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How to Ask for a Raise

Asking for a raise probably isn’t on anyone’s list of fun things to do. 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 pitch to your leader and have them respect you more in the process? Well, it’s possible.

Here’s how to go about asking for a raise in a way that will get the best results.

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. 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.

Should you stay or leave your job? Take this quiz to find out in five minutes or less.

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 think of it as not asking for a raise outright, but rather 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. But be careful about when you set up that meeting. Make sure it’s not at a time when your leader is stressed or under a lot of pressure, and make sure you’re able to have the conversation in person. If that’s not possible right now with so many people working from home, have the meeting face-to-face on Zoom (not via phone or email).

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. Ask for more responsibility. 

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, 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.

If they say no to the above question, this may not be in the best workplace for you. If they say yes to this question, you’re on to the next step!

2. Ask for your leader’s feedback. 

Come to the meeting prepared with questions that can inform the growth plan and show you’re ready to go above and beyond, like:

  • What areas of the company do you think could use my help?
  • What are some areas I can improve in?
  • How do you see my current position evolving over the next few years?
  • What can I be learning and reading in my downtime to help me grow in my role?

Once you’ve presented the idea of a growth plan to your leader and genuinely listened to their feedback, it’s time to map out the plan with them.

3. Create a clear growth plan. 

Don’t walk away from the meeting until you’ve written down specific things you can start doing to take on more responsibility. Talk to your leader about the logistics of how and when you can start putting these changes into practice and the specific goals that should be accomplished a month, six months or a year from now.

And if your company doesn’t already use KRA (Key Results Area) statements—which are descriptions of what’s expected and required of each role in the company—see if you and your leader can build that out together. Then you can start doing the level of work that lines up with the KRA of the position you want to aim for.

You should come away from this meeting with your leader 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.

4. Actually follow 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 may also want to keep a running list of goals you hit, problems you solve, and money you make for the company. Take that list to your next review meeting with your leader as concrete evidence of how you’ve been successfully working the plan.

Remember, 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.

5. 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, you’ve been knocking it out of the park, but you still haven’t received 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 I’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.

Mistakes to Avoid When Asking for a Raise 

There are good ways—and bad ways—to go about asking for a raise. Here are some of the most common mistakes to avoid during your conversation:

Mistake #1: Comparing Yourself to Others 

Comparison is cancer. Focus on your skills and your contributions to the company, and 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. 

Mistake #2: Being Prideful 

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.

Mistake #3: Relying 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! Having a growth mindset and going above and beyond to serve your team matter way more than how long you’ve been working there.

Mistake #4: Threatening to quit your job.

Don’t use the job offers you’ve received from other companies to manipulate your leader into paying you more (you don’t want to find out how replaceable you are). And don’t threaten to walk out the door if you don’t get a raise. Shockingly, an ultimatum isn’t going to result in your leader asking you to name your price over bourbon and cigars.

Just use your common sense and make sure you’re doing everything you can to grow and serve your team, and a raise (at the right company) should come naturally. I know you can do it!

Need More Career Advice?

Whether you’re looking for more tips on negotiating your salary, quitting your current job with class and confidence, or looking for a new job, I’m here to help. For guidance on growing in your career, listen to The Ken Coleman Show and call in with your questions at 844.747.2577. You can also email me at ask@kencoleman.com. I’d love to talk with you!

Ken Coleman

About the author

Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman is America's Career Coach, the nationally syndicated radio host of The Ken Coleman Show and #1 national bestselling author. He has been featured in Forbes and appeared on Fox News, Fox Business Network, and the Rachael Ray Show. Since 2014, he has served at Ramsey Solutions, where he offers expert advice every day to help thousands of people discover what they were meant to do and how to land their dream job. Learn More.

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