How to Ask for a Raise
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It’s uncomfortable. It’s awkward. But sometimes you have to be your own advocate and ask for a raise. Well, I mean you should always be your own advocate, but sometimes you should ask for things because others have yet to recognize / provide them. BUT, before we get into asking for a raise, let’s first talk about negotiation and why it is imperative to do so before you even accept a job offer.
When I was at Baylor, one of the many things my professor Dr. Divita taught me was to always negotiate. Just as a side note, I have a BSFCS in apparel merchandising and business. Though there were a handful of boys, the bulk of our building was made of women. Dr. Divita knew that this was important to teach us, because women are less likely to ask for more money than men are. She gave an example of a girl and a guy going to work for a prominent apparel company in Texas. The guy negotiated and the girl didn’t. The guy was able to get more than the initial offer and from that day forward, even if the girl was promoted at the same time and received raises at the same time as him, she was forever behind his salary. I know not everything is about money and that there will always be people who make more money than you, but if you could set yourself up for the best possible salary, wouldn’t you? Just as a side note, money / high salaries typically aren’t in the apparel industry, so if it’s a high salary you’re looking for, you are in the wrong place. Hah!
Here’s a super personal example. ME. For the record, I’ve never been able to successfully negotiate a raise prior to starting a new position. You might think THEN WHY AM I LISTENING TO YOU?! Well, I don’t think it had anything to do with me personally, just with the companies and the type of jobs I was considering, ie more on the entry level side of things. Of my 3 jobs since I graduated college, 2 declined my negotiation and 1 actually paid me more than I asked, so I consider that a win ;) Anyway, here’s a bunch of math that shows why negotiating is so important.
I stayed for a little over a year. During that time I received a 12% increase from my starting salary.
I asked for 12.5% more than they offered, but they said no and were adamant on keeping their offer as is. The offer was 5% more than I was making at Job 1.
I stayed at this job for 5 + years and only had a 20% increase from my starting salary to the salary when I left.
If they would have accepted my negotiated salary before my job started and my salary increased at the same 20% increase, I would have been making $10k more a year than I was. Instead I left only making 6% more than the salary I tried to negotiate five years earlier.
So yeah. That is what failing to negotiate can cost you. In my opinion this is even on the lower end of what it can cost you! Like I mentioned… if they don’t accept your negotiation, that is fine! At least you tried, plus it gives you experience in asking for more money, no matter how awkward it may feel. Now onto asking for a raise!
Hopefully your job has some review processes that are already in place. I’ve worked places where there was a yearly review on your specific start date, in addition to places where there were mid-year and yearly reviews based on the company’s fiscal year. If they don’t have something in place, find out what their policy is. My current employer doesn’t have a set review period, but pushes open communication and honest feedback on the regular, so you can bring this topic up whenever. Really you can and should bring up this topic whenever anyway, but be aware of your company’s compensation adjustment policies. Whatever your company does, find out what it is and how you can use it to your benefit. When I worked at the company with the same review periods for everyone (not each person’s year anniversary date), though review periods for everyone were always during said month, raises and promotions were discussed a couple of months prior to the actual review. If you wanted a raise or desired a promotion, you needed to bring it up with your boss BEFORE the review meeting in order for it to make budget, if at all. That being said, here are some tips for asking for a raise!
Find out when decisions need to be made. If your company is one that’s really only promoting people during said review times and not really any other time, then find out when you need to strike. Basically everything I mentioned in the paragraph above!
Journal things you do. Chances are you won’t remember what you did on a specific day and how it helped the company. Keep track of the good things you do, so that you can reference them when the time comes.
Have a constant conversation with your boss. Use that journal and make sure your boss is kept up to date with the good things you are doing, if they aren’t already tracking them. Also use this time to ask for feedback and figure out how you can grow an be more valuable. This shows initiative and benefits your tenure with measurable growth.
