It’s Time to Get a Raise: Here’s What You Need to Do

Underpaid and overworked? Frustrated with the amount of money in your bank (or lack thereof)? Girl, I’ve been there. I totally get it — you need a raise. But pay hikes are hard to come by, so let’s talk about how to get a raise.

I spent years with my head down, working away hoping that one day someone would notice my hard work and reward me for it with a nice, hefty pay increase. I showed up early, stayed late, said yes to everything, finished my work fast and worked hard, but no one seemed to notice.

It was heartbreaking.

I had reasonably assumed that if I worked hard, I would be rewarded. But honestly, that’s not how the business world works. Sometimes you simply need to ask for things, take them and make them.

So let’s talk about how to get you a raise. Because girl, you deserve it.

How to get a raise

Feature image for how to get a raise blog post - pile of bills with sticky note on it

1. Document everything

Asking for a raise and getting a raise are two very different things and there are a few ways you can up your chances. The first thing you’re going to want to do is make sure you document everything.

If you want to get a raise you’re going to need to know and be able to prove your worth to a company. That means taking account of everything you’ve done to help the company progress, innovate and create, things you’ve contributed to the betterment of the overall team, and, most importantly, how you’ve made them more money!

Have you:

  • Saved the company large chunks of money?
  • Helped train staff?
  • Brought in a new invaluable client?
  • Streamlined an administrative process?
  • Guided the organization through something new?
  • Brought in a host of new customers?
  • Designed a new product?

Whatever amazing, awesome things you’ve been a part of (and we know you’ve done a ton) then it’s time to write it all down.

Bonus points for being able to quantify your work in dollars and cents! Granted, that can be a challenge to do, but where you can use numbers to back up your activity — it gives other people a relatable figure to understand your worth.

2. Do your research

If you worked for any other company, how much would you be paid? When it comes to trying to get a raise, it’s important to have some comparative numbers to help guide what you should be making.

If you are currently making less than others with similar job responsibilities, experience and career status, then you’ve got a good case for getting a raise. If that’s not the case — maybe you’re already making more or you don’t have the exact education or experience required, then you might have a little work ahead of you. But that by no means you do not qualify to get a raise.

Where can you do research on employee salary ranges? Google! Websites like Payscale and Glassdoor have great salary databases that you can use for your comparison. Government websites and other public information can also assist you in determining this.

Likewise, while it’s less “trackable” and doesn’t exactly make for solid evidence for your employer, you can take a peek around and ask friends, family or past schoolmates for their salary ranges if they’re in the same or a similar field. Note that money conversations can be a bit taboo (though they shouldn’t be) so be respectful when you ask.

3. Understand what influences salary

Salaries aren’t necessarily arbitrary, there are factors that influence how much a position or person makes. Knowing what these factors are can help you understand what you should be making and how much you can ask for.

The biggest factors to consider include:

  • Job title — try to find salaries for jobs that have the exact title yours does
  • Industry — in my experience, governments and public positions pay more than private, private industry pays more than non-profit, professional services (accounting, law, etc.) pay less than corporate entities, and startups or smaller companies tend to have smaller salaries.
  • Location — believe it or not, your location has an impact on how much you get paid. Everything from whether you live in an urban or rural environment to what city, state or country you’re in affects how much money you make.
  • Education — education isn’t everything, but when it comes to paying you, it counts. Someone with a bachelor’s degree in the same position as you will probably be paid more. Is that right? Not necessarily, but it’s true.
  • Experience — someone with 8 years will most likely be paid more than someone with 4.

Knowing what your job is worth to other companies makes it easier to sell your case to your managers that you should be making more money.

Women in a meeting talking

4. Figure out what to ask for

The second part of researching what you’re worth as an employee is to do some research into what kind of raises your company typically gives.

Asking for a 15 percent raise is likely out of the question considering most companies budget for yearly raises somewhere around 5 percent or less. This is pretty standard, regardless of whether your current salary sits way below market value or not.

Don’t get me wrong, you can ask for as much as you want. But asking for a raise that’s too high could come across as bad — demanding, uninformed, unreasonable.

