Sure, we all want to earn more. In particular, if you aren’t getting regular enough pay raises, you might actually be losing money to inflation. But, sometimes it’s tough to know the best timing and etiquette for negotiating your salary.
Here’s how to take your paycheck from meager to mega:
Know What You’re Worth and Ask a Bit Higher
Start by figuring out the average range for your position. Don’t immediately ask for the salary you’re hoping to get; ask a bit higher. After all, your boss will likely try to negotiate you down. Norman Lieberman, a California-based salary expert and coach, suggests walking in with a very specific number in mind. By proposing a higher number, you can “split the difference” between your current salary and your asking number. For example, if you’re currently at $50,000 and want to be making about $55,000, ask for $59,500.
Lieberman suggests that you enter the negotiations with a very specific number to show that you’ve put a lot of thought into the process. An even number, he says, might make it appear that you just pulled a figure from thin air.
Sell Yourself as an Effective Employee
Set up a meeting in advance rather than grabbing your boss on her way to a meeting and stammering, “By the way...” Start by telling her how much you enjoy working for the company, and be prepared to explain why you deserve a raise. Talk about your recent accomplishments and how the company is benefiting from them. Whether or not you’re currently looking for a raise, always keep a private journal of your accomplishments. “So often,” Lieberman says, “people forget what they’ve done.”
Ask yourself these questions to quantify your contribution to the company:
- Have you saved your company time or money? If so, how much?
- Have you added to company profits through a client you brought on or an initiative you proposed? How much did you make the company?
- Have you exceeded the metrics your boss set when she hired you? (i.e. You were hired to increase web traffic by 100% but your projects increased traffic by 250%)
- What kind of projects have you taken on beyond the scope of your job?
- Are you the person that covers for your boss or someone else at the blink of an eye?
Be sure to bring any documentation of these numbers, whether in chart, graph, or spreadsheet form.
Prepare to Be Turned Down
Be confident and ready, but also consider your strategy if your request is denied. Remember to remain gracious and dignified, no matter what happens. If your boss says that a raise isn’t right at the moment, think about whether there is anything else you can ask for, such as flexible work hours, profit sharing, paid time off, or tuition reimbursement.
Agree on a Time to Revisit the Topic
Remember that “no,” is usually “no for now.” Agree on a time to revisit the topic with your superiors, whether it’s three or six months. It goes without saying that, in the meantime, you’ll want to work as hard as you can so you don’t give anyone a reason to say no.
Be Prepared for Possible Hostility
Most bosses will respect employees who know their own value enough to ask for a raise. As long as you come in confidently and prove your point eloquently, there should be no harm done. However, before going to this meeting, make sure that you really do deserve a raise. If you ask for a raise when your boss is already unhappy with your work, be aware that she could use this as an excuse to finally cut the cord.
If You’re Really Not Ready for a Raise
There will also be times that a raise just isn’t in the cards for you, says Lieberman. Perhaps the fault lies with the company culture or a reluctance to change, but you simply haven’t done anything that warrants a raise. If that’s the case, be honest with yourself. Shift your focus to creating new initiatives and excelling at your position. Consider asking your superiors, “Is there anything more I can do to add value to this company?” When you feel like you have truly made a difference, revisit the topic of a raise.
Asking for a raise can be highly nerve-wracking, but experience has shown that the highest salaries often go to those who know enough and have the confidence to ask.