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It’s Salary Season: Here’s How to Get the Raise You Deserve (Eventually)

Topics: Negotiation

Google searches for “salary” were up 29 percent last week, and it’s not hard to guess why. It’s annual performance review time, the point in the year where even the most conflict-avoidant workers are thinking about raises, and how to get one.

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Very few of them will get the raise they deserve without asking at some point. Data collected for PayScale’s Salary Negotiation Guide show that, of workers who’ve never asked for a raise, only 8 percent were always happy with their salary. A fortunate 38 percent were given raises before they could ask for one. The rest held off out of fear.

Seventy-five percent of respondents who asked for a raise received some sort of pay increase, so it’s definitely in your best interests to ask. That said, timing is everything. It might surprise you to know that now isn’t necessarily the best time to ask for a raise. It is, however, the perfect time to set the wheels in motion, so that you can get even more money later.

Here’s how:

Do You Know What You're Worth?

  1. Know why review time is a bad time to ask for a raise.

It sounds counterintuitive, but your annual review is not a great time to ask for more than the 3 percent bump most companies give satisfactory employees.

“If your boss comes to you and says, ‘Woo hoo you got a 4% increase this year, great job, four stars, blah blah blah’ and you say ‘I’m really disappointed in this because I was hoping for 8% and here are all the reasons why I deserve it,’ you are asking your manager to go find money where there is none,” said Aubrey Bach, former senior manager of higher education at PayScale, in an interview with The Washington Post on Medium. “When reviews and raises are given out across the company, all the budget is totally spent.”

What should you do instead?

  1. Do your research.

Preparing for your review means comparing what you’re actually doing against your goals and job description, and then thinking about that in the context of your career plan as a whole. If you’re like many workers, you’ll find that you’re doing far more than you were last year. Ask yourself if your job title still describes your role … and what might come next for you.

Then, it’s time to set some salary ranges. Take PayScale’s free Salary Survey for your current position and the jobs you’re hoping to move into, down the line. Again, this isn’t to fill you with a sense of financial injustice or to inspire you to demand a raise that isn’t currently in the budget. It’s just to help you tether your goals to some actual numbers, so that you’ll know what you’re (eventually) asking for.

  1. Lay the groundwork.

So, you’re not going to hit up your boss for a fat raise right now, but you do need to make sure that she knows your career plans — within reason. You obviously shouldn’t reveal that you’ve got your eye on her job, or that you’re planning to leave the company. But you can (and should) tell her that you’ve noticed that your duties are more in line with the next role up the org chart, and ask what you need to do to get there, officially.

Ideally, managers are a resource for workers; it’s in their best interests to keep you happy, so long as that happiness translates into revenue for the company.

  1. Ask for constructive criticism.

Why do we dread reviews? Because no one likes to hear less-than-positive feedback. However, if you’re serious about getting a raise/promotion, you should be prepared not only to hear constructive criticism, but to ask for it.

What skills do you need, to get to the next level? Where can you improve, to be the best [insert job title here] that you can be? Now’s the time to earnestly solicit that feedback. Your boss will likely be relieved to deal with someone so eager to improve, after a long, hard review season of dealing with hurt feelings.

People who can have hard conversations and hear tough things about themselves are rare. If you can make yourself into one of them, you’ll have the professional advantage. (And remember: being able to hear it, doesn’t mean that you have to agree with it. It just means that you’re willing to listen and keep an open mind.)

  1. Let your manager help you.

If there are gaps in your skillset, your company might have resources to help you fill them. Your manager can connect you with educational benefits that can do just that. The best part is that by actively seeking out a chance to learn and improve, you’re setting yourself up to be a much more attractive candidate to another employer. In the end, you’ll be poised to get more money one way or the other — either in this job, or in your next.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you agree that review time is a bad time to ask for a raise, or have you had good luck pushing for a salary increase? We want to hear from you. Tell us your story in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.


Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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