How to Ask for a Raise — Like a Professional

2 people discussing an employee's ask for a raise

You want to ask for a raise, but you’re not quite sure how to broach this complex topic with your manager. Sure, you have friends and colleagues who’ve successfully negotiated raises, but your greatest fear is that you’ll look unprofessional. 

The good news is that some managers feel it’s essential that their employees ask for raises. Asking for a raise (at the appropriate times) can show managers that you are: 

  • Interested in a vision for the future
  • Willing to grow and improve
  • Ready to go above and beyond
  • Reliable
  • Confident and prepared

Asking for a raise is perfectly acceptable – especially if you have good reason to ask. If you’re armed with facts, a deep understanding of your role and manager, and have prepared for the conversation, you can feel confident as you make your case for a raise. 

So, where do you start? Begin by focusing on these 5 tips for asking for a raise – in the most professional way possible.

Know When It’s Appropriate to Ask for a Raise

Knowing when it’s appropriate to ask for a raise is the first step in the process. Some reasoning behind your ask could include things like:

  • Your workload increases 

Did you take on more responsibilities? Did your company downsize? If you have taken on more permanent responsibilities (not special one-off projects or temporary responsibilities), it’s appropriate to ask for more compensation.

  • You find out your skills have a higher market value than your current compensation.

Perhaps you gained additional skills and knowledge in your current role. Or, maybe those skills are more valued by companies now. If you feel the market value of your skills is higher than what you’re currently earning, then it’s reasonable to consider asking for a raise (more about how to determine market value later in this post!).

  • You received a promotion.

Some companies give out promotions but don’t increase compensation. If this occurs, it’s worth taking time to reflect on your new duties and at least consider asking for a raise – even if the answer may be “no.” 

Bonus tip: asking for a raise shows your leadership team that you’re interested in staying long-term and care about putting your best foot forward in a new role.

Focus on the right “why.”

Remember, when you’re thinking about asking for a raise, you want to ask because you deserve it – not because you need it. Also, ensure that you keep the conversation focused on how you have and can continue to help the organization.

Be Proactive

Framing the basis for your ask should start proactively and before you’re ready to set a meeting with your manager. Start with having conversations with your leadership team whereby you share your goals, ask for feedback and recommendations on how you can improve in your current role, and what you can do to position yourself for the next role.

Proactive meetings like this showcase your initiative, alert management that you’re ready for more responsibilities, and allow you to find out what you need to know to frame your argument for a raise or promotion down the line.

Bonus tip: share your successes as they occur. Be professional about it but ensure your manager sees your initiative and achievements in real-time. That way, they won’t be surprised when you rattle off a long list of accomplishments when the time comes to ask for that raise.

Do Your Due Diligence

There’s a lot of research to do before booking the meeting with your manager. You’ll need to know:

  • The market value of your job and skills

 Salary information and market rates for skills are readily available through tools like salary.com, Glassdoor salaries, or Payscale. However, these tools are too general and only report U.S. averages for a very high-level description of a role. Although they can be a good starting point to find out if you’re in the right ballpark, they should not be depended upon to give you the best data for your position.

Instead, speak with peers outside of your organization in roles similar to your own. Or, connect with a recruiter to determine if your compensation matches other employees who have similar positions and skills. One other option is to find job ads with descriptions that mirror your role — sometimes, those job ads include a salary range or hourly rate for the position.

  • Precisely how much of a raise you’re asking for

Did you know that typical raises are generally in the 3-6% range? If you’re asking for a promotion, 10-20% may be reasonable. But, if you’re asking for an increase because your performance has been on par, 3% to 5% is more practical.

It generally doesn’t matter whether you name a percentage versus a salary amount, however, a specific figure is the most direct approach.

Pick Your Timing

The next thing you need to identify is the right time to ask for a raise. Here are a few questions you’ll want to ask yourself to determine the right time to ask:

  • How’s the financial health of the company?

Make sure you understand the financial health of the company before requesting a raise. If the company is not doing well, you might want to consider waiting to ask,   unless your workload warrants it or you’ve recently received a big promotion with a lot more responsibility.

  • How’s your manager’s workload?

Is your manager under a lot of stress, or do they have a heavy workload right now? If so, you may want to wait for their focus to shift back to a more normal state before asking them for the meeting. Paying attention to your manager’s needs may also be an opportunity for you to showcase how you can help them before you ask them to help you.

  • When is the best time of year to ask for a raise?

In many organizations, there are times when it’s natural to discuss compensation. Some employers conduct annual or quarterly reviews with employees, and if you’ve got one coming up, your employer might already expect to discuss your salary.

  • Have you completed a significant task or project?

Did you reach an impressive milestone or exceed a critical goal? It could be a great time to ask for a raise. Document the details of your accomplishment and reference your documentation in your conversation about a raise. Your manager is likely aware of your work on a broad level, but details showcase how awe-inspiring your achievement was on a more granular level.

Show Your Dedication – Even If It’s a “No”

Being rejected is never fun, but don’t get discouraged. Instead, have a plan for how you’ll respond if your manager does say, “no.” Consider requesting another performance appraisal soon with clearly defined goals and salary adjustment before your following annual review. Or, if a raise and promotion isn’t going to happen right now, ask a question like, “What would it take for me to earn a raise in the future?” 

There is also an option to negotiate something beyond salary. Some suggestions include asking for specific professional development opportunities,vacation time or 401k benefits.

Asking for a raise can be uncomfortable, but don’t let it overwhelm you, the worst that can happen is your manager can say no. If that happens, you can take it as an opportunity to learn how to advocate for yourself professionally and understand your worth.

We hope you enjoyed this post. If you’re interested in learning more negotiation tips and tricks, check out this blog article. If you’ve tried negotiation tactics and are not getting what you need, it might be time to look for a new job. If that’s the case, check out Celarity’s open positions here.  

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