Asking your boss for more money is probably up there with doing your taxes and cleaning the gutters on your list of favorite things to do.
But salary freezes continue to thaw, and this may be your year to finally go for it.
At least it seems there’s a lot of money on the table for the taking. Compensation in the U.S. rose 1.9% from 2012 to 2013, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and senior executives who changed jobs last year averaged a 17% compensation increase, found the executive search firm Salveson Stetson Group.
Ready to speak up for what you want? Here’s what you need to know to feel confident talking to your boss—from how much you should ask for to the best time to make your request—and finally score the raise you deserve.
How Often Should You Expect a Raise?
Salary upticks are typically granted only once a year, although it’s dependent on the mood of the economy and the demand for employees in your industry. (For instance, highly competitive fields like finance and tech are particularly raise-friendly.)
“It used to be the norm to expect an automatic annual raise, but after the economy took a nosedive, that has become less and less common,” says Alison Green, a former nonprofit chief of staff and author of the Ask a Manager blog. “Now you have to ask for more money.”
In general, there are only three instances when you can get away with a more frequent paycheck bump: if you’re an all-star performer and can make a strong case for why you deserve a raise sooner rather than later, you’re in a super-competitive industry like tech where the need for quality staffers is sky-high, or you work in retail or food service. (Raises tend to happen every six months or so in these fields, but it’s a tiny increase. Think: 20 cents an hour.)
Timing Your Request
Cliché as it is, timing is everything—and it can determine whether or not you’re rewarded.
First, consider when raises are generally granted at your company. Is it at the end of the year? On the anniversary of your start date?
Or maybe there’s no hard-and-fast rule that you’re aware of. “If you’re not sure, you can find out by word of mouth or by looking at the employee handbook—raises are usually tied to evaluations,” Green says. “There’s also nothing wrong with asking your manager flat-out. After you’ve been at a job for a while, say to him or her, ‘If I ever wanted to talk about my salary, how and when would that happen?’”
Many people make the mistake of asking for a raise during their annual review—but that’s probably too late. “Start talking to your boss about getting a raise three to four months in advance,” says writer and former human resources professional Suzanne Lucas of EvilHRLady.org. “That’s when they decide the budget.”
Typically, your company will allocate a certain amount of money for raises, which your boss must divvy up among his employees. Make sure to present your case for getting a bigger slice of the pie long before that decision has been made.