As the job market continues to improve, employees are finally getting some leverage when it comes to negotiating their salaries. Wages are starting to rise, and workers who feel they’re not being paid what they deserve now have better options for finding a new gig with better pay.
At the same time, some companies are trying to hold the line on overall salary hikes. According to Willis Towers Watson, the average raise will be 3 percent in 2017.
Employers report that they gave a 4.6 percent increase to workers with the best performance reviews this year, and employees who have taken on significantly more work or haven’t received a raise in several years may be able to secure even more. But in most cases you’ll have to ask for a bigger raise in order to get one. “For a lot of people, employment prospects have never been better,” says executive coach Michelle Woodward. “So now is the time to go in and ask for a raise.”
If your company is currently setting budgets for next year, that’s another reason to have the conversation soon. Some companies plan raises even before they do end-of-year reviews, so try to request a meeting before the reviews get started in order to make your request known. Even if budgets are already set, having this conversation now could plant the seed for a raise down the road, and give you a sense of when might be the best time to ask again.
If you’ve been at your job for at least a year and believe that you deserve a big raise, follow these steps to convince your boss of the same:
1. Do your homework.
The key to winning a raise from your boss is going into your meeting prepared. First, make sure that your company can afford to give you a raise. If there have been recent layoffs or talk of belt-tightening, asking for a raise can seem tone-deaf at best and greedy at worst.
Once you know that your company is able to give out decent raises this year, figure out how much you can realistically request. If you’re close with coworkers, inquire about what they make. If not, do some research on sites like Glassdoor or PayScale to get a sense of what the market value is for workers in similar roles.
Pull together a document outlining you case. You need to show how your workload has increased and detail any quantifiable wins such as new sales or awards that you’ve brought into the company since either last year or the last time you received a significant pay increase. “You want to show not only that you’ve done your work, but that you’ve gone above and beyond what’s required in your job,” says millennial career expert Jill Jacinto.
2. Think beyond cash.
While not much beats cold, hard cash, if you don’t think that your employer will realistically say ‘yes’ to your target salary, now’s also an opportunity to consider whether there are any other benefits you could ask for in the meeting in lieu of or in addition to a raise. For example, you might ask for a flexible working arrangement, additional vacation time or a better title.
“If they have no money, there are things that can help your perception at work,” says Vicky Oliver, the Manhattan-based author of 301 Smart Answers to Tough Business Etiquette Questions. “They might be able to give you a title and a corner office, and then it will look like you’re making more, which will give you an easier case to make down the road.”
3. Practice your pitch.
Once you know what you’re asking for, practice making the request out loud. Asking for money can be uncomfortable, and the more you practice, the less likely you are to get nervous in the meeting. Run over the pitch with a friend, if possible, or at least for yourself in the mirror a few times to increase your confidence. Career expert Nicole Williams recommends videotaping your pitch, and watching for things like fidgeting or repeated words. “In this conversation, presentation is everything,” she says. “Watching yourself back can give you great insight.”
4. Don’t take the conversation personally.
When you are meeting with your boss to ask for more money, it’s important to act as professionally as possible, even if asking for money is an emotionally charged issue. Focus more on why you deserve more money because of your work, rather than your need to cover expenses. This is not the time for complaining or comparing your workload or pay to your peers. “This should really be a conversation about you and you job, and why you deserve more money on the basis of your performance,” says career expert Julie Hochheiser Ilkovich.
5. Prepare for a ‘no.’
Whenever you ask for a raise or anything else from your boss, there’s always a chance that she’ll turn you down. If so, follow up by asking for concrete steps that you can take over the next few months that could make you eligible for a raise. “When you hear ‘no,’ think of it more as a ‘not now,’” says Caroline Ceniza-Levine, co-founder of career coaching firm Six-Figure Start. “It could mean that if you ask in three months you’ll get a different response, or that if you asked in a different way you would have gotten different response.”
Make a plan to check in again the next quarter or two, and spend that time completing and documenting your progress. If your boss denies your request for a raise and can’t or won’t give you solid feedback on how you can change his mind in the future, that might mean that it’s time to move on and look for a new job elsewhere. Even if you don’t leave, finding a new role might make your current employer suddenly more open to salary negotiations. Of course, if you’re using that strategy to secure a raise, you need to be prepared fully to walk away from your current role.