Every worker wants more money, but many are uncomfortable asking. In fact, data collected for PayScale’s Salary Negotiation Guide show that only 43 percent of respondents had ever asked for a raise in their current field. Most who hadn’t asked held back because of fear: 28 percent said they were uncomfortable negotiating, while 8 percent were afraid they’d get fired, simply for asking.
The fact is that asking in the right way is extremely unlikely to lead to you losing your job (and if it does, there’s probably something else going on). Most managers will take the request in stride, even if they don’t have the budget to make things happen. But that’s if you ask in the right way.
What’s the right way to ask? Like everything else in life, a lot comes down to timing. If you’re respectful, prepared, and ask at the right time, you’re much more likely to get a pay increase.
Here’s how to know if the time is right:
1. The company is doing well.
First things first: if your employer isn’t doing well financially, they’re not going to be able to give you more money. It doesn’t mean that you don’t deserve it — working for a company that’s experiencing financial problems is uniquely stressful and asks a lot out of workers, who often perform multiple job functions to keep things going. But if the money isn’t there, the money isn’t there.
If you need a raise, and your employer is struggling, now might be the time to quietly get your resume in order and start networking your way to other opportunities. It’ll be easier to get more money in your next offer if you find a job while this one is still around.
2. You’ve been in your role a while, and have exceeded your goals, without seeing a pay increase.
To make a case for why you should get a raise, you’ll need to show that you’ve not only met, but surpassed expectations. Bonus points if you can do so with a dollar sign attached. If you can show that you made or saved the company money, you’ll be a lot more persuasive.
In terms of timing, directly after a win is a good choice. Your value will be on full display, and the folks in charge of the purse strings will be more likely to recognize it.
3. You’re underpaid for the market.
Have you added new certifications or skills that would make you a more valuable candidate, if you were looking for a brand-new job right now? You might not need to jump ship in order to raise your pay. If you can demonstrate that your new skills add to the company’s bottom line, you can argue for a raise.
Not sure if your new abilities warrant more money? Take PayScale’s Salary Survey and generate a free report with an appropriate salary range for your position, skills, education, and experience. If you haven’t done your research for a while, you might be surprised at how much your skills command on the job market.
Believe it or not, your annual review is not the best time to negotiate salary. Generally, budgets are set by that time, which means that your manager has limited ability to give raises more than the standard 3 percent. Better to make your pitch when you’re not drawing from the annual increase pool.
Of course, the easiest way to negotiate is with another offer in hand. But don’t bluff. If you’re not willing to take the job, don’t use it as a bargaining chip. You might find yourself forced to leave your current gig for one you don’t even want.
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