You break into a cold sweat. As you open the door with clammy palms, you are met with cold, unyielding eyes. Eyes that know no mercy. With butterflies in your stomach, you take a seat before the desk, as the door slowly creeks shut behind you…
Have you ever wanted a raise? (Hint, of course you have). When you picture yourself asking for a raise, do you imagine a scenario like above? Do you see yourself failing, being turned down, and tell yourself there is no way you could ever get a raise? Asking your employer can be a daunting task, that requires plenty of preparation. We hope that this article helps you to formulate your plan of attack and smooth out some of the pre-meeting jitters by reminding you what your strengths are.
1: Define your value
The first step to going after a raise is to clearly define your value to your employer. I list many types of “values” and attributes you may bring to your work place. Some employers may place a high value on these traits, while others may not care at all. These attributes do not guarantee you a raise, but may help you strengthen your position of your request by highlighting your unique contributions. In essence, these are great ways to show why YOU should get a raise over anyone else. Your value can be based on many attributes such as: education, work ethic, leadership and ideas, reliability, special skills, the list goes on and on. You should focus on the unique strengths that you bring to the team and make you stand out. Although work ethic is an important factor, there are many other things that you may bring to the team that are equally as important, but can be easily overlooked. I have listed some values I feel I bring as examples, but you can turn almost anything into an attribute of value.
When I think about my unique strengths, I think about:
- My reliability. I have not taken a sick day. Ever. In the past 10 years of work experience, I have yet to take a sick day. And I let employers know this, because it helps define my value beyond just dollars and cents. I let employers know that I am reliable, and when I am on the schedule, you better believe I will be there. Does this mean I will never get sick? Of course not! But I am highlighting my unique contributions to strengthen my position.
- My Attitude: A strength that I bring to my job is an upbeat attitude. I walk into work each day cheerful and ready to start the day. I try to take time to acknowledge and be gracious to be fellow employees. I remain teachable and approachable, regardless of past experiences. Are these all things that you want in a great employee? Absolutely! Does that mean that they come “free of charge”? Not necessarily. These are the desirable characteristics you get by employing me, and my employer should WANT to pay for both the high quality work I perform as well as the positive work environment I create. I am differentiating myself on a quality level and highlighting what I bring. It does not mean that my behavior or professionalism is dependent on my pay.
- My experience/adaptability: I have had the pleasure of working in some very different fields. I have dabbled in construction, retail sales, automotive repair, yard management, medical management, research, and even humanitarian outreach. Does this experience make me a strong performer at my current job? Yes and no. While this hodge-podge of careers may not make me any better at my current daily tasks, it has lead to me being a quick learner and fairly flexible. Thanks to my diverse experience I can now adapt quickly to both new situations and all kinds of personality types. From the short tempered to the timid, I have worked with them all and have learned how to match my pace to the people around me. This means that I can relate to customers and cater to their needs and desires VERY quickly, which is a large plus for my employer.
Other strong traits you may have:
Scholastic achievements: Were you a 4.0 student in school? Let your employer know! That is a strong attribute that you can use! Grades are a literal interpretation of your ability in school, but one could argue that they are a reflection of your ability to meet challenges. If you put it in that perspective, it seems totally reasonable to pay a premium for someone with a consistent history of excellence when met with new challenges and knowledge.
Are you a leader in your work environment? When people have a question or need assistance, do they come straight to you? When there is a new employee, are they assigned to you so you can show them the ropes? If so, great! It means you have valuable leadership traits that you are bringing to the table in addition to your normal duties.
Speak a foreign language? You may as well label yourself a specialist! The list goes on and on. It is worth taking the time to sit down and think about what you are bringing to the work place each day. Try asking your friends and family what strong or unique traits they see in you if you need some pointers from the outside.
2: Know your leverage
When you approach someone to ask for a raise, you will often hear people mention leverage. They use it in terms like I have an offer from another job, so I have the perfect leverage, or more commonly I cant get a raise, I dont have any leverage on my employer. It brings to mind images of mafia bosses and making peoples life difficult. If we flip the tables and look at it from the employers perspective, we may have more power then we realize. I try not to think of leverage as a way to twist my employer’s arm, because I want a good work environment where my boss still wants me to work! Instead, when I think of leverage I focus on how strong my case is overall for a raise. It could be a combination of finances (Economy changes, financial hardship, growing industry), unique strengths, duration of employment (which is VERY strong), an increase in duties and responsibilities, or any combination. If I go in to the meeting and say ” The economy is up 3%, inflation is still going up each year, I have taken on leadership of new employee training, and have been a loyal employee for 3 years, none of which has been reflected in my pay. I feel that I have earned a raise in pay” that carries a ton of leverage! You have essentially laid on their desk a solid list of reasons to give you a raise, and have highlighted your numerous value points. Leverage is best used when focusing on your positive perspective, rather then being combative and trying to wrestle a raise from a begrudging boss.
3: Give your employer the choice, rather then making it for them
It can be a daunting task asking for a raise. It is easy to play through your mind all the ways it could go bad, and all the reasons they could say no. These feelings of doubt can be so strong, that most employees would rather just skip the whole morbid affair and never ask. And that is exactly what your employers want. If you are not willing to ask for a raise, then they have no need to give you one! I always say let your employer make the decision for you, instead of you saying no to yourself for them. If you ask your boss for a raise and they say yes, then great! If they say no, oh well! But either way, you presented the information to them, and made THEM make the decision. We lose 100% of the battles that we never fight.
4: Go in with a plan!
Do whatever it takes for you to feel prepared for the big day. Rehearse in the mirror. Make a list. Practice with family. Make a song out of it. Whatever it takes for you to feel comfortable with the information you are going to present. Have a plan on how you want the information we discussed to be presented, and where your points of leverage are. It also helps to know exactly what you are asking for! If you walk in and ask for a raise, and your boss says “Sure, how much?”, your response should not be “uhhh, I don’t know.” You should know what the industry standard is for your position, or at the least you should know what number you are shooting for. Doing your research ahead of time will go a long way to making the discussion go smoothly, no matter which way it goes.
5: The world is against you, so you may as well have your own back!
Time and time again, I see people act as their own worst enemy. They think of every mistake they have ever made, and every reason why they should be told no. They focus on everything that could go wrong, and feel defeated before they even walk in the door! I say you should be your own greatest cheerleader! When I am pursuing something that I want; be it a job interview, a raise or promotion, I tell myself how great I am! I focus on remembering my strengths and contributions, and I leave my mistakes in the past. People will always tell you what you did wrong or what you could have done better, so its YOUR job to tell yourself how great you are. It may be a little awkward at first, but practice of encouraging yourself each day, and you will be amazed at how much more confident you will start to feel.
In conclusion, asking for a raise can be a daunting process, but is certainly worth the effort if you approach the situation with a plan. The goal is not to force our employer’s hand, but to help them appreciate your value and recognize your worth. The best negotiations are the ones where both parties feel like they won. I am not promising that these steps will get you the raise you want, but hopefully it will take the sting out of the interactions and make you feel confident and prepared. Readers, what are some of your thoughts on techniques for asking for a raise? Anyone have success stories they would like to share?