Asking for a raise can feel daunting, especially if you’ve never done it before. Don’t worry. We break it down step by step to give you the confidence to negotiate your raise.
We’ve included sample scripts to make it even easier.
When Should I Ask For a Raise?
First up, you need to know when to ask for a raise. These are the most important things to consider when looking for the right timing:
- Before budgeting
- During your annual review
- After you’ve completed a big project or task
- If you have a new job opportunity
Let’s break each of these down.
1. Before All the Numbers Are Crunched
Your boss may want to give you a pay increase, but if you ask after finalizing the budget, their hands may be tied. Budgeting finishes before the new fiscal year. Common fiscal years are October 1 to September 30 of the following year (government), February 1 to January 31(retailers), or July 1 to June 30 (school district). If you’re not sure, just ask!
2. During Your Annual Review
An annual review provides a natural segue into the question of salary. You’ll already be discussing your goals, your big wins, and your future with the company. Keep in mind that your annual review may not coincide well with the timeframe of budgeting.
3. After You’ve Done Something Amazing
When you ask for a raise, you want to leverage. Remember, this is a negotiation, after all, and you are a confident career professional with a lot to give. We’ll go into this more in the next section, but there is one key thing to remember here. After you’ve completed a big project or task (and knocked it out of the park), you’ve shown concrete evidence that you’re an excellent asset.
4. If Greener Pastures Are Calling (With a Caveat)
Maybe you’ve just been offered a great new job opportunity, but you’d prefer to stay in your current place of employment. When your recent pay makes you doubt your decision to stay, this is the time to ask for more money.
While this timing tip may give you leverage, it comes with a big caveat that many people overlook. When you go to your employer and ask for a counteroffer, they may see you as disloyal. Even if you get the raise, their attitude towards you could change.
Instead of using a counteroffer in this way, where you overtly ask for a raise, try flipping the narrative to assess your future with your current company.
“I got a great offer; I love working here, and I plan to stay, but it brings to the table my question, what do you think my prospects here in the future might be?”
This avoids using the job offer as a power play and instead positions you as a loyal and valuable employee. Most importantly, it will show you whether your boss values you. If they respond positively, you can use this opportunity to see if their vision aligns with yours. If they respond dismissively, that’s your cue to leave.
5 Effective Tips to Ask Your Boss For a Raise
Now that you know when to ask for a raise, these five tips will help you be as prepared as possible.
1. Use the Slow Burn Method
Don’t surprise your manager by suddenly asking for a pay raise in your one-to-one. Instead, let them know in advance that you’d like to discuss it, and then make sure to get it on the calendar. You can do this in an e-mail or at the end of one of your meetings.
Say this: “I’d like to meet to discuss my current salary. Does this time work for you?”
Or this: “During my upcoming performance review, I’d like to discuss my compensation. Will that work for what you have planned?”
But let’s back up a step.
Enter “The Slow Burn Method.”
Long before you set up the actual meeting to discuss a pay raise, ease into the topic and combine it with your desire to be an asset to the company. It’s a bit like a soft sell instead of a hard sell.
If you’ve ever seen someone selling special promotion items like Vitamix, knives, or any number of things at the grocery store, they don’t hit you with the price first. They use the slow burn method, pulling you in by offering you something.
They ask questions, they work for the crowd, they keep the samples coming, and slowly but surely, they are setting you up to believe you could never live without that garlic press or paring knife.
It’s the same for you. Only instead of food, you’re offering your loyalty, commitment, and enthusiasm.
Here’s what that looks like in conversation:
“Thank you so much for the feedback on the X project. I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to try new things and contribute more to the team. I must continue to give my best in each situation. Would it be possible to develop a growth plan before my annual review? I’d like to set up goals and growth areas that could lead to a pay raise at my annual review.”
You may think your boss doesn’t notice your long hours, flexibility, and responsibility. And we’d like to tell you that one day your boss will realize how selfless and hardworking you are and crown you ruler of the world.
