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How to Ask for a Raise

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We recently reported that real wages have barely budged, despite the strong economy. Today’s average wage (after accounting for inflation) has about the same purchasing power it did in 1978. This stagnation is due to several complicated factors, but that doesn’t mean your hopes of getting a significant raise in the coming months should be crushed.
Employers recognize that in today’s highly competitive job market, they need to pay top talent generously or get out of their way. If you consider yourself in that category, the following tips could help you earn a raise.
Understand what’s possible
The very first step you should take in asking for a raise is to try to determine whether it’s even possible. This Wall Street Journal article written in the wake of the 2008 recession holds some great advice in that area: Educated yourself as much as possible about the health of your organization and any limitations your boss may face, then determine ways to demonstrate that you’re concerned about their bottom line, that you respect the organization’s financial situation, and that you’re trying to reach a common goal. Sometimes what’s possible can change from month to month. Look for clues when determining your timing. If others are being laid off or there’s a hiring freeze, now may not be the time to ask for more money.
Know your value
To be considered top talent, you’re going to need to quantify the value you bring. Does your organization already use metrics to measure your performance? Now’s the time to dive into those numbers and determine whether you feel they reflect accurately on you (they may not).
If your organization doesn’t have a system in place to measure your performance, do it yourself. Forbes’ Jacquelyn Smith suggests writing down your key achievements, focusing specifically on the areas of accomplishment that are important to your manager.
Author, money expert and self-made “Millennial Millionaire” Grant Sabatier recommends arming yourself with a few additional numbers as well: Calculate how much it might cost to replace you and how much money your company is making off your work (or, if you’re in a sales or similar position, how much you money you’ve made them). He offers some ways to calculate those figures and how to keep them “in your back pocket” when negotiating.

Determine your worth
Finding out what you should be making has never been easier. Use tools like Glassdoor’s Know Your Worth™ calculator, or websites like,, and to find out what others in your position are making. Most of the tools use sophisticated calculations that take into consideration your title, company, location, and experience. While you need to understand many factors go into your salary level, knowing what your job is worth can be very valuable.
If you find out you deserve more than 10% above what you’re making now, you may need patience getting there. Some pay gaps like those due to gender inequality issues could be acceptable reasons to ask for significantly more, but they can be difficult to prove. If you’re a tenured employee making far less than coworkers in your position, be sure your case holds up to these questions offered by SHRM:

  • Are the two positions really, exactly the same?
  • Has your position changed or evolved since being hired?
  • Were there times when you went above and beyond the call of duty?
  • What is your comportment and attitude at work?
  • Is there a skill [or certification or degree] the higher-paid employee has that you don’t?
  • If you left the workplace today, would the loss hurt the organization?

Ask the right way
Even if your timing is right and you’re armed with the data you need, you can still magnificently fail when asking for a raise. It all comes down to tact. Bringing up personal problems or giving an ultimatum will not help you. For these and more things you should never say when asking for a raise, check out this article.
If it’s been a year or more since you last received a pay raise, any reasonable employer will not hold it against you to ask. But ask in the wrong way and you may do more damage than good. Instead, approach it with emotional intelligence. Career columnist Alison Green offers a great script you might want to follow.
“[And] if you ask for a raise and get told no, all is not lost. This is a perfect opportunity to ask what it would take to get a raise in the future,” Green concludes. “You can then assess whether you’re able and willing to follow the path your manager lays out (or whether a realistic path exists at all).”