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The Dos and Don’ts of Asking for a Raise at Work

Woman sitting at a table asking for a raise

Financial author Ramit Sethi likes to say that there’s only so much that we can cut from our budget. But our earning potential? That has no limits. Maybe you need to change jobs or find a new career to ultimately maximize your income, but a good way to start is by asking for a raise.

There is a certain art to negotiating a pay bump, though. Here is a short list of things you should and shouldn’t do to increase your income, from ideal timing to how to research your salary.



The process of getting a raise begins before you’ve even started your job. By negotiating your starting salary (using the same techniques outlined below), you’ll have a better starting point when it comes time to ask for a raise. This is also when you have some of the most leverage to negotiate your salary—the company doesn’t want to lose their preferred candidate, and you’re less restricted by company policy or cost of living increases that make a significant increase less likely. Usually there’s a salary band for the position you’re being hired for; the closer you are to the top of that band, the better off you’ll be for the next conversation.



Unfortunately, as a general rule of thumb, companies aren’t looking to hand out money to their employees. You need to craft a strong argument as to why you deserve to get paid more. Use a variety of platforms to figure out what you’re worth, such as:

This is a good time to leverage your network, too. Who do you know in the industry? Can they give you insight into what someone in your role is typically paid at their company? If you have a connection in Human Resources, even better. They should be able to tell you the industry-wide scoop on salaries.

Ultimately, the figure you come up with should be based on similar titles, years of experience, education, responsibilities, and the earning potential in your geographic area.



One common mistake people tend to make when asking for a raise? They make it about their personal finances. Sorry, but for your employer, that is the definition of a YOU problem. You don’t deserve a raise because your expenses have gone up. State your case based on your merit, not your financial circumstances.



How do you expect the conversation with your manager to go? What questions will they ask you? Why do you deserve a raise? What figure do you have in mind, and what salary are you willing to accept? How will you respond if they deny your request?

These are some of the questions you should be thinking about before you get into the conversation. You can even bring some notes so you don’t forget anything. That way you’ll have the answers ready and can keep the conversation moving towards your goal: more dollar signs.


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Why DO you deserve a raise? Maybe skip the PowerPoint presentation, but you will need to outline the reasons why you merit more money.

What are your recent accomplishments? Demonstrate your value, and that starts with your performance. Bonus points for things you achieved outside of your role! Just like resume writing, it’s stronger if you can showcase what you’ve done in concrete facts and figures. This is reductive, but in essence, how have you contributed to the company’s bottom line?

How has your role evolved, and what new responsibilities should be on your job description? If you’ve started taking on more responsibility, that’s a pretty strong sign that you should be bringing home a higher paycheck. Remind your boss of all the things you’re doing at work—and angle for that new title while you’re at it! This is important to keep in mind as you’re researching your salary, too. You want to look at salaries for the job you’re doing, not necessarily the title that you have.



When should you schedule the meeting? Timing is everything when it comes to getting a raise. You want your boss to be in a generous mood, so avoid stressful times of the year (and definitely Friday afternoon—no one likes a Friday afternoon meeting). You need money to be available, so maybe line up your meeting when it’s time for budgeting (and avoid asking for a raise if your organization just went through some financial setbacks). You want to be on your A game, so think about what time of day you’re at your best. Your annual performance evaluation, should you have one, is a great opportunity to ask for a raise, assuming you did an outstanding job.



You may or may not know what some of your coworkers make. Either way, don’t play the comparison game. Your paycheck isn’t based on what your team around you earns. It’s determined by how you perform the duties of your role. Plus, it won’t endear you to your boss to whine about what other people are making compared to you.



Yes, of course I’d like a 20% raise! But unless you’ve taken a serious leap in responsibility, that’s probably not in the cards. Know what you deserve and also what a realistic raise might be. Be ready and willing to compromise—after all, there’s always another job out there. Take the small win now, and leverage another offer into a higher salary later.



What are you waiting for? Don’t wait for your manager to initiate the conversation. You are your strongest advocate! Do your homework, schedule your meeting, and march into their office ready to conquer the world. You might just come out with a hefty raise and a new lease on life.

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Nick Bohlen

About Nick Bohlen

Nick Bohlen is a communications strategist at VSECU, sharing ideas and information with staff, members, and Vermonters. When he’s not writing, he enjoys reading, traveling, and exploring Vermont’s great outdoors with his wife, daughter, and dog.
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