Talking about money is about as fun as going to the dentist. And for women, figuring out how to ask for a raise is especially daunting. Research shows that female masters students entering the workforce were more likely to take the first salary offered to them, while men were eight times more likely to negotiate for a higher salary, according to Forbes. That trend continues once women have jobs too; women are less likely to ask for raises than men, and even when they do ask, research shows they are less likely than men to actually get them.
One of the ways to change that data is for women to advocate for themselves and ask for what they’re worth. Asking for a raise might seem scary, but there’s a specific formula you can follow to help increase your chances of success. Here’s how to ask for a raise and finally get the money you deserve.
Preparation is probably the most important part of asking for a raise, and it should start months before you do the asking.
Danielle Harlan, the founder and CEO of The Center for Advancing Leadership and Human Potential, told Forbes that once you’ve been in your role for six months, you could schedule a meeting with your supervisor “to let them know that, while your first priority is to excel in your current role, your long-term goal is to advance and that you want to make sure you're doing everything that you can to set yourself up for success.”
As you’re implementing the feedback your supervisor gave you over the next six months, be sure to keep careful track of your successes. According to Glassdoor, when you go in to ask for a raise, you want to be able to point to performance data, or specific numbers that show how you went above and beyond on a project or how you improved the company’s bottom line. As the saying goes, numbers don’t lie.
Getting the timing right is also important.
Indeed notes that you should ask for a raise only when you know the company is in good financial health and preferably during an annual or quarterly review with your manager, if that’s something your company does. If you don’t have a regular performance review, then the best time to ask for a raise is at the end of the fiscal year, according to Indeed, which is at the end of January for many companies. Or, if you’re close to the end of a fiscal year, another good time to ask is when you’ve completed an especially impressive project or if “your boss has seemed particularly pleased with you lately,” according to The Cut’s “Get That Money” column.
You have to know your worth.
Once you’ve got all your data together and the timing is right, you can set up a meeting with your supervisor. According to Indeed, you should never ask for a raise without setting up a specific, private meeting to do so, and you should be clear about the topic of the meeting. Indeed suggests sending an email that says something like, “I’d like to set a short meeting to discuss my compensation. Please let me know if this time works for you.”
If you’re nervous about the meeting, try writing a short script (or use a pre-written one from Glassdoor that’s tailored to your accomplishments) and practice in the mirror or in your car. Be sure to think ahead about questions your manager might ask, and practice responding to those logically.
Consider talking to trusted coworkers about their salaries.
One way to be sure what other people on your team are earning is to ask. Of course, this is much easier said than done. Though it's certainly legal in private sector companies to discuss wages with coworkers, money is such a personal topic that it can often be a very uncomfortable conversation to have. Brianna McGurran, a money expert at the personal finance blog NerdWallet, told the New York Times that one good place to start the conversation with coworkers is to talk to someone in a more senior position than you. She advised talking to “someone who has helped bring you on, or a previous manager, or someone who you really trust and wants to see you succeed.” This way there's no direct competition between you two, and you can get a better idea of how someone has been compensated as they've moved up the company ladder.
During the conversation, be confident as you present the facts.
On the day of your meeting or performance review, try to dress nicely. Indeed notes that “your appearance can convey to your manager that you understand the significance of the conversation.”
When you go into the meeting, try to clearly convey three emotions, according to Glassdoor: confidence about your request for a raise, graciousness for your current position, and enthusiasm for the work you’ll continue to do for the company in the future. Then, you can jump right into your script or pitch, which should cover:
- The specific salary you would like
- The research you did into salary trends that gave you that number
- Your recent or most notable accomplishments
- Performance data that proves how your work helped the company
Beth Monaghan, CEO and co-founder of the public relations firm InkHouse, told Forbes that you should focus on why you deserve a raise rather than why you might need one. “Too often, people argue that a raise is important because of very real costs in their lives, however, an employer is looking to give raises to people based on performance.” For this same reason, you should avoid appeals to emotion during your pitch. This might mean avoiding words like believe, feel, or think, according to Indeed.
Then, the conversation could go a few ways.
Your manager might say yes, or they might say they will seriously consider the request and get back to you in the near future. If they say yes, Glassdoor notes that it’s important to ask whether the raise will come with more responsibilities, and what those would be.
Your manager could also say they believe you deserve a raise, but it’s not in the budget at this time. In that case, you could ask when might be a good time to revisit the conversation, and what you could do in the meantime to continue to bolster your case. If they agree that you deserve a raise, but are unable to meet the salary you specified, you could ask if there’s room for negotiation.
There’s always the possibility that your manager could reject your request completely. If that happens, try to ask constructive questions. Indeed suggests, “Are there skills or accomplishments you’d like to see from me before increasing my compensation?” Regardless of how your manager responds, try to end on a good note and thank them for meeting with you.
Follow up, regardless of the outcome.
When you’re finished meeting with your manager, try to take a few minutes for yourself. Talking about money and advocating for yourself isn’t always easy, so take a walk around the block to shake off some of that nervousness if you need to. Once you’re back, you should follow up with an email that outlines what you talked about in the meeting. Indeed notes that having the details of your raise request on hand will be useful if your manager needs to meet with their supervisor to discuss it. Even If they rejected you, the email will serve to document your request.
If your request for a raise was approved, Glassdoor notes that it’s important to check in with your supervisor to be sure you’re on the same page regarding any new expectations and responsibilities. You want to make sure you can hit the ground running and still meet — or even exceed — the goals your supervisor sets for you, so a clear understanding of those goals is key. If your manager couldn’t approve a raise for any reason, continuing to excel in your position and going above and beyond when possible will only help you when you to revisit the conversation at another time. But if you don’t feel the rejection was fair, or you think you’re being under-compensated for your work, you could start looking for another job. After all, you just made a compelling case for why you’re great at what you do, and there will likely be a company that recognizes that.
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