How to Ask for a Pay Raise

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How to ask for a pay raise? That’s the question that always comes up one time or another during your career. Maybe you think you are underpaid, or your skills and responsibilities have grown, or you simply need more money. Here are some tips on doing your research, preparing for a salary negotiation, negotiating techniques, and more.

How to Earn More from Your Job without Asking for a Pay Raise

Before we go into asking for a promotion or negotiating a raise, there are a few things that you can do to maximize your income with your current job. Here are a few options for you to consider:

  • Work More Overtime — How much overtime and how often depends on your job situation, but there is a better chance to get overtime if you make it known to your manager or supervisor that you are available upon request.
  • Volunteer to be on call — Some jobs pay you a small amount to be on call in exchange for you to be ready for work within 1 or 2 hours. You still have limited freedom on your days off. In turn, you have the first dip on overtime if the need arises.
  • Ask for special assignments — Some assignments take you away from your home or office for a period of time. While you are on these assignments, most companies will pay for your travel, daily transportation, food, and lodging — saving you on your normal expenses. Some companies pay a flat per diem for each day you are on the assignment, which can turn out to be more than your daily expenses and you get to keep the difference!

Note: these options may not work well for everyone — remember, your life and happiness come first, money second.

How to Ask Your Boss for a Salary Increase

Personally, I have done this a few times during my career. This is not a difficult exercise as long as you do your homework.

1. Do Your Research

Make sure you have a good reason (better if there are more than one) — “I want to make more money” is not a good reason. An excellent reason to ask for a raise is if you have the skills and knowledge, have been a good performer, and are making less than the average salary. Here are some excellent resources to do your research:

  • Salary.com — You can do a search by job title and zip code. This free service will give you a nice income graph, salary range, break down of your total pay including benefits, and even a snapshot of your paycheck. With their premium service, you can do even more (I didn’t try this).
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics — This is a great site with a lot of data, and it lets you get wage data by state.
  • Various job and career sites like Monster.com and CareerBuilder.com can also give you an idea on what hiring companies are willing to pay for someone like you, and the kind of skills and experience they are looking for. Are your skills up to date?
  • Similarly, your company’s internal job opening database is a good source of salary information
  • Your HR department may be able to provide you with information — i.e., if you are being paid more or less than average compared to others with the same job and years of experience.
  • Lastly, search firms and job agencies can give you an idea about how much your skills and knowledge command in the marketplace.

If your skills and knowledge are up to par, but you are underpaid, then you have a good reason to ask for a raise. If your skills or performance is not up to snuff, maybe you need to work on them. If you are paid more than average for your job, maybe it’s time to find a higher paying job that offers more opportunity for growth.

2. Mentally Prepare Yourself

Next, you want to mentally prepare yourself before walking into the meeting with your boss. Negotiating for a raise could be nerve-wracking if you are not prepared. Here are some points to consider:

  • Be clear and specific about what you are asking for. For example, don’t say: “I need a raise because you are not paying me enough.” Instead, tell your boss that you like your job, but you’ve been doing some research and feel that you are underpaid for the value you bring to the company. Say something about your performance, skills, and achievements. Then ask for a specific amount of pay increase — i.e., $5,000. You want to ask for more than what you want so there’s room to negotiate.
  • Prepare your talk track and practice. Practice with your spouse, your friends, or even in front of a mirror. You want to come off as reasonable and assertive, but not needy, whinny, or confrontational.
  • Consider other alternatives. If your boss cannot give you what you want, what about vacation days, flexible work hours, option to work from home, company car, reimbursable expenses, and so on.
  • Keep your career in mind. This is also a good time to ask your boss for feedback and discuss your career. Talk about developmental needs and other opportunities.

3. Act and Follow Through

Next, you have to do it and actually go to your boss and ask for a pay raise. This is where most people stop and sell themselves short. Here are some points to consider:

  • Meet in person — A face-to-face meeting is best. Schedule a meeting with your boss well in advance. Personally, I prefer to make this a morning meeting to avoid any unforeseen situation.
  • Dress for the occasion — This is the day to look neat and clean, but this is not an interview so don’t pull out your suit if your office attire is casual.
  • Say thanks to your boss — Regardless of the outcome, make a point to let your boss know that you appreciate the time to meet with you and listen to you.
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16 years ago

I totally agree with these comments, if you don’t ask you don’t get and why shouldn’t you ask for a raise, if you work hard and have done your research on market rates. I do think that you need to build a business case to justify your request. Most reasonable employers can’t refuse if you do your research well

15 years ago

On the other hand, it shouldn’t always be up to the employee to have to ask for a raise, should it? If it’s overdue and the employee is underpaid, shouldn’t the employer have some responsibility to keep the wages competitive?

@Tom: I don’t think you should assume MW didn’t try. That post sounds a bit “on the attack;” why is that?

One other thought I have is how often it is acceptable to ask for a pay raise: anyone have any thoughts here?

Greg Miliates
12 years ago

Look at it from the business owner’s perspective. They: –>want to reduce costs and increase revenue; –>know that employees are the biggest expense to their company; –>want to keep productive employees who add value to the company. So, no matter what the economy is like, when interviewing for a job (or asking for a raise), you need to ALWAYS demonstrate your value to the company, and talk directly about that value. The only thing to focus on is the value you provide to the company. Find out all you can about the company, the position you’re interviewing for, and the… Read more »

Minimum Wage
Minimum Wage
16 years ago

Doesn’t work in the minimum wage world.

16 years ago

Did you try?

How to Ask for a Pay Raise

by Pinyo Bhulipongsanon time to read: 4 min
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