How to ask for a raise at work

Merely saying you’ve been working extra-hard is not good enough.

How to ask for a raise at work

Asking for a raise doesn't have to be nerve rattling.

You’ve been killing it these last few months. Putting in extra hours, wearing different hats, and ramping up sales. Sounds like now is the time to learn how to ask for a raise. It’s never an easy conversation, and in an economic slowdown it may feel even riskier and more awkward to raise the subject, but if you’ve been helping create a whole bunch of value for your company, a salary increase could be yours for the asking.

While few things spark more anxiety than asking for a raise, many companies still have budgets for new hires and salary increases, and if you don’t ask, you don’t get. In an ideal world, the boss would notice your unique contributions and boost your pay. In the real world, this generally doesn’t happen.

If you want to get the pay you deserve, whether you’re negotiating a salary in a job offer or want a pay hike, it comes down to salary negotiation know-how.

Here’s what to say to get a raise.

Read the room before you ask

Times may be rough, but that doesn’t mean every company is struggling. That means reading the room—if your company just did layoffs, wait it out. If you just notched a big win, get on it now. Although your normally scheduled performance review is the ideal time to ask, these are not normal times, and those extras you’ve taken on and new skills you’ve accumulated bolster your case.

Show your value

This is show-and-tell time. Gather evidence of your value-adding contributions and accomplishments—build a theoretical ROI. Merely saying you’ve been working extra-hard is not good enough. You want to be able to point clearly to proof of knocking it out of the park, saving the company money or making them money.

Focus on quantifiable evidence such as bolstering sales, onboarding new clients, or spearheading new projects. Maybe you’ve picked up a new skill or helped build their e-commerce platform that’s sustained income for the company.

You’ll also want to pivot to what value you plan to bring in the future, and what goals and projects you’ll be tackling next. Your price point will seem all that more reasonable when they see this as a strategic partnership.

Determine your worth

One of the keys to how to ask for a raise is knowing hard facts. Do your research to determine the typical salary for your position. You need to go in with a solid foundation for your request and realistic expectations. Sure, we’d all like to be making $1 million a year, but that’s not realistic. Tap into online tools to research salary trends for professionals in your industry and geographical location with similar job titles, qualifications, responsibilities, and experience. Your professional network and HR department are also helpful resources for determining your worth in the marketplace.

Have a reasonable target figure

Ask for slightly more than you actually want so there’s room to negotiate down if necessary. And make it a precise amount rather than a rounded-off dollar amount, according to research from Columbia Business School. Asking for $3,350 more a year is better than rounding it off to $3,500. You’ll be perceived as being better informed.

Avoid bringing up a colleague’s salary as a reason why you should make more money. Office salary talk may be inaccurate or viewed poorly by management. This request is about your work and your value to the company.

If you’re discussing salary for a new job, try to let the employer disclose the salary range first. That way you don’t unwittingly mention a salary figure way lower than they had in mind or price yourself out of a job.

Practice the conversation

Rehearse what you will say, and not just in your head. Practice how you’ll ask for a raise and how you’ll address your employer's possible responses. Video record your performance with a mentor or friend, and study yourself. Weaknesses in your argument need to be nixed and fixed.

Since there’s a good chance you will be having this conversation from a distance, negotiating virtually requires video conferencing so be sure you’ve mastered the platforms and techniques to successfully leverage your worth. The conversation will be infinitely easier.

Don’t start off by apologizing for asking, in good times or bad. This puts you in a weaker bargaining position. Don’t bring up the economic upheaval either. Instead you can say: “Times may be challenging but this is what I’ve brought to the table and have accomplished so far.”

Have a backup plan

So your manager just can’t do it right now. Be open to other options that could compensate you in the meantime. What about a bonus, more vacation time, or a new laptop for work? Maybe a new position title or expanded benefits would suffice for now.

Getting shut down isn’t the end of negotiations. Your boss is now aware of your efforts and value, and knows that you are merely deferring this reward to support the company. Ask to revisit the topic in a few months. In the meantime, request feedback—ask what your boss needs from you to make it happen. Show that you are committed to growing within the company. By further increasing your value, they can’t afford to let you go and a raise is yours.

Stay ahead of the game

Learning how to ask for a raise can be scary, but it can literally be worth the effort. However, if your salary is going nowhere, maybe it's time to look for a job at a company that will pay you more. Want some help taking the first steps? Join Monster for free today.  As a member, you can upload up to five versions of your resume—each tailored to the types of jobs that interest you. Recruiters search Monster every day looking to fill top jobs with qualified candidates, just like you. Additionally, you can get job alerts sent directly to your inbox to cut down on time spent looking through ads. Those are two quick and easy ways Monster can help you make more money sooner rather than later.