Getting a raise

How to get the raise you deserve (eventually)

Written by Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
Posted on December 28, 2016

Google searches for “salary” were up 29 per cent in the last month, and it’s not hard to guess why. It’s annual performance review time, the point in the year where even the most conflict-avoidant workers are thinking about raises, and how to get one.

Very few of them will get the raise they deserve without asking at some point. Data collected for PayScale’s Salary Negotiation Guide show that among workers who never asked for a raise, only eight per cent were happy with their salary. A fortunate 38 per cent were given raises before they could ask for one. The rest held off out of fear.

Seventy-five per cent of respondents who asked for a raise received some sort of pay increase, so it’s definitely in your best interests to ask. That said, timing is everything. It might surprise you to know that now isn’t necessarily the best time to ask for a raise. It is, however, the perfect time to set the wheels in motion, so that you can get even more money later.

Here’s how to get the raise you deserve (eventually).

Know why review time is a bad time to ask for a raise.

It sounds counter-intuitive, but your annual review is not a great time to ask for more than the 3 per cent bump most companies give satisfactory employees.

“If your boss comes to you and says, ‘Woo hoo you got a four per cent increase this year, great job, four stars, blah blah blah’ and you say ‘I’m really disappointed in this because I was hoping for eight per cent and here are all the reasons why I deserve it,’ you are asking your manager to go find money where there is none,” said Aubrey Bach, former senior manager of higher education at PayScale, in an interview with The Washington Post on Medium. “When reviews and raises are given out across the company, all the budget is totally spent.”

What should you do instead?

Do your research.

Preparing for your review means comparing what you’re actually doing against your goals and job description, and then thinking about that in the context of your career plan as a whole. Like many workers, you might find that you’re doing far more than you were last year. Ask yourself if your job title still describes your role.

Then, it’s time to set some salary ranges. Take PayScale’s free Salary Survey for your current position and the positions you may one day work towards. Again, this isn’t to fill you with a sense of financial injustice or to inspire you to demand a raise that isn’t currently in the budget. It’s just to help you tether your goals to some actual numbers, so that you’ll know what you’re (eventually) asking for.

Lay the groundwork.

So, you’re not going to hit up your boss for a fat raise right now, but you do need to make sure that he or she knows your career plans — within reason. You obviously shouldn’t reveal that you’ve got your eye on his or her job, or that you’re planning to leave the company. But you can (and should) tell him or her that you’ve noticed your duties are more in line with the next role up the org chart, and ask what you need to do to get there, officially.

Ideally, managers are a resource for workers; it’s in their best interests to keep you happy, so long as that happiness translates into revenue for the company.

Ask for constructive criticism.

Why do we dread reviews? Because no one likes to hear less-than-positive feedback. However, if you’re serious about getting a raise or promotion, you should be prepared not only to hear constructive criticism, but to ask for it.

What skills do you need to get to the next level? Where can you improve to be the best [insert job title here] that you can be? Now’s the time to earnestly solicit that feedback. After a long, hard review season dealing with hurt feelings, your boss will likely be relieved to deal with someone so eager to improve.

People who can have hard conversations and hear tough things about themselves are rare. If you can train yourself to be open minded, you’ll have the professional advantage. And remember: being able to hear it doesn’t mean that you have to agree with it. It just means that you’re willing to listen and keep an open mind.

Let your manager help you.

If there are gaps in your skillset, your company might have resources to help you fill them. Your manager can connect you with educational benefits that can do just that. Apart from potentially improving your performance (and your odds of getting a raise down the road), actively seeking out a chance to learn lets your company know that you’re dedicated and committed to your field. It also sets you up to be a much more attractive candidate to another employer (if you ever need a plan B). In the end, you’ll be poised to get more money one way or the other — either in this job, or in your next.

See also:
Make more money: how to negotiate for bigger salaries and raises
Why women should always negotiate their salary (especially in tech)
6 things you should never say when negotiating a salary

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