Today is Equal Pay Day, the date into the year that represents the date that women’s pay finally equals what men made the previous year. Women are typically paid just 80 cents on average to every dollar paid to men. Even if you are lucky enough to love your job (most of the time) you still don’t want to essentially work for free. I asked for a raise for the first time a few years ago. At the time, asking for what I thought I deserved and having a frank discussion about money was outside of my comfort zone — but I did it anyway. I researched the typical salary for my position, consulted mentors and confidants (and Google), listed my accomplishments, practiced my points countless times, and stepped out to do a power pose before the scheduled meeting. In an ideal world, your boss would notice your accomplishments and give you a raise. In the real world, that is rarely the case. If you want a raise or promotion you have to ask for one. How do you ask for a raise and get it? I asked managers to share best practices for asking for a raise.
1. Share your goals and ask for feedback.
Have an honest and open conversation with your manager. “If you’ve been in your current role for at least six months, then in a non-pushy or self-serving way, have a conversation with your supervisor to let them know that, while your first priority is to excel in your current role, your long-term goal is to advance and that you want to make sure you’re doing everything that you can to set yourself up for success,” says Danielle Harlan, Ph.D., the founder, and CEO of The Center for Advancing Leadership and Human Potential. Don’t stop there. “Ask for their recommendations on how you can improve in your current role and what you can do to position yourself well for the next role.” Then implement the feedback so you’re on track when it’s time to make your ask.
2. Take on more responsibility.
“My best advice to fast-track a promotion is to dress for the job you want — and the job you have,” recommends Jenna Tanenbaum, the founder of the smoothie delivery service,GreenBlender. “First, command the tasks and responsibilities in your current role, and then start solving the problems that your soon-to-be self would be working on. The only way to effectively do this is through careful time management. Understand the core strategy of your organization, ask lots of hard questions, and align your priorities with that of the company. You’ll be running the show in no time,” she says.
3. Proactively communicate wins.
Jenn Grasso, vice president of product at the fashion subscription service Le Tote, says she gave an unplanned promotion to a product manager: “The most important thing she did was consistently exceed expectations in terms of her current role and job responsibilities. She always took on more than was expected of her, and managed these projects as well as her more senior colleagues,” she says. And she didn’t wait to share all of her accomplishments at once. “She was also great at proactively communicating her accomplishments to me. When she approached me with her request for a promotion, I already knew she deserved it! Every step of the way, she made it easy for me to see that she was a star performer who deserved a better title and salary.” Moral of the story? Share your accomplishments early and often.
4. Demonstrate your accomplishments and added value.
Show your value. “You want to be able to demonstrate that you have taken on additional responsibilities, as well as provide specific details about your accomplishments. Share examples of projects you have completed and how they’ve positively impacted the business. Was there an increase in revenue? Did you save a customer? If you’ve received positive feedback from colleagues or other leaders regarding your work, be prepared to share that with your manager as well. These are not only good indicators of your contributions but also of your future potential,” recommends Kim Mullaney, executive vice president and chief human resources officer at Monster. As she says, “Doing a great job and working a lot of hours isn’t enough to warrant a promotion or raise. You need to demonstrate how you’ve gone above and beyond to add value to your team and organization.” Identify ways you’ve earned money for the company, for example through sales, upsells, or creating efficiencies. Numbers are very convincing: Include statistics and measurable data wherever possible. Instead of saying you doubled monthly sales, say that you grew monthly sales by 50 percent, a difference of $200,000.
5. Focus on why you deserve it (not why you need it).
Before you can convince your boss that you deserve a raise, you need to believe that you’ve earned it. “The best approach to asking for a raise is to focus on deserving one versus needing one. Too often, people argue that a raise is important because of very real costs in their lives, however, an employer is looking to give raises to people based on performance,” says Beth Monaghan, CEO and co-founder of the public relations firm, InkHouse. Everyone would like to make more money, but don’t bring up personal reasons like your rent increasing, needing to plan an expensive birthday party for your dog or your vacation to Hawaii. Stick to discussing your performance and impact.
6. Practice your pitch and anticipate questions.
“This sounds strange and unnatural to a lot of people, but conversations in which you are asking for something almost always go better if you’ve rehearsed in advance and have considered the many possible responses that you’ll get to each of your requests, and how you’ll address these responses. After role-playing, the part of a resistant boss, having the actual conversation with her will be infinitely easier—and you’ll have more confidence since you will be able to anticipate their responses and know how to address them,” says Harlan.
7. Do your research.
Sure, we’d all like to be making one billion dollars (with a b) but that’s probably not a reasonable or feasible number. “Before any salary negotiation, conduct background research to determine your market value. You need to have a solid foundation for the request and realistic expectations. Study salary trends for professionals in your geographic area and industry with similar job titles, qualifications, and responsibilities,” advises Diane Domeyer, executive director of The Creative Group. Use sites like PayScale, Glassdoor andSalary.com to find out the market rate for your role or intended one. It will be useful when your boss asks you for the amount you’d like to make or tells you the amount she’d give. Researchers at Columbia Business School found that it’s best to give a precise number instead of a round number because it makes the person seem informed. They found that people who gave a precise number were more likely to get conciliatory counteroffers. Instead of saying you want $60,000 or $65,000 ask for $63,500. It’s also helpful to know the average raise is between one and five percent. You don’t want to suggest a number that is completely unrealistic.
8. Talk about the future.
Show you’re invested in the company. “Every manager values loyalty. Start the conversation on a positive note, and explain how much you like working for your manager and the company. Then explain what you want to do in the future, and how you plan to contribute to growing the business,” explains Mandy Gilbert, founder of the recruitment firm Creative Niche and tech school RED Academy. Volunteer for a project or create one by being a proactive problem-solver. When leveraging a project to get a raise, explain the new responsibilities you’d like to take on, and how it will help the company grow and generate more money.
9. Be prepared to hear no.
Don’t be discouraged by a no. “If you don’t get the pay increase or new position you requested, it doesn’t have to be the end of your negotiation. Request an interim performance appraisal with clearly defined goals and salary adjustment before your next annual review. This puts you in line for a possible increase sooner and also communicates how seriously you take your career,” says Julia Bonem, a senior career consultant at Resume Strategists. If a raise and promotion isn’t going to happen right now, she suggests asking for things beyond salary such as bonuses, incentives, professional development opportunities, or more vacation time.
The worst that can happen is that your boss says no. Either way, you’ll learn to advocate for yourself and understand and appreciate your worth. And there’s not much chance you’ll get more money if you don’t ask!
I originally wrote this piece for Forbes.