Being paid fairly for the work we do is important to all of us. But what do you do if you feel that the pay you receive in your current job doesn’t reflect your hard work? You try to negotiate a better salary. Fine, but when is the best time to ask for a raise? Read on for tips and tricks on making the case for the higher salary you deserve.
Research shows that feeling underpaid is the top reason for worker dissatisfaction. But at the same time, we also tend to overrate the happiness that comes with a higher salary.
Think carefully about why you want a higher salary. Do you feel that your work is worth more? Do your colleagues at a similar level earn more than you, or are your motivations purely economic? There are no right or wrong answers here, but it is worth reflecting on, because your response will influence how you prepare for your meeting. Once you have prepared your argument, the question of timing arises. We asked business professionals – CEOs and career experts – for their insight into when to ask for a raise.
The only way to successfully request a raise is with data-driven preparation and focus. Don’t rush – you’ve probably already been putting it off for some time. Taking the time to understand your market value by researching the pay range for your job title and preparing other necessary information will pay off in the long run. It’s much harder to fight data than emotions, so negotiate your salary logically.
Know Your Worth
Figuring out exactly what to ask for when you will negotiate a raise might seem daunting. A number that’s too high will likely be rejected, but asking too little could leave you feeling like you sold yourself short and wasted a rare opportunity.
Luckily, there are lots of options and resources that can help you identify your target salary. The first way would be to ask your HR department for the salary range for your job level. Doing this might seem intimidating, but that’s part of HR’s job.
First, look for similar jobs in your area. Job descriptions and postings may indicate a salary range. Otherwise, get creative and dig into jobs and company review websites that list salaries as well as sites like LinkedIn that have salary calculators.
You can also use your network. Money is still an awkward topic for many, so don’t go right in and ask people exactly what they are earning. Instead, ask them what they think people at your level in their current company might be making.
Knowing What Your Company Can Afford
You need to know your company’s financial situation before negotiating. It may be hard to get the full picture mid-year, but use data from the previous year in addition to paying attention to any water cooler gossip that illuminates the company’s position. In addition, look up reports, annual reviews from the sales team, and study any recent press releases and investor news that could give insight.
It is also critical to understand your companies’ policies and rules on performance reviews and raises before you request a meeting. Some companies might have a very clear procedure that doesn’t allow employees to make individual requests. Your HR department should also be an asset to you here.
This is also a good time to reflect on who exactly you are going to ask. Take a look at your company’s structure and decide who the correct person is in the hierarchy for your salary negotiation request. In most cases, it will be your manager plus an HR representative.
Build Your Case
Just walking in and asking for money likely won’t cut it. You’ll need to present a well-prepared argument. Compile a record of your relevant achievements and successes. Gathering data and evidence of where your work has contributed to team success, growth, and company morale will underline your value. Use a variety of metrics and resources to tell the story. Use anything from hard data to feedback from colleagues.
In addition, prepare a future performance plan. Show what you plan to bring to the company in the next 12-24 months. Not only this will show your boss that you value your current workplace and want to continue to make an impact there, but it will also remind them of what they might miss out on if they don’t take your request seriously. Use the language of value here. Demonstrate how you can provide a great return on investment for the raise they will surely want to give you.
Practice Your Pitch
Test your pitch on a friend or confidante. Get feedback on everything from your presentation style to your posture. If you aren’t used to 1:1 meetings with your supervisor or rarely speak in public, practice will help tremendously. You don’t have to memorize a speech. Just become comfortable with the numbers and make sure you can answer any obvious questions.
Best Time to Ask for a Raise
Be strategic about when to make your meeting. First, consider the annual cycles of the company. Don’t ask for the raise just as the new fiscal year begins. It is better to wait until halfway through the year when there is less budget pressure around.
If and when you get new responsibilities in your job, it is usually a good time to bring up the topic.
Consider also your manager’s personal schedule. Friday at 4:30 p.m. probably isn’t the best time to have a super productive meeting – unless that’s when you know your manager is most relaxed. Request a meeting through the usual channels and be clear about the content without giving too much away.
