There are a myriad reasons to ask for a raise: It helps you envision your future, it reminds your boss you care, it boosts your confidence, and it shows you how much your company values you as an employee.
The number-one reason to ask for a raise is, of course, money. It’s important to be paid what you’re worth, and your value should grow the longer you stay at a company. Plus, you have things like bills, rising property values, and inflation to worry about. You will, at some point, need more cash.
We know from InHerSight data that a majority of women don’t ask for raises, though. This is problematic because, according to Women Don’t Ask: The High Cost of Avoiding Negotiation—and Positive Strategies for Change: “Women who consistently negotiate their salary have increased earnings of at least $1 million more during their careers than women who don’t.”
And this got worse during the pandemic. An Indeed.com survey showed pre-pandemic, 66% of surveyed women felt comfortable or somewhat comfortable asking for a raise at their current job. That fell to 58% by December 2020.
Because no one—literally, no one—wants to miss out on that million-dollar boost, let’s talk through how to ask for a raise.
How to ask for a raise: what to do to prepare
The best thing you can do to plan for asking for a raise is to start laying the groundwork as early as possible—maybe even your first day on the job. These are the key points you should hit if you know you’ll eventually ask for more money (you should).
1. Communicate wins
Okay, bragging about your accomplishments can be annoying, but sharing a shining-star moment every once in a while is important in solidifying you as an integral member of the team. In fact, you should be doing that because, even if you work closely with your boss, it’s unlikely they’ll know every single thing you do. Share your positive news, your brilliant saves, and business savvy. These are things to be proud of.
2. Talk about your career goals
If you want to make more money one day, your boss should know that you want to advance in your career. Although merit-based raises do happen out of the blue sometimes, it’s easier to bag them yourself when your boss is already expecting you to ask. In your 1:1s, talk about opportunities for advancement and your aspirations. This helps to set the tone for the money conversation later on
3. Take on responsibility
This one is tricky because you don’t want to take on too much without getting paid. But there is something to be said for the person who volunteers to learn new tasks and shows leadership skills. That person is business-oriented and a team player. That person gets a raise.
4. Ask for feedback
Interest in growth isn’t solely about goal-setting. It’s also about openness to constructive criticism and a willingness to change course. Show your drive by welcoming feedback from your boss and coworkers. Be collaborative.
Read more: How to Find a Mentor & How to Ask
How to ask for a raise: what to say
It’s normal to ask for a raise, even if the process feels awkwardly formal sometimes. You have to set up a somewhat-veiled meeting with your boss; you have to plan out what you’re going to say. It all sounds like you’re planning a marriage proposal—right down to the part where your boss says “yes.” This is how to, um, make sure the conversation ends in financial bliss once you’re finally ready to ask for a raise.
You should know the market salary for your job, and you should know what additional cash you should be allotted based on the other tasks you’ve taken on. Come up with a reasonable pitch for your boss based on these numbers as well as your company’s pay structure. Expect to negotiate.
2. Choose the time
Depending on your job, you might be ready for a raise at six months or a year, maybe longer. Decide on a time based on your job functions, your performance, and your office’s culture. If you consistently receive rave reviews at six months, you might be ready to go, but if you know all your coworkers got their first raise at the one-year mark, wait. Read the room.
3. Keep it simple, but specific
You’ll have to set up a meeting with your boss. You know this. But what should you say? You don’t need a presentation or a letter or anything. This should be a conversation. Keep your introduction short and straight-forward:
I really appreciate the opportunities I’ve had here, and I’m excited about the responsibilities I’ve taken on. I know we’ve talked before about my long-term goals, and I’m hoping we can continue that conversation today. Since I took on this position, I’ve consistently set goals and met them: [Insert a few excellent examples of times you killed it here.] Given my success thus far, I’d like to talk about increasing my salary.
You can also provide your boss with a bulleted list of your accomplishments, including numbers that illustrate your success if you have them. Then your boss has data to take to their higher-ups if necessary.
4. Focus on achievements
You might have a specific number you want. That’s great. When you talk to your boss, keep most of the conversation on what you’ve done, not the money you want. This ensures you sound like a business asset.
5. Know how to take a “no”
We hope you get a raise, we really do, but you might not. Approach a negative response like a learning opportunity by asking, What should I do to achieve a raise in the future? You can also ask if there’s a better time to follow up about a raise (you might have asked just after the budget was decided!). And if the tone is right—perhaps they want to give you more money but there isn’t room in the budget—ask if you can negotiate for other benefits like flexible work hours or work-from-home days. These are all normal questions to ask. Stay engaged.