Ask people to vouch for you. When people tell you something you did was great or that you were really helpful, of course say thank you, but also ask them to mention it to your boss. Your word to your boss is one thing, as is their impression of you, but when other co-workers take notice, you hit a home run. On the flip side, be sure you mention people to their bosses when they do great things. It’s always nice to hear as a manager and also allows honest dialogue to take place. Plus, it is great to hear when things are going well, not just when things are going poorly.
Practice speaking aloud. I mentioned this in both questions to ask during your interview and how to leave your job gracefully, because I think it is so important! Get all of your words out and practice how you will actually speak to your boss. It is very easy to get emotional, caught up in the moment and flush, so knowing what you plan to say will help keep your mind / speech at ease, even if you feel like you’re about to throw up! You can also practice answering questions they might ask after your request has been made, not just what to say to them to ask for the raise. Most people aren’t going to say yep! you’re right, here’s more money!
Okay so what happens if you don’t meet the budget deadline, it isn’t the “right time” or you’re just flat out told no?
Ask what you can do differently.*** You should already have an open line of communication with your boss, so technically you should already be asking questions like this; however, if they said no or not the right time, this question eases right in! Keep these things top of mind! For example, one of my bosses told me I could do XXX to help me along and then proceeded to give me a project which would help showcase XXX! Later on down the road, the project was taken from me (not my fault), so I brought it up to my boss. They didn’t think it was a big deal, but I gently reminded them that this was a chance at me showcasing XXX and now I not only lost the project, but the opportunity for me to do something differently. They were like “oh…you’re right.” No one is perfect. We are all human. BE YOUR OWN ADVOCATE.
Research market value. What are other people who are doing your same job getting paid? These are good benchmarks to know when you are discussing compensation adjustments. Be sure to bring up your accolades, etc, which…they should already know because you have been telling them, right?! Either way, it is good to remind them of everything you’re doing and the value you bring to the organization.
Ask how your boss sees your role developing. What does the future look like for you in this role / company? How do they see you growing? Where do you go from here? If they don’t really have an answer, that is pretty much a red flag. Do some role brainstorming yourself and present your thoughts OR start looking for a way out.
***In some cases you may not actually deserve a raise. Ouch! This is where the question of what you can do differently/better comes in to play. Consider your work in comparison to your peer’s work. I’m not one to dwell on comparison, but if their work is better than yours and they didn’t even get a raise, it makes sense why you didn’t get one either. Consider getting a professional mentor and always think of how you can make yourself better!
If you have double checked yourself and you still aren’t getting the compensation you deserve / your boss says there’s nothing they can do, try talking to HR and/or someone who has more pull than your boss! Let them know that you understand there is nothing they can do, but you’d like to speak to the head of HR and/or one of their superiors to try and learn more about what you can do to become more valuable and add to your worth at the company. Just make sure you are 100% honest and proceed with respect. What do you have to lose, anyway?!
Anddd if you still aren’t getting what you want or think you deserve, it is probably time to start looking for a new job. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t leave Job #2 for these reasons. I was looking for more role development and to be paid what my work deserved based on my industry / position’s benchmarks. When I left Job #1 I didn’t even look back or try to stay really. Leaving Job #2 was hard because I really liked my job, my boss and the majority of my co-workers; however, I had pretty much hit a professional ceiling and was being met with “no’s” when I asked for compensation adjustments to reflect my workload. I waited about a year before I started really looking for new jobs, because I 1) wasn’t fed up enough to just jump ship and 2) I was trying to give them a chance to follow through on things they said were possible. Unfortunately, the ship never came for me and that’s okay! It’s nothing personal. Just business!
Have any tips for asking for asking for a raise or a specific topic you think I should cover for WITW?! Let me know in the comments below!
P.S. This Madewell Central shirt is one of my go-tos! I wear it to work and on the weekends. It super comfy and pretty much goes with everything. I probably wear it once a week! I’m wearing a S, but it is oversized. For that reason, I could for sure wear an XS. Size down depending on how you want it to fit. I also wear it all the time in white!
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