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Asking for a Raise in This Economy? Absolutely.

by Contributor

It’s been a rough couple of years for workers. First the market crashed, taking our retirement savings with it. Then, companies told us that in a down economy, they were firing some of us and freezing pay of the rest. In some cases, we’re doing twice as much work and yet for many of us, our pay has stubbornly stayed the same.

So it’s time to ask for a raise.

Or rather, it might be time. First, you need to figure out if you’re underpaid, and then you need to ask in the right way. Here are a few tips to help you do that.

How to Ask for a Raise

Determine Your Market Value

Unless there is a reason you deserve higher-than-average pay, you generally want to ask for a raise because you’re being paid less than other people doing the same job. To do that, you need to find your “market value.” This is what you would be paid, generally speaking, if you worked the same job at another company. There are a couple of ways we can figure this out.

At GetRaised, where I work, we use a mashup of many data sources to show people whether or not they are underpaid (you can check with us for free at GetRaised.com). If you’d rather do it yourself, your first stop should be the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment Statistics, which uses national survey data to tell you how much people in your industry and area make. The website is a bit difficult to use, but the data is in there, I promise.

You should also check local job listings and salaries in your area using Indeed.com and SimplyHired.com. If there are open jobs that are listed with salaries higher than what you currently make, and you’re qualified for those job listings, it’s great evidence that you can use to request a reasonable raise.

Accomplishments and Goals

The raise conversation is your opportunity to run through your highlight reel with your boss—your chance to build your case with hard, supporting evidence. If you’re doing more work than before, prove it. If you’ve taken on new leadership roles, won new business, or helped the company increase revenue, describe to your boss exactly how. If you’ve expanded your skill-set with new certifications, continuing education, or industry awards, point to them. Bottom line, you want to build a logical case that will help your boss arrive at a logical decision. Organizing your recent accomplishments and achievements will help make that happen.

Just as important as what you’ve done, you’ll want to map out what you’ll do. Identify a handful of short- and long-term goals. Perhaps you’d like to take on a managerial role in the next year. Or maybe you’d like to spearhead your company’s floundering social media presence. Perhaps you’ve got a target revenue generation figure in mind. Show your boss that you have concrete goals that benefit both you and the company and you’ll undoubtedly help your case for a raise.

The Nitty Gritty

So much of the raise request is in the details—how to best approach your boss, figuring out your appearance on the day of your meeting, and how you can prepare to negotiate are all worth thinking about. Our GetRaised Raise Guides cover just about everything you can think of, but here are a few details worth remembering:

  • Know Your Boss’s Calendar - If your boss is heading out of town for a week of business travel, you don’t want to make your raise request a day before he or she leaves. Similarly, if you know morning’s are hectic for you boss, approach the conversation in the afternoon.
  • Look Sharp - While a raise request isn’t an interview, you should think of it as one. On the day of your raise request meeting, step up your attire a notch. And be sure to keep comfort in mind – nothing’s worse than a too-tight collar or an ill-fitting blouse when you’re making your case.
  • Understand Your Company - Do you know when your company plans the annual budget? If you’re pursuing a raise, you should. Once the budget has been divided, your boss may not have any wiggle room to give you a raise even if he or she absolutely wants to. Do you know your industry’s peak season? Again, valuable information. Picture an account asking for a raise in early April. Probably not a prime time to do so. Don’t make your request when things are crazy at work. Nor should you do it during the down season (if applicable). Make your request when things are clipping along at a good, solid pace.

So, as we eek into recovery mode, a raise may be in order. If you’re going to pursue one, put your best foot forward. Figure out if you’re underpaid with any of the tools that exist (GetRaised.com, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Indeed.com, etc.), map out your accomplishments and goals, and nail down the details specific to your situation. If you prepare a strong, timely, evidence-driven case, you’ll see positive results.

About the author. Dave Clarke is the Communications Strategist at GetRaised, a web service that shows people whether or not they are underpaid – and gives them the tools to do something about it. To learn if you’re underpaid, check out GetRaised.com.


Published or updated February 28, 2011.
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1 EasyFinanceAdvice

Great post! Make sure to work your tail off during the first year of employment. Your boss will have no choice when they realize how much of an asset you are.

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