Leaders are busy, and if they don’t connect with the day-to-day operations, they may not realize how hard you’ve been working.
When you use The Slow Burn Method, your boss becomes invested in you and your success. It also makes them acutely aware of what you are doing for the company.
Instead of waiting in quiet expectation for your good deeds to be noticed or jumping the gun and suddenly asking for a raise, be proactive and lay the groundwork.
2. Find Your Benchmark
Before you ask for a raise, do some industry research. What exactly should you be earning? Glassdoor, LinkedIn, and Payscale are great places to search for salary data.
Pay does depend on your location and things like whether you work for a nonprofit, a small business, or Corporate America. Take into account your years of experience and make sure your request is commensurate with your skill set and experience.
In general, a 3-5% increase on your current salary is considered standard or, in some situations, even generous. Your desired increase may be much higher, but this gives you a benchmark to ask for a moderate increase.
- Enter your job title into the Payscale job salary search. This will show you the average pay for that job.
- On the next page, enter your location and years in the field. Then click on “Find your market worth.” This will walk you through an extensive list of questions about your education, location, and experience. The result? A more refined and accurate answer than simply Googling something like: “What do marketing managers earn?”.
- The Payscale report will list “skills that impact pay.” Take note of any of the skills on that list in your wheelhouse. Make sure to mention this in your meeting. If there are skills you are missing, add them to your professional development plan. Requesting training for these skills as alternate compensation will be an asset to you and your company.
- Check these results against Glassdoor Salaries to compare the salary range. On Glassdoor Salaries, you can also see “total pay trajectory” so you can better understand what your career path could look like and also see related jobs.
Use your salary research to make your pitch.
Say this: “According to my research, considering years of experience, my time with the company, and the industry average for this region, a salary increase of X% is reasonable.”
“Before our meeting, I researched the average salary for my job title. I considered my unique skill set, tenure, and years of experience. Based on the industry average, we’re looking at an increase of X%.”
“In researching the required skills for my job title, I discovered that my skills in Data Analysis and Strategic Project Management led to an increased salary of 7%. This takes into account my tenure, education, and location.
Avoid this: “According to Glassdoor, I’m way underpaid. It’s only fair that I receive a raise that meets industry standards.”
Avoid having this happen at any point in the negotiation.
Go into the meeting with an exact number or a specific range. After you’ve done your industry research, determine what you’d like to ask for and the lowest you’d be willing to accept. This will give you confidence if you have to negotiate a number.
3. Focus on the value you add
We’ve already touched on this briefly, but focusing on the value you bring is the biggest determiner of your success.
Take it from Chris Voss, the former FBI hostage negotiator. If anyone knows how to negotiate, it’s him.
Chris recommends changing your perspective for a pay raise negotiation to, “How can I advance our agenda? instead of trying to advance my agenda.” This is very similar to Barbara Corcoran’s advice—instead of focusing on yourself and getting more money, look at the bigger picture.
This does two things:
- It keeps your boss from viewing your request as self-serving.
- It keeps your career moving forward on an upward trajectory.
This requires strategic thinking, but it will position you to advance your career and life goals ultimately.
You may be thinking, “Yeah, that’s great, but I just need to pay the bills… Today.”.
We hear you, but don’t get caught up in the money question. You may lose sight of your long-term goals of who you want to be and where you want to go. (You do have long-term goals, right?)
To get started, look at what tasks and responsibilities you received on day one with your company. Then compare that with where you are now. Show your boss that even though they hired you for one set of tasks, you’ve been proactive in taking on new tasks and getting involved with meaningful projects.
“When I onboarded, my main responsibilities were writing the blog content and handling the email campaigns. After my coworker left, I picked up her responsibilities and expanded on them by setting up a complete marketing strategy and developing a content calendar. It has been gratifying seeing all of these things come together, and I value the chances I’ve had to grow and strengthen my skills.”
