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How to Negotiate a Pay Raise

Topics: Negotiation
How to Negotiate a Pay Raise

Average raises will be 3 percent next year, according to data from Willis Towers Watson and Aon Hewitt. That’s better than no raise, obviously, but it also doesn’t do much to improve most workers’ standard of living — especially when you take inflation into account.


To get ahead financially, you need more than the average increase. Generally, that means changing jobs, taking on more work — or negotiating a raise from your current employer.


If you like what you do, and don’t like the idea of adding more work to your already overbooked schedule, a raise is obviously the way to go. But, that’s easier said than done. Fifty-seven percent of respondents to PayScale’s survey said that they’d never negotiated salary in their current field — despite the fact that 75 percent of those who asked received an increase.



If you’re one of the 57 percent who’ve never asked, this year could be your year to boost your paycheck — provided that you’re willing to do your homework. Here’s how to negotiate a pay raise the right way:


1. Choose the Right Time


Contrary to what you might have heard, the end of the year is not necessarily the best time to negotiate a raise. Why? Well, for one thing, budgets are often closed. Your manager might not have the ability to offer you much more than the standard increment (which might be that 3 percent average, depending on your performance and your employer’s compensation philosophy).


So, when is the best time to negotiate a raise? Look for a time when all these factors are lined up:


  • The company is doing well. Obviously, if your employer is struggling, they won’t have much room in the budget for raises.
  • You’ve exceeded your goals, and have a big, recent win to boast about. Top performers are in the best position to ask for more.
  • The job market is in your favor. That means that your particular skillset is in high demand, not just that employers are hiring generally.


Then, make sure that you respect your manager’s time by requesting a meeting specifically to discuss compensation.


2. Do Your Research


Salary negotiation is not about what you need. It’s not even about what you deserve. It’s about what you can get. That means knowing what the market will bear for your skills, experience and abilities.


To figure that out, you need better information than you’d get by just asking around. Take the PayScale Salary Survey and get a free salary report based on thousands of responses from your peers in your industry.


3. Write a Script


Knowing what you want to say isn’t enough — how you say it matters, too. Salary negotiation scripts can help you prepare for the conversation.


Of course, once you’re talking, you’ll need to be able to be flexible, listen and respond to what your boss is telling you. But having a few scripts in mind will make you more confident about your message, which will increase your chances of getting what you want.

4. Remember That It’s a Conversation, Not a Monologue


And speaking of conversation, don’t forget to have one. Salary negotiation is a nerve-wracking experience for many — that’s probably why those 57 percent of respondents say that they’ve never negotiated. You may find yourself wanting to monopolize the conversation instead of having a real exchange. Resist the urge. You’re not here to overpower; you’re here to persuade.

5. Be Prepared to Hear No


No matter how persuasive you are, you might not get a raise — at least, not right this minute. In that case, use the experience as an opportunity to gather information. Does your manager need to see certain achievements from you, in order to recommend you for a raise? Would additional education help, or experience working with on a particular type of project?


It may also be that the company doesn’t have enough money in the budget to offer more — in which case, you’ll need to decide if the other aspects of your job make up for the lack of a raise. You might eventually decide to change jobs, which is a perfect opportunity to boost your paycheck. But by being open to constructive criticism now, and practicing your negotiation skills, you’ll put yourself in the best possible spot to ask for more at your next job.


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Tell Us What You Think


Have you successfully negotiated a raise? We want to hear from you. Share your tips in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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