Asking for a raise probably isn’t on anyone’s list of fun things to do. Nobody enjoys it. Even if you’re 100% confident you’re going to win Employee of the Year, asking for more money just feels . . . awkward.
But what if there was a way to get a raise without going through that anxiety-inducing, sweat-filled pitch to your leader and have them respect you more in the process? Well, it’s possible.
Here’s a crazy idea: Don’t directly ask for a raise. I’m being serious.
I’m going to show you how to ask for a raise—without actually having to ask.
How to Prepare to Ask for a Raise
There’s almost nothing you should do without first preparing, especially when it’s something with high stakes, like asking for a raise. It’s like I always say, preparation breeds confidence, and confidence will absolutely increase the likelihood of your success.
Get in the right mindset to ask for a raise with these two steps:
1. Do a Thorough Self-Assessment
Now is the time to seriously reflect on your own work performance. Be honest. Are you already doing the kind of work that deserves a raise?
Ask yourself these two questions:
- If I were my leader, what kind of person would I give a raise to?
- Am I going above and beyond in my current role?
If you’re not already going above and beyond what your role requires, now’s the time to start seizing opportunities:
- Look for people within your company who need help and help them.
- Look for problems you can solve and solve them.
- Look for projects that no one else wants to do and do them.
- Look at your job description and outperform it. If you haven’t reviewed your job description or expectations in a while, spend some time on that and think of ways you can take those to the next level.
2. Ask Your Peers for Feedback
In addition to taking a careful look inward, get an honest assessment of your work from some coworkers and/or leaders you trust. Hopefully, this won’t turn into a roast session. The people who work closely with you every day are pretty likely to have feedback on some things you can improve on, as well as some things you’re already doing well.
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Give your colleagues permission to be clear and direct. Ask them questions like:
- How am I doing?
- What areas of my role can I improve in?
- What do other people think of me?
- What do you think my professional reputation is?
When you’re really outperforming yourself in your role, others will notice. And if they have criticism to share, stay humble. It’s a growth opportunity—not a death sentence.
Once you’ve spent the time preparing to ask for a raise, you have to find the right timing.
When to Ask for a Raise
Timing is everything. This isn’t a topic you casually talk about when you happen to be in the same room as your leader. Instead, find an intentional time to start this conversation. And remember, you’re not asking for a raise outright. You’re meeting with your leader to create a growth plan that will naturally lead to more pay.
If you’re working in a healthy work environment, then you probably have regular performance reviews with your leader to talk about your work performance, progress and goals. This is the best time to let your leader know you’re interested in creating a growth plan.
If you don’t have a regular performance review, or if you don’t want to wait until your next one, take the initiative and just ask for a meeting with your leader.
How to Ask for a Raise
All right, so you’ve scheduled your meeting. Now it’s game time. Here are some practical strategies for navigating a growth plan with your leader.
1. Start the Conversation
You can’t ask for a raise without asking for more responsibility. Your main request should be this: Give me more responsibility so I can create more value for the company. When you frame it that way, the money will naturally follow.
With that in mind, here’s an example for how you can start the conversation:
I’m really happy and grateful to be at this company (assuming that’s true) and I want to make myself more valuable to the team. Are you open to creating a growth plan with me that will allow me to grow professionally and financially?
See, finances are still part of the equation, but they’re not the focal point. When your leader sees you’re humble, hungry and smart, and that you’re serious about putting in the work it takes to earn more, they’ll be way more likely to want to give you a raise.
So, once you’ve presented this to your leader, listen to their feedback and spend some time creating that growth plan with them.
2. Make the Plan Clear
This needs to be a clear discussion about what growth opportunities are available to you at this company over time. Don’t walk away from the meeting until you’ve written down specific things you can start doing to take on more responsibility.
Come to the meeting prepared with questions in case the conversation stalls:
- What can I be learning in my downtime?
- What books should I be reading?
- What areas of the company do you think could use my help?
You should come away from this meeting feeling jazzed because:
- You’ve been heard.
- You didn’t have to put anyone in an awkward position (yourself included).
- You now have a concrete plan that you and your leader have developed together.
3. Actually Work the Plan
Don’t go through all this trouble of creating a growth plan unless you’re actually going to put it to work. If you think your leader is too far removed from your daily responsibilities to notice whether you’ve been working the plan or not, you’re wrong. When you’re killing it in your role, word will travel fast.
But the same is also true when you’re slacking. So, do what you said you would do, and you won’t have to worry about asking for a raise.
You now know exactly what to expect and exactly what you need to do to get where you want to be both professionally and financially.
An important note: If your leader isn’t open to creating a growth plan with you or discussing how you could move up in the company, it might be time to think about whether or not this is the right place for you. Having no opportunity to grow is actually a common reason people leave their jobs.
If you’re wondering whether or not you’re in the right role at the right place, check out the free Should I Quit My Job Quiz on my website.
4. Be Patient and Persistent
Remember, this isn’t going to happen overnight. Don’t go back to your leader in a month and say, “See? I’m following the plan! Where’s the money?”
If you’re putting this plan into action in a healthy work culture—and if you’re truly delivering what you’ve agreed to—you’ll get a raise without having to bring it up again. However, if it’s been a year since you and your leader developed your growth plan, and you’ve been knocking it out of the park but have yet to see the raise or promotion, then it’s fine to request another meeting with them and (respectfully) reference the plan you created together. All the guidelines we’ve mentioned still apply.
Getting a raise and/or promotion takes time, perseverance and patience. But if you’re in your sweet spot and truly passionate about what you’re doing, that’s the real reward. The raise is just a perk.
More Tips on Asking for a Raise
There are good ways—and bad ways—to go about asking for a raise. Here are some of the most important do’s and don’ts to keep in mind during your conversation:
- Do focus on your responsibilities. Remember, you should be increasing your value at the company if you expect to earn more money.
- Don’t rely on seniority. Listen, folks: Being at a company for a certain period of time and checking off a few boxes doesn’t mean you’ve earned a raise!
- Do keep it personal. Focus on your skills and your contributions to the company.
- Don’t compare yourself to others. Comparison is cancer. Don’t compare how much you make with how much your coworkers are making. There could be a thousand different reasons one of your peers makes more than you—from coming in with more experience to having different responsibilities—and whining about it isn’t going to help your case.
- Do express gratitude. Humility and gratitude will go a long way in showing your leader that you’re ready for the next challenge. And going in guns blazing, angry, offended or entitled will hurt your chances of convincing your leader of anything.
- Don’t threaten to quit your job. Shockingly, an ultimatum isn’t going to result in your leader asking you to name your price over bourbon and cigars.
Need Advice on Finding Your Sweet Spot?
I’d love to help. If you need some guidance on growing in your career, listen to The Ken Coleman Show and call in with your career questions at 844.747.2577. You can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.