Forget the reasons why you need a raise. We could all use more money. But do we deserve it? Being able to make that case to our employer is the single most effective way to guarantee we’ll get it.
That can be a challenge—especially for women, says Selena Rezvani, author of "Pushback." “Women feel like they need permission to ask for something, because they don’t want to be seen as a special case,” she says. “Successful negotiators don’t dwell on that. They focus their energy instead on making a good argument.” Here, how to make your case for making more money.
Make Yourself Visible
The weeks leading up to your ask are just as important as the sit-down. During this time, make yourself noticeable. “Good work can go unnoticed, so you have to toot your own horn,” says Dr. Lois Frankel, author of "Nice Girls Don't Get The Corner Office." If someone commends you, don’t be afraid to ask for it in writing. If the CEO gives you a high-five in the hallway, let your boss know. After all, your accomplishments make your manager look good, too.
Time it Right
“Forget the drive-by negotiation in the hallway – ‘Do you have a minute?’,” says Rezvani. Instead, send a meeting request to your boss to discuss your future. Ideally, you want to book it right after you’ve had a big win for the company. But be aware of your company’s fiscal situation. “You don’t want to ask for a raise after they’ve closed the books on the budget for next year,” says MJ Tocci, co-founder and director of the Heinz College Negotiation Academy for Women at Carnegie Mellon University. Keep in mind that the approval process for a raise can take months. If your manager starts working on her budget in July, you might want to make your request in April. Schedule your meeting for a time your boss is most likely to be receptive (e.g. not before her morning coffee or after a long meeting). Rezvani recommends aiming for early in the day—before the work piles up and the afternoon slump strikes.
Know Your Worth—Then Ask for More
“If no one is saying no, you’re not asking for enough,” says Tocci. Do some sleuthing to determine your job’s salary range, keeping in mind your education, years of experience, company’s size and zip code, which can all influence that number. She recommends using free salary sites like Salary.com and Payscale.com for a ballpark figure. Some experts recommend asking for 10 percent more than mid-range. So if your salary range is $60,000 to $80,000, a fair request might be $77,000. But always bump up the number you actually ask for. “If you want a 10 percent raise, ask for 15 percent, knowing they’re going to negotiate down,” says Tocci.
Consider More Than Money
“Think about why you want a raise and what else would make you happy. That’s when you’ll be the most successful,” says Tocci. Check with HR to find out if there are any policies around benefits like child-care allowance, tuition assistance, vacation days, flex time, profit-sharing or bonuses. Smaller companies often don’t have any, says Frankel, so these perks could be negotiated as a part of your compensation. Come prepared with some options to suggest if there’s no wiggle room on your salary. (Flex-time or a few extra vacation days are often easier for a manager to approve, too, since they don’t directly affect the budget.)
Prepare Your Case
“Planning is the single most important thing people overlook,” says Tocci. It’s what will help you overcome jitters. Build your case with specifics you can quantify, focusing on the value you bring to the company. How much new or repeat business did you bring in? How much traffic did you bring to their web site? Your boss doesn’t care how many hours you put in if you don’t have the results to show they were worth it. Instead, ask yourself how you saved the company time or money, or earned it more exposure, and make a list of those accomplishments. Then practice. Role-play with someone who will push back the way your boss would, so you can prepare your responses.
Never Accept a “No”
You did your homework, presented a killer case, and they still didn’t budge. The negotiation isn’t over. Reclaim the situation by saying, “I understand it’s a ‘no’ now, but I’m going to come back to you in six months. Tell me what I need to do in that time to get a yes from you,” says Tocci. The response can set you up for success the next time—or let you know whether it’s time to move on. Ask your boss to be as specific as possible, and don’t take it personally if she offers areas where you may need improvement. Commit yourself to working harder. If you still don’t get a raise next time around, your dedication to self-improvement will only serve you better in a position somewhere else.