There’s a right way to ask for a raise, and it isn’t telling your boss you want a nicer apartment, so you need more cash, stat.
But since you probably do want a nicer apartment, asking for a raise is a skill you need to learn.
Your full-time job is probably your biggest source of income, both now and over your lifetime. So while, sure, increasing your income via a side hustle is a great option (and one that’s entirely in your control) spending a few hours effectively asking for a raise is one of the most impactful things you can do for your money.
If there’s another way to legally earn $5,000 or more in a few hours, I haven’t found it.
You’ve got work to do before you ask
You need to start off with doing your homework. Research what people in roles like yours get paid in your area. You can use tools like Glassdoor and LinkedIn’s Salary Tool to get a sense of whether you’re drastically underpaid for your work, or whether you’re rocking the top end of the salary scale.
Once you have a good idea of what your role should pay, it’s time to set up a meeting with your boss. Yes, you can still ask for a raise if you’re at the top end of the salary scale – you’ll just need to frame it a bit differently.
When you sit down with your boss, you want to have a conversation about what it would take to be a top performer in your role, and ideally, which metrics matter most to them. If your boss only cares about one or two things, your best bet to get a raise is to move the needle on those things.
For example, if your boss is measured by total sales, and you can bring in additional business to help exceed this quarter’s sales numbers, you’ve definitely demonstrated your value to the company – and value is what gets you a raise.
Spend a few months focusing on building a plan to impact the key metrics you discussed, and once you’ve got progress to show, then it’s time to make your case for a raise.
Now it’s time for the “give me more money” moment
You’ve laid the groundwork for your raise by discussing what would make you a top performer with your boss, and now you’re ready to have the “please give me more money” conversation with those results in hand. You go, top performer!
To make sure you’re prepared, review everything from your key metrics, to those local salaries you researched, to all of your other job duties.
In the meeting, use that info to make the case for why you deserve a raise. And yes, you need to specifically ask for the raise, and go into it with a number in mind. Your boss, as great as they might be, doesn’t spend their days thinking about how to justify giving you more money – which is where you come in to make a compelling case for it.
If you can show how you’re driving results for the company – results that are worth more to them than the amount of money for which you’re asking – then you’re in the best place you can be to get a raise.
How to handle it when you don’t get what you asked for
There will be times when no matter how great you are, or how much you’re valued, or how many results you delivered, you just don’t get what you asked for in dollar terms.
When that happens, you’ve got some choices to make.
Do you stick it out and accept that for now, you’re not going to get more money?
This is, actually, a good option in some cases. If you truly like your team, your work and your workload, it might be worth sticking around for the short term. Those things do have value, and you might not find the same balance somewhere else. Sure, you won’t want to stay forever if a raise is out of the question, but for now, it might not be the worst thing.
Can you ask for anything else instead of salary?
Since you’ve put in the work to demonstrate your value to the company, you might find yourself in a situation where their hands truly are tied when it comes to cash, but there are other incentives they can offer. In this case, make sure you know what else matters to you. I’ve seen people leverage this situation into everything from a desk by the window to an extra week of paid vacation.
Last but not least, is it time to start looking for other jobs?
Thanks to all the hard work you put in angling for this raise, your resume just got a serious boost, since almost every hiring manager loves to see concrete results like the ones you just delivered. Especially if you’re being paid under market value, shopping around for new jobs and going on some interviews might be the best way to score the extra money for which you’re asking.
Whatever you do, don’t do this
If you’ve read this whole piece and resolved that while sure, positioning yourself as a top performer sounds like a good call, but you need more money now so you’re just going to bite the bullet and say “I want more money”? Proceed with extreme caution.
This is where awkward conversations tend to happen, and you won’t have a leg to stand on if your boss shoots back with an ultra-intimidating, super reasonable “Why?”
Because, pro tip: “I have been here for five years” and “I do what’s expected of me” are bad answers, and won’t score you any extra money.
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