So you’ve been at your job for a while and you’ve fiiiiinally gotten up the nerve to ask for more money. But, how? And...when?
Asking for a raise is difficult. It can be scary, unfamiliar territory. It also isn’t guaranteed to work just because you want it to, putting the onus on you to deliver the request in a way that it will be heard.
The best advice I ever got about how to effectively ask for a raise came from my first boss at my first full-time job out of college, who taught me what to do over lunch one day. She saw how vulnerable and in the dark I was about the working world at 21 and took me under her wing so I could set myself up for success in the future. And even though I never got a raise at that job — I only stayed for nine months before moving on to a new industry — her words have stuck with me ever since.
Instead of trying to reconstruct the advice she gave me over dumplings back in 2009 — which, by the way, worked when I used it at my next job — I decided to call her up to ask for her tips in her own words.
Lainie Messina is the Regional Coaching Director for RWJ Barnabas Health, and when she was my boss, she was the Marketing Director for the Visiting Nurse Services of New York. When it comes to asking for a raise, Messina is no stranger to navigating these conversations both as the person doing the asking and as the person being asked.
Here are her tips — and most are the same as when we had this conversation 10 years ago!
Pick the time of day your boss seems to like best. If they are a slow starter, plan to have the conversation later in the day. If your boss is an early morning person, try to be one of the first things on her calendar.
Don’t outright tell your boss that you’re scheduling a meeting to talk about getting more money. Instead, set up an appointment with a title like, “review of goals” and frame the conversation as wanting to check in to see if you are both aligned regarding your performance and career ambitions. (Hint: If you aren’t, you’ll find out before you decide to use this meeting to ask for the raise!)
Do your homework. Research competitive market value for people in your position, in similar geography, with comparable responsibilities and experience. You can use a site like Glassdoor which sometimes offers specific salary information.
Highlight your key contributions to the team/organization. Use specific and measurable results wherever possible and don’t be afraid to type up this information and present it to your boss. Maybe your initiatives were responsible for an increase in revenue last quarter. Maybe your managerial skills have resulted in awesome company survey results from your direct reports. Don’t credit hog, but make sure your boss knows that you have contributed to the success of the company or team.
Show that a raise would help you evolve and contribute more to the company. These meetings are often a great place to discuss your future at the company. Know where and how you want to evolve. If you show that you’re invested in the company, the company will often show its investment in you.
Don’t present it as an ultimatum. Make a persuasive and compelling argument as to why you believe you should receive a raise. Ask your boss to consider it and, if needed, discuss it with Human Resources. Don’t threaten to quit. That will almost always backfire.
Don’t use a coworker’s raise or promotion as your reason why. Make it about you and your work — not someone else.
If you are denied a raise, don’t panic. Suggest a plan to ensure that you can follow a growth path in your career. Your boss can help you set milestones and goals, which you can work towards and then present accomplishments in 8-12 months when you circle back to this conversation.