Now, pick out the most recent projects or significant tasks somehow. Ask yourself, “What are my most recent accomplishments?”
“In project ___, I streamlined the workflow. Because everyone knew what everyone expected of them, it was easier for us to hit the deadline. It also cut down on unnecessary e-mails and project check-ins. On this project, we reached our deadline three days earlier than we have on similar projects of this size. I know I can continue improving our daily operations.”
“In the past year, organizations and nonprofits have seen a dramatic drop in social media engagement. Instead of seeing a drop, we’ve seen a steady increase in engagement and an 8% increase in our audience growth. We’ve talked in the past about your desire to see our social media presence take off, and my latest campaign has directly impacted the strength of our platforms.”
4. Learn Your Lines
Before going into the meeting, make a plan and know what you will say.
A basic outline will help you feel and sound more confident.
We included several examples under each of the tips above, but what if none of these fit your situation or don’t feel like something you would say?
Never fear. We have it broken down step by step… Just plug in your details to build your entire script.
Present Your Request:
- Thank your boss for meeting and getting to the point.
- Detail your value to add from where you started until now (keep this concise).
- Present your industry research and name your desired % increase.
- Detail what you recently contributed that benefited the company.
- Make sure to relate it to goals your boss values.
- Reassert how your plan is helping the company achieve its objectives and reassert your desired pay increase.
Enter Salary Negotiation:
- Counter a dismissal by reasserting your value add and demonstrating how you’ve reduced costs for the company.
- Counter the second dismissal by reasserting that you complete tasks beyond your expected role.
- Then, ask them to reconsider the desired increase.
Close the Deal:
- If your boss names a lower price, accept and say that you are comfortable with that (if you are).
- If they are immovable, suggest alternate compensation.
- If you didn’t get the raise, ask to schedule a salary review again in 12 months.
- Thank them again.
5. Know How to Act
How you present yourself in this meeting is just as important as all of the preparation you’ve done in advance! In this video, Vanessa shares how to master your body language to complement what you’ve planned to say.
In the Meeting
|Do This||Not This|
|Plan a video call or private meeting in person.||Ask at the end of a group meeting.|
|Believe what you’re saying.||Fake your confidence.|
|Research your industry to discover fair pay according to your skills and tenure.||Ask for a raise just because you think you’re great.|
|Know your exact number.||Have no idea what amount you’re asking for.|
|Keep it professional.||Make it about personal needs, fairness, etc.|
|Dress professionally.||Wear sloppy or inappropriate clothing.|
|Keep your hands visible.||Put your hands in your pockets or under the table.|
|Sit up straight with shoulders down.||Hunch your shoulders.|
|Use open body language (sit at a side angle, gesture with open palms, lean forward when talking).||Manspread or blocking (crossed arms, covering your face, having objects between you).|
Bonus Helpful Resources:
- Optimize Your Video Call Presence
- Level-Up Your Negotiation Skills
- Nonverbal Communication in Business
What to Do If They Say No
- It’s not always up to your boss. Granting a pay raise may involve multiple stakeholders.
- If they say no, ask why and then negotiate! Continue to ask clarifying questions and counter their “no” several times.
- Ask for other means of compensation if a raise isn’t possible. This could include hybrid working (part work from home, part in-office), extra vacation time, use of company products or equipment, stock options, training opportunities, etc.
- If you don’t get the raise, ask what you can do to lead to a pay raise.
And remember your first negotiation…
Should I Just Wait For Them To Give Me a Raise?
If you wait for your employer to give you a raise, you may wait for a very long time. Many people avoid asking because they expect they’ll eventually receive a raise, or they fear rejection.
Be strategic and understand that even if you don’t receive the raise you ask for, new opportunities will come. We’ve seen people pin their hopes on one moment, one company… but it’s a big world out their friend, and you have options and choices. Just remember that.
Extra Thoughts for Women:
Unfortunately, women most commonly do not ask for a raise, partially due to concerns about the treatment they will receive after requesting a pay raise.
