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Getting the Raise You Deserve
by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.
There will come a point in your tenure with an employer when you realize that you deserve a raise. As with most salary negotiations, asking for a raise is often uncomfortable at the very least and intimidating at the very most. But getting the raise you deserve should not be such an anxiety-creating event, especially if you follow the strategies outlined in this article. In fact, to better help all workers, this article describes both short-term and long-term tips to ensuring that raise negotiations are professional -- and minimally stressful.
Before we get to the tips, one element is critical to your success: timing. Timing refers to the company's policies and procedures in terms of the amount of time between reviews and raises -- and when it's "acceptable" to ask for a raise. And timing refers to the company's current financial situation as well as the general economic climate. And, finally, timing refers to where you are in terms of your work and major projects. Obviously, it makes sense to ask for a raise:
- within the normal parameters of company policy;
- when the company is in sound financial standing, and
- when you have just had a major success.
One other thing to remember. Generally speaking, if you are doing your job well, then your boss expects you to ask for a raise -- and ideally is prepared to offer you one. However, doing a good job is no longer enough in many organizations. The strategies in this article are designed to prepare you better, reduce your anxiety, and help you achieve your raise and salary goals.
Short-Term Strategies for Getting that RaiseThe following strategies are things you can do now if you have an upcoming review and/or want a raise sooner rather than later.
1. Develop a plan. The most important thing you can do is develop a plan for your raise meeting. Schedule an appointment rather than just walking in and asking for a raise. Have a strategy -- even develop a script you want to follow.
2. Know what you're worth. Examine all aspects of your job and then do a little research to determine your value - both inside and outside the company. Talk to someone in the human resources department and see if you can get pay scales for jobs that are similar to yours. Use a salary calculator or other salary sources and determine the salary range in your geographic area. See our Salary Resources section.
3. Be realistic. Even if you are a superstar, and even if you were hired at the very lowest starting salary, most employers will not give you a raise that pushes you to the top of the salary range in one shot. (And they'll never pay you a salary outside the range.) Most employers look at raises in terms of percentage increases.
4. Focus on what you deserve rather than what you need. Your employer doesn't care if you can't make ends meet because you just bought a new house or a new car -- that's a personal responsibility issue. Focus on why you deserve a raise -- how you've added value to the department and the organization -- rather than any personal needs for a raise.
5. Track contributions and accomplishments. Think of the raise meeting as a job interview. To get the raise you deserve, you need to demonstrate all the positive contributions you have made to the organization - not only for your boss (who should know but doesn't always), but also for whoever is the final decision-maker in deciding the size of your raise. Bring support material -- such as a spreadsheet with your accomplishments -- with you to the meeting. Consider using something like this accomplishments worksheet.
6. Demonstrate commitment to department and organization. Show how you have taken on new projects and assignments, acquired new skills, furthered your education or training, and added new certifications or degrees. Demonstrate how you add value to the department and the organization.
7. Be flexible and open to other options. Never go into a raise meeting with an ultimatum -- unless you're prepared to deal with the consequences -- and be prepared to compromise about the size of the raise. And if money is tight, consider other options/perks that you may able to negotiate for in the short-term to compensate for the lack of the raise. See sidebar (above) for some ideas. See also, Clever Ways to Get a Raise: Perks you Might Not Have Thought About.
8. Focus on the future. While you want to focus on your many accomplishments and contributions to date, you also want to show how you plan to continue contributing to helping your boss, your department, and your organization.
9. Understand the employer's position. There are many other factors besides worth that go into raises, so be sure you understand department and company politics. It's also a good idea to have an understanding of how your boss feels about raises and your standing within the department.
10. Have a strategy, but let boss take the lead. Just as with salary negotiations, you never want to state an actual amount that you want. Instead, let your boss make the first raise offer. Once an offer has been made, take a moment to consider it before you react to it. Review all negotiation strategies in our Salary and Job Offer Negotiation Tutorial.
11. Write a follow-up memo after the meeting. Once the meeting is over, write a follow-up memo summarizing the meeting, demonstrating your value, and highlighting your accomplishments -- and send the memo to your boss as documentation. If you get tongue-tied in these types of meetings, you might want to prepare the memo before the meeting and use it as a basis of negotiation in the meeting.
Long-Term Strategies for Getting that RaiseSo, if you are not in a position currently to get the raise you want, what are some things you can do to prepare for a raise meeting down the road? The following strategies are things you can start doing now to build your negotiating power for that future raise.
1. Set the stage for a future review. If your boss tells you it's not a good time for a raise meeting or if you don't get everything you wanted in your last meeting, now is the time to set the stage for a future meeting. Ask your boss for suggestions on how you can improve and how you can make more contributions to the department and company so that you can get to where you want to be.
2. Raise your profile within the department/organization. We're raised as children to work hard and be modest, but you cannot assume that anyone outside yourself really knows all that you do for the organization. Begin building your brand -- your reputation -- within and beyond your department.
3. Find a mentor in the senior management of the company. Having a person higher up in the organization to mentor you is valuable for a number of reasons, but it's certainly helpful in terms of getting the raise you desire. To find a mentor, identify someone higher in the organization you admire, and test the waters by asking advice. If there seems to be rapport, begin to slowly build a mutual relationship.
4. Do a more thorough job of tracking accomplishments/achievements. If you are having trouble remembering all your accomplishments and contributions, now is the time to begin keeping a diary of all your successes. Keeping such good track will not only help you for your next raise meeting, but will have you better prepared for the job-search if the need or interest arises. Read our article, For Job-Hunting Success: Track and Leverage Your Accomplishments.
Final Thoughts on Getting a RaiseIn many situations, getting the raise you deserve will indeed take a lot of planning and strategy on your part. From reading this article, you should now see that raise meetings often combine elements of job interviewing (tracking contributions and accomplishments) and salary/job offer negotiation. Take the time to be prepared -- and you'll have better success than if you don't. For a quick review of the strategies discussed in this article, read our Do's and Don'ts of Requesting a Raise. Finally, be sure and avail yourself of all the wonderful tools we have in the Salary Negotiation Resources section of Quintessential Careers.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker's Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
Dr. Randall S. Hansen is founder of Quintessential Careers, one of the oldest and most comprehensive career development sites on the Web, as well CEO of EmpoweringSites.com. He is also founder of MyCollegeSuccessStory.com and EnhanceMyVocabulary.com. He is publisher of Quintessential Careers Press, including the Quintessential Careers electronic newsletter, QuintZine. Dr. Hansen is also a published author, with several books, chapters in books, and hundreds of articles. He's often quoted in the media and conducts empowering workshops around the country. Finally, Dr. Hansen is also an educator, having taught at the college level for more than 15 years. Visit his personal Website or reach him by email at randall(at)quintcareers.com.
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