Asking for a raise is at best uncomfortable and at worst terrifying, which is why many employees never do it. In fact, according to a survey conducted by Salary.com, only 12 percent of people negotiate for a raise during performance reviews and 44 percent never ask.
Most employers have established annual or semi-annual performance reviews and these present perfect opportunities to broach the subject of advancement and pay raises. Don't expect, however, that an annual review will result in a raise or a promotion. While some employers have clear guidelines on when and how employee compensation increases, you still want to prepare to advocate for yourself -- and below, I've discussed how you can do so.
As soon as you join an employer, start keeping track of your accomplishments. Don't make the mistake of thinking you'll remember what you've done when the annual review comes around or assuming that others will keep track. A simple Excel spreadsheet or a career journal can do the job. Depending on your role, you may be the only one who knows what you are working on so give your manager regular updates. She may not be the one with the final say, and if you've already communicated your accomplishments, it will be easier for her to advocate on your behalf. Be sure to also build your reputation within your department and within the organization. LinkedIn is the perfect platform to make your success visible to a larger audience.
When you keep track of accomplishments, quantify when possible. Did you implement a new process that saved the company money? Did you increase followers on social media? Did you bring in new clients or donations? The goal is to focus on showing how your actions brought value. If you work with customers or clients, keep track of positive feedback received. You may want to do the same if a senior leader or a colleague expresses gratitude or positive feedback regarding something you did.
Do Your Research
What raise you receive depends on several variables, including the economy, the financial state of your employer, your industry and the measurable value you've contributed.
Therefore, before walking into your manager's office and asking for a raise, you want to do your homework. What is your employer's current compensation strategy? Does your employer have a pay range for each role -- and where are you on the continuum? Employers may offer cost-of-living increases to all employees annually or reserve increased compensation for employees who are promoted or those with higher performance (also known as merit-based pay). Understand your context so you have an idea of what the possibilities are.
Unfortunately, many employers frown upon employees sharing information about their pay, so you may not be able to find out what others in your company are making by talking to colleagues. As PayScale's 2019 Compensation Best Practices report highlights, only 28 percent of employers plan to share pay ranges with individual employees, and much still needs to be done to achieve pay transparency. The good news is that this is not the only way to gain insights. Consult with trusted mentors in the same industry and check websites like PayScale, Glassdoor, and GetRaised for specific numbers. If you are getting a promotion that comes with a raise, you may want to know what the market value of the new role is so you can ask for an exact number. Better yet, ask for a specific percentage.
Be Open about Your Goals
Your manager is not a mind reader. If you are interested in long-term advancement within the company, make your intentions clear. Gaining insight on what it takes to be promoted or get a raise can help you focus on establishing goals that will bring you closer to that goal. As you plan for the year ahead and go over your goals, indicate that you are ready for your next step. If you are a valued employee, your supervisor will keep you in mind when opportunities aligning with your goals come his way.
You also want to be clear as to what your next step is. Does a position that aligns with your goals currently exist or does one need to be created? You want to have a specific position in mind so you can conduct research on the market rate for that role. In addition, when you understand what the next step requires, you can position yourself in your current role as someone who's already taking on challenges that will be high-priority in the next role. Be proactive and show you are ready to make that next move.
Focus on Performance, Not Need
When you chat with your manager, you may be tempted to justify your request for a raise referencing expenses you may be facing in life. Although that sounds reasonable, it's not what motivates employers. Rather, they want to hear you speak about your performance, specifically the value you bring that's above and beyond what's asked of you. Frame your accomplishments in the context of gains and value for your employer.
Before you speak to your manager and ask for a raise or a promotion, be sure to practice your pitch. You've done the research, you have the data and you may think you are ready to deliver your pitch -- but unless you've practiced, I can guarantee you it won't go as well as it sounds in your head. While practicing in front of a mirror helps, the best approach is to practice with a trusted mentor who can respond to your pitch and give feedback not only on your delivery but also your body language.
Prepare for No
Even if you've done all of the above, you may still hear a "no" when you ask for a promotion or a raise. Although the outcome will certainly disappoint you, it's not an opportunity to let negative emotions take over. Check with your manager and get specific information on the reasons why what you requested is not possible at this time. Perhaps there's no room in the budget? Or perhaps your employer doesn't think you are ready for the next step?
If budget is an issue, depending on your context, you may be able to receive additional perks. As such, prior to speaking with your manager, think about benefits you could ask for, including professional development opportunities, title change, more vacation time, or the option to work remotely.
If doubt about your readiness is an issue, you want to understand the missing piece so that you can start building for a yes. What skills are you missing and how can you gain them in the months to come? How can you contribute more value so that you position yourself for a promotion? Consider finding a mentor in senior leadership who can guide you along the path to advancement.
Lastly, know what your non-negotiables are so if an employer is not willing to reward you for high performance and is not clear about advancement options, you may consider walking away. Keep in mind that quitting is a last resort and you definitely don't want to threaten the employer with a resignation in an effort to demand a raise or a promotion.