Asking for a raise is one of the most nerve-wracking conversations you can have. (Seriously, it’s right up there with breaking up with someone!) But according to a study by indeed.com, only 19 percent of employees are happy with their salaries, so having “the talk” with your boss is something you’ve probably thought about quite a bit.
It’s an even more pressing matter for women, as U.S. Census Bureau data shows we only make 80.7 cents for every dollar a man earns (a stat that we’re fighting with our Equal Pay Day events across the country—read more here). Here, top career experts share their best tips for asking for a raise.
How to ask for a raise
To get more money from your employer, a solid game plan is a must. Follow these tips for earning what you deserve.
Understand what your non-negotiable priorities are. A raise doesn’t always have to mean more money, says Pat Roque, a top career expert who has been featured on Good Morning America. For example, the ability to work from home a couple of days a week may save you major dough on childcare or commuting, which in the long run means more money in your pocket. So before sitting down with your manager, think about what would really benefit your life the most.
Build a business case that shows your worth. If you haven’t already been tracking your accomplishments, it’s time to start now. Save any positive feedback you’ve received from anyone you work with on a regular basis (this could be your boss, other colleagues, vendor partners, clients, etc.). You also need to be able to show your employer how much you’ve saved them or how much income you’ve generated.
“Everyone has a job because it either makes the company money or saves the company money,” says Katie Donovan, pay equity expert. “You have to understand your financial impact on the company.”
Let’s say you’re a fitness instructor: being able to say that classes went from 50 percent full to 100 percent full since you started teaching, you’ve brought in X amount of new memberships, and the studio has had to add more classes onto the schedule because you’re so popular will go a long way.
“You want to position yourself as an asset, not an expense,” explains Roque.
Do your homework. If it’s a higher salary you’re after, educate yourself on what other people make in your role. Look at salary trends to see how yours compares, and talk to other people who’ve done your job to see what they made, Roque suggests. Then ask for a number that’s at “the high end of reasonable,” says Roque.
Let’s go back to the fitness instructor example: If you make $40,000 a year and can show that you brought in 100 new members at $189 a month and helped take your studio’s Yelp reviews from 2 to 4.5 stars, then a 10 percent raise should be totally feasible.
Have regular conversations with your manager. Do not, we repeat, do not wait until your annual performance review to have a conversation with your manager. Put time on the calendar to check in with them regularly, advises Roque, whether that’s on a weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis. During these chats, you can discusses your wins, challenges, and what you want to work on in the quarter ahead.
“It’s super-important to proactively generate those dialogues, says Roque. When you have regular check-ins and your boss is aware of all your successes, it’ll be much easier to negotiate your benefits. Donovan adds that if you wait to talk to your manager until your yearly performance review, you’ll likely just receive a small cost of living raise (which is usually 2-3 percent.)
Don’t be afraid to walk away. Of course, as Donovan points out, you actually have the most power when you’re negotiating salary and benefits of a new job offer. If your current company doesn’t budge on giving you a raise, consider your next steps. (Roque’s free Soul-Searching Assessment tool will help you determine what your next career move should be.)
“If you work your entire adulthood, you’re going to have multiple jobs,” says Donovan. “If you know you’re being underpaid, it’s not a bad decision to find a new job.”
As far as negotiating for a better salary and benefits when you get a job offer, Donovan has a few pointers: Tell the hiring manager that you’re grateful for the offer but surprised the offer is low.
“Your job is to show that it’s not the right amount of money to do the job,” says Donovan. See what the hiring manager comes back with, then try to get a little more.
You should also ask for a copy of the employee handbook so you can see exactly what benefits you’d be entitled to if you accept the position.
“Negotiating ends with whoever stops talking first,” Donovan says. As long as you have a response to what the hiring manager says, keep the conversation going. If the hiring manager comes back and says this is the absolute best package they can give you, then take a day to think about the offer before making a decision.
Want to learn more about salary negotiation? Check out our free workshop on the SweatWorking app right here, where Maggie talks to Donna Jean Simon of the American Association of University Women, a non-profit, non-partisan organization that works to champion equity for women and girls.