The Big GameChanger: Asking for a Raise

Written by Business Development Officer, Jon Maroni

This month we are highlighting Financial GameChangers for young adults, where you intentionally try to increase your annual income or decrease your annual spending by $1,000 or more. Today we are highlighting how to increase your income by asking for a raise.  

Many young professionals feel and actually are underpaid for the work they do. Yet despite this, many of us cringe at the thought of talking about compensation with our boss. Whether it's because you just completed a relevant degree, took a significant step in your professional development or have become more valuable to your company, asking for a raise needs to be part of your working life. Increasing your salary can significantly impact your financial future but how and when should you ask? The timing is different for everyone but here are some questions you need to answer before you march into your boss' office.

Are You Worth It?

This is the first question you need to answer yourself before talking with your supervisor. Am I worth what I am asking for? Do I deserve it? You need to have data and hard numbers if possible to answer this question. If you walk into your boss' office and say "I feel that I deserve a raise" you aren't giving them very much to work with. If instead, you say "the project I completed led to $75,000 in increased profits for our company this quarter" you have a real leg to stand on.

There are other questions you need to ask yourself as well. What is the financial state of my company? Have my recent performance reviews been positive? Am I bitter about my current paycheck? Have I taken on new responsibilities recently? If you approach this issue with a mentality of selfishness, entitlement or arrogance, it will not go well. Asking for and getting a raise is about being able to quantify your value (data is essential to this conversation), doing research on average salaries for people in comparable positions, and putting together a logical rationale for your wage increase.

You should also check with your HR department and see if your company has a system in place for salary increases. Some companies have a policy for handling wage increases based on experience and/or education. You may be in line for a raise already and asking ahead of that determined timeline can create unnecessary tension you don't want to deal with.  

What Are My Peers Making?

As awkward as it may feel to ask your co-workers what they are paid (and they may not tell you) if you have peers with the same job title and experience as yourself you can begin to see how your pay stacks up. Don't bring this up in your conversation with your supervisor, but it can help you put a number on paper of where you'd like to be.  

If this isn't an option you can compare your pay to your peers using Glassdoor, an organization which does extensive surveying of current employees in every field of work. They have developed a "know your worth" calculator to help you see how much you should be making. It uses data from current employees in your profession as well as job descriptions to give you an idea of how your salary stacks up compared to similar employees.

Something to consider in whatever position you're in is creating a 'win' folder. Anytime you accomplish something outside of your normal scope of work or improve one of your normal tasks in significant ways, write up a short paragraph about what you did and why it was a 'win.' Keep these documents in a folder, either at work or at home, and use this as a resource when you're preparing to ask for a raise. 

Am I Willing to Have a Conversation?

As an employee, it is up to you to advocate for yourself, but that doesn't mean you should be unkind about it. People respond to humility and graciousness, so carry yourself in that way. You want to have a conversation, not give an ultimatum. If you aren't prepared for your supervisor to push back on your request, wait to speak with them until you are mentally ready to handle their objections without being offended.

Ask to have a private meeting with your direct supervisor and be honest about what you want to talk about. If you have been crushing it at work this conversation shouldn't come as a surprise to them. Don't threaten your employer but be honest about your request. Approach this analytically rather than emotionally. Ask for what you really want even though you may not get it. If you carry yourself with humility the worst thing that can happen is they say no. Allow your boss to make that decision but help equip them to make it a well-informed one. Also, remember that you may find yourself in a negotiation. Be firm but also realistic. Any raise is better than no raise and securing one can be a real GameChanger.

Read more GameChangers here

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