If you want to get a raise, you need to set yourself up for as much success as you can. So do your best to find out what’s standard in your company and ask for raises accordingly.

5. Pick a good time

Companies typically give out pay increases during a specified time each year. In my experience, pay raises are determined during the evaluation phase (you know that dreaded time of the year where you and your boss sit down to talk about your performance). So doing a little research beforehand will make timing your compensation conversation easier!

If you don’t know when this typically happens, you can usually find out via the watercooler method — simply through word of mouth, or by some “official” channel like your employee handbook or the company intranet (the internal website where you find others like information).

You can also find out by simply asking your boss.

Now, asking company managers for a raise can be a bit of a nerve-wracking experiment. We typically have a “not until we’re ready” mindset, but remember you’re not asking to change your compensation package outright. Instead, you’re simply asking when a conversation like that would take place.

Good bosses want you to grow as an employee because it also gives them a growth opportunity, and quite frankly, it makes them look better as a leader. So asking when would be the most appropriate time to discuss a pay raise is a legit question.

But, if you’re not comfortable asking your boss, you could also ask someone in the human resources department as they typically set up and manage the employee evaluation process.

If you’re not sure about the right time to talk about compensation costs, your annual performance review is a great time to talk about it. In fact, most companies use the annual performance evaluation to decide whether or not your compensation package should be increased.

6. Get prepared

Now, you don’t want to go into your meeting with guns blazing, or half-cocked for that matter. So take some time to prepare yourself to have your “I’d like a raise” conversation with your boss.

Rehearse your ask, your reasoning, and your response. And plan for both a positive and negative response. You might not get what you want — but it sure doesn’t hurt to ask.

If you want to be prepared, ask a close friend or family member to sit down with you and hear out your presentation. Take into consideration their feedback and go from there (but remember, you know both you and your boss so only take feedback that you believe is best).

Wallet open with bills in it

What’s the big secret?

Alright — we’re prepped, we’ve got our research done, we’ve rehearsed and now we think we’re ready to go. So, it’s time to get that raise.

Seriously, book your meeting and ask. But if you need a few addition tips, here’s what we’d recommend:

  • Dress the part — make sure to dress in appropriate professional attire
  • Show up on time — there’s nothing less-raise-worthy than showing up late
  • Be confident — you’re asking because you deserve the money

What happens if they decline?

It really sucks to hear no. Like really sucks. But it happens and you shouldn’t get discouraged.

If your boss is unable to give you a raise at this time, ask them for advice on how you can go about getting a raise in the future. What can you do to get that raise next time?

With that information, you’ll be set up for success and well on your way to earning that raise.

However, it’s worth noting that if your boss can’t tell you what you can do to get a raise or why you don’t deserve one now, it’s a big red flag. You might want to consider looking for a new job (hello, resume time!) because it could indicate that your boss is a poor leader or your company is not well-managed.

… don’t threaten to leave (unless you’re ready)

This is what I was talking about when I referenced “guns blazing,” don’t threaten to leave in an attempt to get a raise. If you feel like leaving your job, chances are there’s more than money involved, and backing your company into a corner over it is not going to do any favors.

I can confirm that resigning could possibly get you a raise, I was once offered one when I resigned (quite aggressively, actually) but I declined it because I wasn’t leaving for the money.

The thing about threatening to leave a company if you don’t get a raise is that you’ll have to go through with it if they still don’t offer you one. Not to mention, you severely risk the relationships you’ve already built within the company — and those are way more valuable than most people realize.

Not to mention, statistics show that people who use this method end up leaving within a year, even with a pay raise. If you think you need or want to leave your job, that’s a very different conversation!

You can totally get a raise!

Getting a raise is absolutely a possibility.

It might not happen the first time you as, but it’s the first step to advocating for your self and making more money. It might be the last step before getting one, or the first step that sets you towards your raise future. But either way, it will point you in the right direction.

Money isn’t the be-all, end-all but it sure does make a difference when it comes to spending 40 plus hours working for someone. If it’s time for you to get a raise, start preparing now.

You got this!

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