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I've talked about how to make the most of your most valuable financial asset -- your career, getting consistent raises by delivering what your boss wants you to deliver. But sometimes, even when you do more than expected, that raise, promotion, or bonus still doesn’t come. At this point, you need to take the bull by the horns and ask for a raise.
Remember, bosses aren't in the business of handing out large pay increases, even to top performers. They want to get the most work out of employees for the least amount of pay. David Lorenzo, author of Career Intensity, says, “Employers don’t automatically hand out raises these days. Remember that most businesses try to obtain services as inexpensively as possible. This includes labor. Chances are good that sometimes you will only receive more if you ask for it.”
Larry Myler, author of the book Indispensable By Monday says, “The secret is to create unexpected money for your company before you ask for a piece of it back. First increase profits by cutting costs, increasing revenues or boosting productivity. Second, document the financial impact of your actions so your boss can see it in black and white.”
Fortunately, you should already have this handled if you've taken my advice about deserving a raise. So you have the ammunition needed to ask for more money.
Now admittedly, asking for a raise is not a pleasant task, so you need to be prepared to make good use of your "ask time." Here are some steps to take when asking for a raise:
1. Determine your salary rank. Find out how much your position is worth by visiting www.salary.com. They list statistics on average incomes for specific jobs across the country. If your pay is well below average, you’ll want to include this in your discussion since you’ll be an even better candidate for a raise.
2. Pick the right time. Here are some times that are better than most when asking for a raise:
- When business is booming.
- If you’ve played a key role in the company’s success.
- While the next year’s budget is being developed.
- After you’ve received an award.
- After you’ve saved significant money for the firm.
I once had an employee ask me for a raise that amounted to $3,000 per year. Since he’d just developed a simple idea that saved the company $125,000, it was easy for me to grant his request.
- After you’ve agreed to take on additional responsibility.
In the late 90’s, the company I worked for went through a reorganization. I was promoted and given a significant increase in responsibility. My boss at that time (the CEO of the company) wanted me to assume the extra duties without any increase in pay at all. Needless to say, I was not too excited about that, brought up the subject of how I was doing more (more than what two people used to do), and how I wanted to be compensated for it. He was reluctant but eventually agreed to give me a nice pay raise.
3. List your accomplishments. Put both your salary research and accomplishments on paper. The bottom line is creating value for your company. There is almost always a way for a company to reward a star performer. This step should be easy if you’ve been doing the regular updates we discussed earlier.
4. Rehearse. Do not wing it. Practice your presentation aloud until it is smooth and professional. Remember, you are selling yourself, and the more you rehearse, the more confident you’ll be.
You'll want to use your own words, but the gist of what you want to say is this:
- Tell how much you love the company and your job.
- Show how you've been over-delivering in your current position by sharing your accomplishments.
- Ask for an increase in compensation to reflect the additional work you've been doing.
5. Prepare for all reactions.
- If your employer says “yes,” express your thanks.
- If the answer depends on the approval of others, express appreciation for your boss’s support in the matter.
- If the answer is “no,” you might want to suggest other means of compensation, such as more vacation days, flexible hours and the option to telecommute, or ask to reopen negotiations in a few months.
6. Consider other options.
- Sometimes the best way to ask for a raise is to get a promotion and you can use the same steps to ask for a promotion.
- If a raise is denied and you’re underpaid for your contribution, it may be time to update your resume and explore other job opportunities.
7. Begin the process again. When you receive a raise, begin delivering more than expected in the new job and working for the next raise.
Want a couple success stories? Here's one reader who's made the most of her career by working hard at it and asking for raises when needed. Here's another who went above and beyond the call of duty to get a raise even in tough economic times. Finally, here's another one who got a raise (and a good one at that) in a tough economy.
You can get a raise simply by earning it. But sometimes you have to earn it AND ask for it!