how to ask for a raise

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Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all determine our own salary? I’d probably choose to pay myself about this much… and I’m guessing so would you.  Unfortunately, making more money usually means asking your manager for a salary boost. That conversation can be uncomfortable and intimidating, which is why only 56% of Americans have reportedly asked for a raise.  

You know how Wayne Gretzky missed “100% of the shots he didn’t take?” Well employees miss out on 100% of the raises they don’t ask for … here’s how to do the asking: 

STEP 1: Make sure you deserve the raise

Okay folks, here’s the hardest part about answering the question “how do I ask for a raise.” Always be honest with yourself. As much as we would all like more money, you’re not likely to actually get more money unless you truly deserve more pay for your work. After all, Kevin Durant didn’t ask for a max contract and THEN start scoring 30 points a game, he spent a few seasons scoring 30 points a game and then his max contract was justified.

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So ask yourself, “Do I deserve this raise?” If the answer is “YES OBVIOUSLY,” then proceed to step 2.  If the answer is “Ummmm….” then consider making some preliminary moves before straight up asking for the big bucks.

For instance, instead of sitting down with your manager to say, “I want more money” make a point to tell them “I want more responsibility.” Ask your boss if there are larger or more high profile projects you could start working on, or proactively lend a helping hand to another group that’s understaffed.

Timing is important here –after the “I’m ready for more responsibilities” conversation, consider giving yourself 3-6 months to ramp up your job performance. During that few months, set goals for yourself with clearly measurable results, so that by the time you sit down to ask for your own version of a max contract you’ve got a solid stat sheet to back up your request.

STEP 2: Schedule a Meeting

Take a moment to remember that unlike you, your salary and its appropriateness level isn’t constantly on your manager’s radar. Everyone has their own projects, deadlines, and fires to put out, so bursting into their office unannounced to ask for more money won’t win you any points. Do yourself a favor and schedule a meeting.

Finding a dedicated time for the salary discussion is a signal to your manager that your request deserves their respect and attention. It also gives you the benefit of knowing exactly when the conversation will take place; that way you can approach the meeting thoughtfully and come prepared.

Of course, everyone’s relationship with their manager is different. If the formality of scheduling a meeting feels a bit uncomfortable, try to bring up the subject during a goal review or annual evaluation. The key is to try to find a time when your manager will be least distracted and therefore (hopefully) most receptive. Overall, think of it as an opportunity to present yourself as professionally as possible.

step brothers interview

Remember to dress to impress! 

STEP 3: Demonstrate your value

First of all, make sure you do this before you walk into the meeting. Confidence is key.

Now, I’m sure your boss wants to give you a raise.  But unfortunately, it usually isn’t as simple as snapping their fingers. In most cases, unless you report to the owner, getting your raise approved will require your manager to do some salesmanship up the food chain convincing his boss that you deserve more money. Your job as the raise-seeker is to make this process as easy as possible for your manager.  

Never assume that your manager knows how wonderful you are, so have proof points of your success at the ready. Here’s how to ensure that you have some ammunition when someone asks you “What would you say you do here?”

  • Make a note to yourself when you receive praise or kudos from other employees
  • Keep a folder in your Outlook/Email dedicated to “Thank You” emails for a job well done
  • Regularly reference a copy of your original job description, and periodically make updates with your new responsibilities as an easy way to track your progress as an employee
  • Print out work you are particularly proud of and bundle it together; keep it all easily accessible as a makeshift “portfolio” of your best accomplishments

Most importantly, actually bring these things with you to the salary meeting! Don’t just tell your manager that you deserve a raise, show him. And make sure that he has the materials to show others as well.

 STEP 4: Know your worth in the market

Knowing how much money to demand when asking the question “how do i ask for a raise” is certainly one of the more difficult parts of the conversation. Luckily there are many resources at your disposal.

In researching, your first stop should be your company’s internal compensation policies. Often there are published pay ranges for different job grades/employee levels. If you fall below the middle of your range, you should be prepared to make an argument as to why your work merits a salary higher on the spectrum. If you are already in the higher range of your job grade, start thinking about whether your responsibilities might merit a promotion to a higher title.

Of course, it will also be helpful for you to know what your skills are worth at other workplaces. Externally, sites like or do their best to publish salaries for a variety of companies and positions. Networking with your peers across your industry, though, will probably give you a more accurate view of what a fair salary is for your skillset. Lastly, don’t neglect those recruiters that pester your LinkedIn profile! Even if you aren’t looking for a new job, they might be able to give you some good insight into what your resume is worth on the open market.      

As with most things in life, knowledge is power. Make sure you know what you’re worth so that when your manager asks you what specifically you’re looking for, you have a well-researched answer.

STEP 5: Celebrate!

It’s important to remember that these things take time, and even if something doesn’t happen right away that doesn’t mean the salary-increase wheels aren’t in motion behind the scenes. Have patience and keep working hard. Even if a raise doesn’t come your way in the immediate future, you have successfully demonstrated your worth to your manager with poise and professionalism. That can never hurt. And if a raise does come through thanks to this hard work? High five. Drinks on you.

Sounds so simple, right? Of course, this is all much easier said than done. Try not to get overwhelmed, and remember that getting your salary increased really comes down to demonstrating why you are worth more to your company. Now go out there, and give it a shot. Get that raise!

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