You've been earning the same salary for a while now (maybe you've received a two percent cost-of-living raise for the last year or so), and you're ready for a change. You work hard, you show up every day, and you're ready for a paycheck that reflects your growth and the steady rise in your competence and contributions.
But if you're like most of us, the thought of marching into your manager's office and asking directly for what you need makes you a little shaky. The possibility of a rejection or a dismissal pushes you to reconsider your circumstances; maybe you can skim by a little longer on your current paycheck…after all, plenty of people are getting by on less every day, right? And maybe if you just sit patiently at your desk and keep working hard without complaint, karma may kick in and the system will automatically move you forward when the time is right…Right?
Not so much. Your employers benefit when you sit with your hands folded, so if you wait for your boss to come to you, you may be waiting for a very long time. Instead, gather your courage, overcome the obstacles that are standing in your way, and get this done. Here are a few tips that can take you where you need to go.
Schedule a meeting.
Instead of following your distracted boss down the hallway or adding an afterthought to a meeting on another topic (as in, "Oh, by the way, while I have you here…") schedule a meeting solely for this purpose. You'll want to have the conversation in an environment free of interruptions and easy outs. If you ambush your boss in the hallway, you're more likely to be brushed off. Request an appointment and get it in the calendar. And request the meeting whenever you're ready; don't wait for your annual review.
Prepare for the meeting.
When you show up for your session, bring some notes and talking points. These should include 1.) a list of your major accomplishments since your last raise, 2.) data that demonstrates how your efforts benefit the organization, and 3.) salary data that shows the market rate in your industry and your location for employees at your level of education and experience. You can easily find this last item online.
Ask for the right amount.
As a rule of thumb, most employees find it advantageous to request a raise between 5 and 10 percent. If you're truly paralyzed, just stay within this range; there's nothing unseemly about asking for 10 percent and nothing overly cautious about asking for 5. But if you're willing to take a risk and bank on the value you bring to the company, err on the side of too much rather than too little. Your boss is an adult, and he won't fall to pieces or laugh in your face if you ask for too much. Negotiation is an art; it's okay to ask for more than you expect and then allow your manager to talk you down slightly. Remember the old saying: Your salary doesn't reflect what you're worth—It reflects what you negotiate.
Be prepared to push back.
If your boss says no (or an alternative that means the same thing, like: "Gosh, I wish I could" or "We've had a rough quarter and we just can't do it right now"), your first instinct may be to scuttle out the door. But avoid this urge. Keep your seat, make a case for yourself, and push back. Trial lawyers push back in the courtroom, lawmakers push back in the senate, and if they can do it, you can do it to. You won't get a raise by being a nice person. And you won't get what you want by being overly compliant. Stand your ground and explain why you're valuable enough to be paid the amount that you need.