How to ask for a raise

Consider this before you ask your boss for more moola.

© retrostar /

Probably one of the most nerve-wracking moments in a professional career is the day when you decide to ask for a raise. There’s so much riding on that conversation with the boss—and so much that can go wrong: the day and time to have the conversation; the timing of that conversation; misreading the company culture and how you fit in; and the perception by you, the boss and others of how you do your job. Do you really contribute to the company’s bottom line? When deciding to ask for a raise, be ready to explain how well you do your job, and why that means you should be earning more money. But, don’t just wing it.

Prep for the meeting

  1. Determine your true motivation. Don’t do it because you heard that a colleague got a raise. Do it because you have determined that your skills have made an impact on the company’s success.
  2. Research the job. Gather data. Go to Glassdoor and other job listing websites and check out the going rate for your job or the higher-level job you feel qualified for.
  3. Understand the organization’s precedent for reviews. Can you ask for a raise outside of the usual performance review cycle? Some company cultures are OK with that.
  4. Understand your supervisor. When does that person like to have conversations like this? Are they a morning or evening person? Is it better to go to lunch?
  5. Give yourself a prep talk before the meeting, or practice with a mentor.
  6. Everyone is nervous about this process. But picture yourself asking for the job raise on behalf of someone else—your family, your friends—to help give you the courage you need.

Follow these negotiation tips

  1. Make a list of your accomplishments and discuss details. Put numbers, dollars and percentage points to those achievements to quantify it.
  2. It’s less about what you need and more about what they need. Tell them you want to contribute to the organization, and that you want to be the company superstar in three or four years because you exceeded all expectations. Every part of the raise process is really not about you.
  3. Don’t get defeated by the first “No.” Don’t be defensive, be curious. If the boss says you are not ready for an increase or a new position now, take that as helpful information and ask what you need to do to show that you are qualified and capable. Then ask when you can have the conversation again.

If no monetary raise, discuss benefits

  1. Ask for more flexible time, such as working four days a week or telecommuting.
  2. Ask for company-sponsored or paid-for professional development help. Take some courses that could help you advance yourself within the organization.
  3. Ask for a title change, which helps with your long-term objectives of steadily getting more recognition inside the organization.
  4. Ask to get out of the cubicle and get an office so you can become more productive.
  5. Ask for another performance review sooner instead of waiting on the usual one-year cycle, and what deliverables they would expect from you.

“Remember that people do this every day. They get told ‘yes’ and they get told ‘no’ and life goes on. But just because it’s ‘no’ right now doesn’t mean it’s ‘no’ forever. You always have options.” -Amanda Panarese, director of alumni career services at the University of Virginia

(January 2018)