According to the Harvard Business Review, advocating for yourself as a woman is especially risky. HBR describes this as the “social cost of negotiation.” Don’t worry. While these power discrepancies and even gender inequalities are genuine, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask for a raise. Instead, be aware of the challenges you may face, but face them with boldness and confidence.
2 Quick Things to Avoid When Asking For a Raise
1. Don’t Be a Jerk
This is true before, during, and after the negotiation. Even if you don’t get the raise, please thank the manager and be professional.
Regardless of the outcome, asking for a raise allows you to hone your negotiation skills. Next year, or in your next job, you’ll be more confident and experienced when it comes time to ask for a raise.
Your ability to remain calm and professional reflects your character in these situations. And you better believe your boss will observe your response if they reject your request for a raise. You could sabotage any further chance of a raise later on.
2. Don’t Make it Personal
We are surprised some people suggest inserting your personal needs into a pay raise negotiation. Whether or not your boss cares that your rent went up or that inflation cut out a third of your grocery budget, inserting these details into a negotiation makes it harder to remain professional. Plus, the more personal you make the negotiation, the more personal it will feel if they don’t approve your request for a raise.
Don’t complicate the negotiation process with these personal details. Instead, know your worth, be confident, and negotiate for it.
How to Ask For a Raise FAQs
Don’t ask for a raise in writing or by e-mail.
You can send an e-mail letting your boss know you’d like to discuss your compensation, but don’t make your request in the e-mail. Even if you work remotely, plan a video call to have the actual discussion. This is a negotiation, and you will be more effective if you can both see each other.
If you’re asking for a raise because you are underpaid, let your boss know in a meeting that you’ve done research showing you receive an underpayment of x amount and that you’d like to discuss the action. At this stage, pause and wait for their response. Use the power of silence to your advantage instead of immediately trying to negotiate a raise. Waiting for them to speak first will help you assess their position for the negotiation.
A good salary raise to ask for is generally considered 3-5%. But truthfully, you need to do your research. If you are underpaid or have taken on many new responsibilities, that percentage could be too low.
When asking for a raise, never give an ultimatum, sound entitled, or gripe and complain about your workload.
These could get you fired instead of getting a raise: “Give me a raise, or I quit.”, “Because I’ve worked here a year, you have to give me a raise.”, “My workload is enough for 3 employees.”, “I heard Brian got a raise, and I do way more work than him!”
The best time to ask for a raise is after one year or if you’ve taken on new responsibilities. If you’ve already been working for several years in your company without a raise, plan to ask for your raise during your following annual review. It also helps to ask when your boss isn’t overly stressed. And hey, why not pick a day when the sun is shining?
You should work at a company for at least one year before asking for a raise. The only exception is if you’ve taken on many additional responsibilities, such as when a coworker quits.
- First and foremost, focus on your value proposition. What have you been and will continue doing to offer value to your company?
- Schedule your pay raise meeting before the budget finalization. If possible, plan the meeting to coincide with your annual review.
- Do something great for the company before approaching your boss.
- Research to discover the industry average for your job title. Bring that number to the meeting, and make sure it’s a number you’ll be happy with.
- Learn your lines! Check our script examples above and practice them with a friend or record yourself.
- Pay attention to what your nonverbals are communicating.
- If your boss says no, it’s time to negotiate. If they still say no, request alternate compensation and perks.
- Be professional, even if you don’t get the raise.
We’ve all been there, and we know how terrifying it can be to ask for a raise. With all of these tips and examples, you don’t have to feel nervous or question whether you’re taking the right approach. And remember, just by asking for a raise, you’re taking an essential step in your career journey. Get out there and take that step with confidence!
Still feel like you need more help? As designed, People School gives you confidence in every interaction. We even have a specific bonus video on how to ask for a raise with even more examples. When you enroll, you get access to that bonus video plus 12 advanced communication skills that will wow your boss before your salary negotiation begins!