Underpaid? How to Ask for a Raise and Get a Higher Salary

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How to ask for a raise

As women, a lot of times we are guilty of not asking for a raise when we know we truly deserve one. We’re also guilty of not negotiating our compensation offers when we get a new job. But by not asking for more, we’re leaving behind hundreds of thousands of dollars of lifetime earnings.

Women make just 80 cents for every dollar earned by a white man. Women of color (specifically African American/Black, Hispanic and Native American women) are even more at a disadvantage, making 61 cents, 58 and 53 cents respectively.

If you’re overdue for an increase in your pay, you can choose to react in one of three ways:

  1. Complain about not getting a raise.
  2. Think about asking for a raise.
  3. Actually ask for a raise.

Clearly, the third option is the best choice. It's the one most likely to bring about the outcome you want. But nine times out of ten, it’s not the one you’ll choose.

The reasons for not choosing the third option are varied. They can range from being unsure of how to bring up the subject of a raise, to being afraid of your boss’ reaction, to simply feeling overwhelmed by the process in general. I totally get that the thought of asking for and receiving a raise can be daunting, but believe me, it is not impossible.

Here are five super easy steps I teach women on how to get a raise and negotiate salary increases of $5,000, $10,000 and even $25,000.

1. Be strategic about your timing

Once you’ve worked up the courage to ask for a raise, you may be tempted to march into your boss’ office on the spot and demand more money. Before you do that though (slow down, girl), you should know certain situations are more conducive to positive results than others.

For example, when you’ve:

  • Completed a huge accomplishment at work
  • Received a promotion
  • Conducted market research that shows you’re being underpaid
  • Been offered a job with a new company

Situations like these give you leverage and make it more likely you’ll get a “yes” response. That's why it's great to highlight them when you're trying to figure out how to get a raise. You may be tempted to wait until your next annual salary discussion to express dissatisfaction with your pay.

But this isn’t necessarily the best time, as money decisions have most likely already been made. Instead, take the lead on when the conversation will happen. Be intentional about not only what you’ll say, but also when you’ll say it.

2. Do your research

Do your research and understand what the industry averages for your role are in your location and the associated cost of living. Approaching the salary conversation with specific examples will dramatically boost the odds of your boss agreeing to your request for more money.  

Sites like Glassdoor.com and Payscale.com have completely changed the game on conducting salary research. With a few simple clicks, it’s possible to find the average pay for virtually any role at any company.

Being armed with information to support your request for a higher salary is the single most important aspect of the salary negotiation process. It often heavily influences the outcome in a positive way.

3. Get on your boss’ level

If your boss usually prefers a more laid-back style, now isn’t the time to suddenly get super formal. Does she prefer to have meetings in the late afternoon? Don’t schedule your salary conversation at 9 am. If she likes a detailed agenda outlining meeting topics ahead of time, be sure you give her one.

Switching the style of communication you and your boss usually have can cause confusion and put her in an uncomfortable headspace. She may be less receptive to the information you present to her. Don’t get trapped in the belief that because the subject is money, you have to be more stuffy and formal in your approach. How do you and your boss normally interact? Go with that.

4. Be straightforward and keep it strictly business

How do you get a raise? Avoid the urge to start speaking in code or beating around the bush. Although it can be challenging (due to your nerves getting the best of you), the best approach is to be clear and to the point.

Think of it as a business transaction — present your case and why you deserve a raise. Know your professional worth and capitalize on it. Talk about your accomplishments so far, what you’ve created or improved upon and the success that your work has driven. 

Being straightforward also helps keep your emotions in check. Emotions like: anxiety, anger, nervousness, and fear can sabotage your efforts to have a constructive conversation about your money goals and expectations. Create bulleted speaking points that are direct and to the point. Doing so can help you keep the conversation on track and avoid getting sidetracked.

5. Have a clear call to action

Often the best salary conversations lose steam at the most important part — the end. No matter how well everything has gone, don’t undermine all of your hard work by not making the actual ask for more money. What would you like your boss to do at the end of the conversation? Make sure your ask is crystal clear so there is no room for doubt or uncertainty in your boss’ mind about what it is you want.

Going after your next raise doesn’t have to be a scary or convoluted process. Although it may not feel like it, having the money conversation with your boss is just like having any other career-related conversation. The key is to be confident, strategic, prepared and straightforward.

Don’t let fear stop you from earning more

Fear is the number one reason why we don’t ask for raises or negotiate our offers, but what are we really afraid of? The worst thing that could possibly happen is that the request is rejected, and that’s it. 

Come up with a plan on how to make your request. Practice your spiel in front of the mirror, type it up and read it out loud and then ask yourself, “what’s the worst thing that could possibly happen?”. Understanding that your request for a raise is not a life or death matter will help you put things in perspective and put your fear back in its place.

Asking for a raise or negotiating a better compensation offer might seem difficult or intimidating but it really isn't that hard. Remember, you’re simply asking for what you’re worth.

{Updated by Cristy S. Lynch}

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