There are plenty of times that you’ve thought about asking for a raise but something held you back. Maybe you’re an introvert, you can’t work up the nerve or you just don’t know what to say. Whatever the reason, Katie Donovan, a salary negotiation consultant, equal pay advocate and founder of Equal Pay Negotiations LLC shares tips on how to be confident and ask for the raise you deserve.
When should you ask? Timing is an important factor when asking for a raise. “Ask when you realize you are underpaid, regardless of where that lies in the fiscal year,” Donovan says. “Do not wait for the annual review. By then the budget has already been decided, and typically it allows for very small raises, 2 to 3 percent for individuals. You are best served by being off cycle so you can get a ‘salary adjustment’ now or be budgeted for a large raise in the new year — with retro pay included. ‘Salary adjustment’ is a great term that shows that your pay is so low the company really needs to address it and pull from a different line item in the budget.”
What should you have? More information is better when you’re requesting a raise. What does Donovan recommend researching? “I say, when you are talking about money, then you should have a business case that includes money, specifically how have you saved money or generated revenue for the company,” she says. “Most of us are so focused on our own work — the tree — that we miss how it affects the company — the forest. Take a step back and look at the big picture. Did the process improvement you initiated save time and thus money for the company? Did the industry award that the company won because you submitted the company get picked up by various media? If so, at the very least you saved the company advertising costs. More likely you also gave your sales reps a great tool to help close deals and generated some leads from the media coverage.”
Donovan recommends figuring out the dollar impact of your work, which will help illustrate why you should get the raise and show the budget that was freed up for you to get it. She also suggests researching the average pay for similar jobs in your region. You can get salary information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics or more industry-specific numbers from trade publications.
How should you ask? A salary negotiation is a time for both parties to share their needs, which calls for a certain conversation style.
“I am a fan of the in-person conversation because it minimizes confusion,” Donovan says. “When you do it in person, on the phone or via email, start by getting a read of how your manager perceives your work. Please note, you are having the discussion with your manager, not human resources. Good managers will list your accolades and include some areas of improvement because none of us are perfect. Once you get the manager to sing your praises, state something like ‘I’m so glad you agree that I am performing above par. I recently discovered that my pay is low according to industry research and would like to see how we can address it.’”
Donovan says to avoid starting with a number right off the bat. “See if you can get your manager to say a number first, because that will become the minimum. If you said the exact same number, it would have become the maximum.”
What should you ask for? Finally, it’s important to determine what range is acceptable to suggest and what other bargaining tools you have. So what should you ask for?
“All of this depends on how appropriately you are being paid currently,” Donovan says. “You may have accepted the job at a low salary. If you did not negotiate the starting salary, you accepted the job at a low salary. Your annual raises may not have kept up with inflation. Compare your starting salary with the rate of inflation adjustment for today. Have you kept pace? You may have been given so many new things to do that job creep has made your job title and description meaningless.”
Donovan recommends starting with your job description and editing it to show your growth. “It’s really about, given today’s market, what should you be paid for your experience, impact, education, etc., for the job you have? You do need to ask for more than you believe you deserve so there is room for negotiation. Don’t forget benefits. Extra vacation, education, conference attendance and more can help create an overall better employment package than a straight raise. They also give more room for negotiation.”