Qualifications and experience
- Location and cost-of-living
Unfortunately, sharing of one’s salary is still generally considered taboo, so it may be difficult to find out how much your peers are earning unless they’re close friends.
Thankfully, it’s easier than ever to find anonymized salary data through websites like Glassdoor and LinkedIn. These sites, or others like them, will often let you refine the data by your role, work experience, and city to find a general salary range.
How much to ask for a raise
When it’s time to finally sit down with your manager and request a raise, it’ll be helpful to have a specific number in mind. Just like you don’t want to figure out what to do if you win the lottery after the fact, you don’t want to be blind-sided during salary negotiations either.
Most likely, you were able to find a rough salary range through your initial research, but that’s only a starting point.
If the median salary for a business account manager could be anywhere from $45,000 to $70,000 in your city, how do you know what to ask for?
When you’re unsure how much to ask for a raise, the simplest option is to start with your existing salary. In my experience, most annual raises are somewhere between 3-5%… just outperforming inflation. You can often ask for a raise in this range simply by performing consistently well over time.
If you’re going to ask for a raise that’s more than that, let’s say 10% or 20%, there’s typically another factor involved:
- You were being drastically underpaid to begin with
- You’ve demonstrated exceptional performance
- You’ve accepted additional new responsibilities or a promotion
So what should you do after defining the new salary that you’re looking for?
Keep it to yourself, if possible.
If you can get your employer to suggest an amount first, you may be pleasantly surprised with more than what you would’ve asked for. If that doesn’t end up being the case, you can consider different options that may allow you to negotiate closer toward your goal.
Make yourself irreplaceable
So far, you’ve given yourself permission to ask for a raise and done your research to understand fair compensation for your role and performance.
Now it’s time to start considering the social and organizational sides of asking for a raise at work.
Your homework assignment?
Find ways to make your manager look like a rockstar.
Most employers aren’t a pyramid scheme or multi-level marketing company where you only get paid if you get in at the top. Your manager can be your greatest ally when it comes to asking for a raise.
If you’re able to help your manager feel recognized and appreciated – and maybe even be considered for a raise or promotion themselves – they will likely do what they can to support you in your aspirations as well.
Make yourself irreplaceable by volunteering to take on the work that other employees are unable or unwilling to do. Utilize the unique skills you’ve developed from other jobs. Offer the expertise nobody else can provide.
Get credit for your accomplishments
Just like there’s a difference between being rich vs wealthy, there’s also frequently a gap between how well you perform and how your employer thinks of your work.
For better or worse, a lot of it comes down to perception. Making yourself irreplaceable at work by becoming a top performer is one thing; ensuring that management recognizes your skills and hard work can be a whole different story.
Perform well at your job before asking for a raise isn’t always enough. It’s your job to claim credit for your successes as well.
This doesn’t mean you need to hang a list of your recent accomplishments on the kitchen refrigerator or ring a bell whenever you reach a goal. There are, however, little things you can do to make sure your performance is noticed:
- Proactively communicate with your manager about your projects instead of waiting for their follow-up
- Find examples of how you’ve improved operations and processes within the company to them save money
- Consider how you’ve helped the company earn more money, whether through sales or retaining existing customers
- Use specific numbers (“I’ve been 25% above quota for the last three quarters”) to highlight your impact within the company
Know what to say when asking for a raise
When you are asking for a raise, be sure to speak in terms of your employer’s interests rather than your own.
You may have your own reasons to save more money, but your focus should be on why you deserve the raise (“I’ve earned a new certification that has prepared me to take on a larger role”) rather than how much you feel you need it (“I could really use some extra money to save up for my wedding next year”).
If you don’t know what to say when you’re asking for a raise, you should:
- Highlight on your contributions and accomplishments from the past six months
- Share your goals and explain how you’d like to improve during the next six months
- Explain how you can increase your impact and contribution moving forward
- Include any relevant third-party salary data or ask for a specific amount
Even though asking for a raise at work feels like a big deal, don’t feel like you need to overwhelm your employer with a mountain of paperwork to prove the point. You don’t want your raise request to feel like a chore to share or review.
If you’re asking for a raise in writing, you should be able to make your case with a few bullet points or paragraphs and perhaps a couple of support materials.
Accept new responsibilities
One of the easiest ways to justify asking for a raise is to accept new responsibilities.
This may automatically happen if you’re asking for a raise that includes a title change and promotion, but you can offer to take on new responsibilities in your existing role as well.
