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5 Ways to Prepare for Asking for a Raise

As many people are uncomfortably aware, the recession played havoc with a lot of careers and career plans.  It significantly impacted (mostly in a negative way) many people’s career direction, household income, position title and tenure.  If this happened to you, you might be one of those people who jumped into a position that was less than inspiring, and with a salary below your satisfactory living standards, simply to avoid being out of work entirely.  Now, the economy has recovered, and the price of food, housing and pretty much everything else has risen faster than your compensation.  You think it might be time to ask for a raise.

This is only one scenario that might be prompting a financial discussion with your manager.  Asking for a raise follows as a close second to negotiating salary as one of the toughest career conversations that you will ever need to navigate.  Having some framework for how to approach this subject will increase your potential for a successful outcome.

  1. Never make it about your personal life. You may very well be in a position that requires an increase in your salary in order to make your rent payment, but don’t let that be your reason to ask for a raise.  While appealing to your manager’s emotions may sound like a good idea, this approach will ultimately result in resentment.  Remember, they are trying to run a business, and you should use “business reasons” to bolster your argument.  It’s better to justify an increase because of the market and your position, with solid reasons why you deserve this based on your performance and skills.
  1. Do your research, and build your case. Although it may seem like a good idea to ask your buddies what they are making and compare your salary with theirs, the likelihood of getting accurate, useful results is probably low. Do you REALLY think that your college roommate will tell you the TRUTH about what he’s making? Seriously??!!  Even if they do give you an honest salary, this number doesn’t factor other potential benefits that they, or you, may be receiving, and so it’s not an apples to apples comparison.  After you’ve collected fish stories from your friends about their compensation, you will want to get some additional data to support the assumption that you should be making more money.  There are many web resources that will help you calculate your market salary based on title and years of experience – use at least 3 of these in your research, and have the information handy when you enter into your salary discussion.
  1. Compare your role today with the role you accepted. As you collect data about salaries, you’ll also want to take an inventory of the job you are doing now.  How does your job today compare to the job you entered this company with?  Are you responsible for more people, more budget, training new staff members, mentoring junior people, handling more client activity?  What is it about your job today that would justify more money?  Give solid examples of how you have grown professionally, what new tasks you have taken on, and most importantly, what value you have added to your role and to the company.
  1. Don’t issue an ultimatum.  I’ve heard stories of managers who said, “If you want a raise then go get another offer and we’ll match it.” OK, this is a lazy manager’s way of justifying an increase to her leadership.  Really bad idea #1 (as this may mean your star employee actually does get another offer…and takes it!).  Really bad idea #2 is to threaten to quit if you don’t get a raise.  This will only serve to put your manager on the defensive, prove that your loyalty is to the highest bidder rather than the company and breed resentment in both you and your manager.  Really bad idea #3 is to go get another offer and then accept a counteroffer to stay.
  1. Set yourself up for a productive conversation. Now that you have all of your background information, justification and data about what your market value is, you can schedule a meeting with your manager.  You don’t want to blindside her though.  Either: 1) Set an initial meeting to introduce your agenda, “I wanted to meet with you today to let you know that I’ve been doing some research and I’d like to discuss an increase in my salary with you. When would be a good time to schedule that discussion?” or 2) Address the subject in your regularly scheduled status meeting with your manager, “I’d like to set aside some time with you to talk about my salary.  My role has changed substantially since I started with the company and I’m loving every minute of it.  I also feel that my new responsibilities might justify an increase and I’d like to talk through it with you.”   Giving her the time to think through your case beforehand will likely result in a better outcome for you if you are indeed deserving of a raise.  Allowing your manager the time to look into what options she can give and what the company can offer will get you a more accurate and immediate response when the conversation does occur.

Asking for a raise doesn’t have to be a negative or scary situation.  If you are prepared for your conversation, approach it without emotion, and have an open dialogue with your manager, you might be pleasantly surprised with the result!

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About Kimberly Lucas

Kimberly Lucas is the Founder and Chief People Connector at Goldstone Partners, Inc., a Colorado-based search and talent advisory firm specializing in recruitment strategy and engaged search for privately-held companies. As a seasoned entrepreneur and career coach, Kimberly is committed to helping founders build strong, profitable companies that stand the test of time. She serves as a mentor for University of Colorado’s Leeds School of Business as well as Goodwill AVID. She also serves on the board of the Rockies Venture Club and is an active facilitator at the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce.

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