When I graduated from college and got my first real job, I was just so happy to get full-time work that I didn’t ask for more money when offered a salary. The very next year, the Great Recession hit. That, along with the fact that I was working at a nonprofit, I never asked for a raise once. In fact, in all of the years I was traditionally employed, I never asked for a raise. That’s not to say I didn’t get them eventually, but I never asked on my own. By not asking for a raise, I’ve left thousands of dollars on the table.
Only when I became self-employed and realized asking for a raise and negotiating are key to staying in business did I actually start asking for more. It was scary but not as much as I thought. Here’s how to ask for a raise when you’ve never done it.
1. Make a list
We all want more money, that’s a given. But you can’t just storm into your boss’ office and demand a raise. You have to give good reasons and actually back it up. So before you ask for a raise, you want to make a list.
What have you done that is above and beyond your job description? In what ways have you made the company money or helped reduce expenses? You want very specific things to call upon when asking for a raise and you want to be able to back it up.
2. Have metrics
One way that you can back up everything you’ve done for your company is by providing metrics. Have you boosted sales 100 percent or cut costs 20 percent? Have you increased attendance to events by 15 percent? Do you have consumer or customer feedback that is related to your work? Now is the time to share actual numbers, real feedback, and any other metrics that support your case.
3. Find the right time
When is the right time to ask for a raise? It depends, but there are a number of factors to consider. Typically, it’s a good idea to ask for a raise after at least the year mark of work. If you have an annual review coming up, that’s a great time to make the ask.
If you don’t have one coming up, talk to your boss and let them know you’d like to set aside some time for a meeting to chat about your duties. If you know when your company’s fiscal year is, be sure to schedule a meeting ahead of time so any raises can hopefully be accounted for before the budget is set.
Additionally, make sure it’s a good time for you and your boss, when there isn’t so much going on that this meeting will cause extra stress.
4. Know what you want
When asking for a raise, it’s key to know what you want. You’ll want to be specific with the number you have in mind, so that you can ask for that. If your company says yes, great! If they say no, you can negotiate and see if there’s a compromise that will work for both parties.
If a raise is not possible because of finances, see if you can negotiate other things like extra time off, working from home one day a week, educational classes, etc. Though financial compensation is ideal, there are other things you can ask for if that is not possible.
5. Go for the ask
The toughest part of anything is the execution. Asking for a raise is no different. But preparing your list, getting your metrics in order, finding the right time and knowing what you want will help you prepare and set the stage.
Once you have your ducks in a row, you can go for the ask. Practice with a friend or family member beforehand and prepare for a variety of responses.
You want to prepare for what to say if they say no or if they counter offer. Practicing the exact wording of your ask can also be helpful. For example, you could say, “Given the work that I’ve been able to accomplish, I’d like a $10,000 raise.”
Then you wait. Don’t apologize or hesitate. Give them a chance to think about it and respond and then you can go from there.
Asking for a raise is tough stuff especially if you’ve never done it. It’s scary and can make us feel unsure or like we’re taking a risk. But really the worst thing they’ll say is no. You won’t get fired for asking for a raise and it’s a common practice in different employment settings. Not asking for a raise makes you different, actually. When you ask for a raise, you can help advocate for your worth, help beat the cost of inflation and make sure you can reach your financial goals.
Melanie Lockert is a personal finance expert, the blogger behind DearDebt.com and author of the book “Dear Debt: A story about breaking up with debt.” Melanie paid off $81,000 of debt and is now on a mission to help others do the same.
Feature Illustration: Laura Caseley For The Money Manual