Thinking about asking for a raise? Banish one word from your pitch: “need.” (As in, “I need a raise.”) Needing more cash is a perfectly valid reason to want a pay increase. In fact, given how slowly wages have grown since the end of the recession, and how much less your paycheck buys than it did 10 years ago, it’s no surprise that your annual 3 percent bump isn’t making much of a dent. But that’s not an argument that will have much swaying power with the boss.
Your employer doesn’t care about your personal financial situation – or at least, they don’t necessarily take cost of living into account when they determine your salary. Employers look at cost of labor, which is the salary the market will bear for someone in your role, with your skills, education, and experience.
Understanding that will go a long way toward helping you get the salary you deserve. In short, it’s never about whether you need a raise – it’s about whether you can get one. That means:
1. Knowing what the market will bear.
Don’t go in to your boss and ask for a raise because your rent went up, or your best friend just got more money … in a totally different industry. Instead, do your research and build your case based on data. Take PayScale’s Salary Survey and generate a free report with a salary range that’s appropriate for your job title, education, experience, skills, and location.
2. Understanding the obstacles in your way.
Hopefully, your employer has a compensation strategy that rewards what the organization values the most, whether that’s expertise, performance, loyalty, or something else. Knowing what that strategy is can help you figure out your odds for getting a raise. If your company values workers with a specific certification, for instance, getting that certification would obviously help you get raises and promotions. On the other hand, if you’re in a different job role that’s less competitive, your chances of getting a pay bump might diminish.
Then, there are the less visible — and less fair — obstacles, the ones that play into unconscious bias. Research has shown, for example, that women pay a higher social cost when they attempt to negotiate salary. That doesn’t mean that if you’re female, you should just accept what you’re given and wait for karma to sort it out. But, it does mean that you might have to tweak your strategy in order to go around the obstacle and get the pay you deserve.
3. Asking, even when you’re afraid.
Data collected for PayScale’s Salary Negotiation Guide show that 28 percent of respondents who’ve never negotiated salary held back because they’re reluctant to talk about salary. Eight percent said they were flat-out afraid of being fired for asking. If you’re scared, you’re not alone.
It’s worth it to ask, however. Seventy-five percent of those who asked for a raise received some sort of increase, according to the same data. Overcoming your fear could pay big dividends over the course of your career.
Tell Us What You Think
Have you ever successfully asked for a raise? We want to hear from you. In the comments or on Twitter, tell us how you did it.