Here are a few questions you can ask yourself that may help:
- What unique skills and experiences can I offer that other employees on my team might not?
- What can I do to remove work from my manager’s responsibilities?
- How can I help my coworkers complete their work more efficiently?
- What experience might be valuable in helping me qualify for a better job in the future?
But what if you don’t see a way to accept new responsibilities in your current role?
If your employer hasn’t offered you much in the way of skill and career development, now you know what to do when you’re bored: develop skills that will allow you to expand your opportunities and move into a more rewarding role in the future.
Not sure where to start? Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Improve your abilities with Microsoft Office or Adobe Creative Suite
- Become a better writer
- Practice public speaking
- Learn how to code
- Study for and pass a certification exam
Find the right time to ask
Asking for a raise isn’t as simple as waiting until your manager shows up to the office in a great mood (although you may not want to ask on a “bad day” either).
One important part of timing your discussion about a raise at work is to start the conversation early. Don’t just show up to your manager’s office hoping that you’ll get a raise reviewed and accepted before your next paycheck.
Most companies have a specific process in place for handling raise requests. You may be able to receive a raise at any time, but some companies may only give raises on a quarterly or annual basis.
This is why it’s important to start the conversation early. Even if your manager is in full support of giving you a raise, there may be little they can do depending on the guidelines set by the company.
Do you have a weekly check-in or quarterly performance review with your manager?
This is the perfect time to start the discussion:
“I’d like to discuss a 5% raise. Based on my research, this is a fair value for the contributions I bring to the company. I’m also like to take on new responsibilities to help the team and demonstrate my commitment to the company. How can we make this a reality in the next 2-3 months?”
Having this conversation gives management plenty of time to review their budgets, redefine your role in the organization if necessary, and get approval from any other leaders that may need to sign off on your raise.
Understand that they may say no
You’ve performed your research local salary data, created a list of your most impactful accomplishments, and proposed to take on additional responsibilities.
Your manager is your biggest ally. They went to management with a proposal for a raise and followed every company policy exactly by the books.
In spite of this, your request for a raise was rejected. So what happens next?
While this type of news would definitely be a disappointment, don’t consider your efforts to be a waste.
Being told “no” can hurt, but it’s a great opportunity to receive guidance on your performance and create a plan so you can be even better prepared the next time around.
If your conversations with your manager went well, but there wasn’t any room in the budget to receive a raise, consider exploring other ways to boost your compensation plan, such as asking for additional vacation time, paid professional development opportunities, or a work-from-home day.
What if you still strike out?
Perhaps this can provide further motivation to get your personal finances in order. Increase your savings so you can explore career options without needing to figure out how to move with no money or job.
Get the raise – and celebrate!
Hopefully, though, your efforts do result in getting a raise.
Almost all of the previous steps about asking for a raise have relied on research, communication, and negotiation.
But knowing what to do when you get a raise?
That’s when the real personal finance decisions start to kick in.
Earning a bigger paycheck may increase your income, but that’s no guarantee you’ll choose to improve your financial situation.
Avoid the temptation to make any major purchases or lifestyle changes immediately after (much less before) you receive a raise at work.
Here are four steps you can take after getting a raise:
- Wait for a few paychecks until that “I can afford to buy anything!” feeling subsides
- Review your budget and understand how much new income you’re actually pocketing after taxes and deductions
- Reward yourself with a modest one-time purchase (perhaps the new money earned in one paycheck) instead of inflating your lifestyle and expenses with a newer car or larger apartment
- Give the additional income a specific purpose moving forward by increasing your loan payments or retirement contributions, or saving up a financial goal like a house down payment or “opportunity fund”
Asking for a raise is one of the simplest ways to increase your income.
In review, here are 10 actionable steps you can take to prepare for, ask for, and make the most of a raise at work:
- Recognize that it’s okay to ask for a raise
- Find relevant salary data for your experience and location
- Decide exactly how much to ask for a raise
- Make yourself irreplaceable
- Get credit for your accomplishments
- Know what to say when asking for a raise
- Accept new responsibilities and commit to the future
- Find the right time to ask
- Understand that they may still say “no”
- Get the raise – and celebrate!
While each of these steps can be important in asking for a raise, you won’t necessarily complete them in sequential order. Take a moment to consider which step you can start working on now to prepare to ask for a raise when the timing is right.
By getting a raise at work – and knowing how to manage that new money effectively – you can improve your financial situation now and speed up your journey toward financial freedom in the future.
What lessons have you learned from asking for a raise at work?
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