Since timing is really everything when it comes to negotiating a raise, we have asked some professionals on both sides of the equation to share what they think the best time is to ask for a salary raise.
If it’s been a year or more since your last raise, Bram Jansen, Chief Editor of vpnAlert advises the following:
If you believe your work is excellent but you haven’t been given a raise in over a year, you have a good argument for asking for one. Set up a meeting with your manager to discuss a raise as you approach a work anniversary or when a considerable period of time has passed since your last increase. Mention how long it’s been since you’ve had a raise at the meeting. Given how frequently employees willingly change positions these days, your multi-year tenure demonstrates your dedication to the position and strong support for a raise.
Michelle Meyer, CEO of Best Cat reckons the perfect time to ask for a raise is when your company just secured a big win:
It’s all about being in the right place at the right time. If your company has had a significant win or even a string of great wins, it might be a good idea to strike while the iron is hot. And if you had a key role in those victories, even better. You put in a lot of effort to help the company, and it’s perfectly appropriate to take advantage of that goodwill.
Nicole Graham, career coach at Womenio says it’s best to leverage another job offer:
The greatest motivation for employers to accept raises is the fear of losing valuable staff to competitors. If you believe you are being underpaid and have tested the waters and been offered a more lucrative position elsewhere, you have a significant card to play. However, use caution. Don’t brag or be aggressive about it. Highlight your accomplishments, let the numbers speak for themselves, and simply inform them that you’ve been offered a higher-paying position.
Finally, a pragmatic thought from Thomas Jepsen, founder of Passion Plans:
The best time to ask for a raise is when you realize you’re indispensable. If you have realized there’s a key project coming up that you’re playing a big role in, don’t be afraid to ask for a raise.
To Compromise or Not to Compromise?
A friend recently asked for a significant salary increase in line with a big jump in responsibilities. Her manager made a counter-offer that still seemed generous but she turned it down. Her reasoning? Never compromise.
“If I take their offer, they will always think I overvalued myself and in turn will undervalue me,” she explained. “I’m better off sticking to my pay grade, proving myself through actions and then returning to the table. It’s not ideal, but I know I’ll get the best outcome in the end.” The logic is sound but not everyone has the insight or strength to take such a hard-line approach.
Growth consultant GiftYak CEO Matt Lally on the other hand warns against pushing too hard:
Never give an ultimatum, unless you’re ready for the consequences. Most managers don’t do a great job of giving feedback. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen an employee think they’re doing a great job, only to push too hard for a raise and get shown the door. Everyone is expendable (yes, even your boss and the business owner!). If you truly believe in your worth, let it be known. Have real discussions with management about your value and how to get to the next level (and potentially where you’d feel comfortable).
The bottom line: know what you are willing to walk away with before the negotiation process starts.
Alternative Means of Compensation
Let’s suppose the timing was not right in the end, and the company really doesn’t have the money at the moment to increase your current salary. Think: are there other things aside from more money that you can ask for that will potentially increase your job satisfaction as well as help your manager and company reward your efforts? Brainstorm a list of perks you could request before the company is able to honour your work with an actual payraise. Here are some examples that may inspire you:
- The ability to work remotely
- Paid training or further education
- Increased vacation time
- Company shares
- Access to new technology
Getting creative here will both leave you feeling like you really achieved something while demonstrating to your manager your incredible negotiation skills.
Got Rejected? What’s Next?
If you get a flat rejection after all your hard work with no explanation – consider moving on to a new job with another company or even a complete career change. Use the tactics described above to negotiate your salary for a new position.
If you do get feedback on your performance, ethics, or attitude, use it to your advantage. Spin the sting of rejection into a chance to re-evaluate yourself and grow for the next opportunity. If the job search is overwhelming, reach out to us at Lensa for support and personalized career advice.
Success? Lunch is On You
Congratulations, your hard work has paid off and your salary increase has been approved! Sadly, this is no time to rest. Take the performance plan you shared in the meeting and figure out your next moves so that you stay on track for your next raise. Now is also a great time to reflect on your larger career goals and make a 5-year plan.