Career and Enterprising

When to Ask Your Boss for your First Raise

Business Man Pondering

Asking for a raise is like breaking up. There really isn’t a “best time” for it, and a lot of awkwardness will be involved. Unfortunately, our success in life corresponds to the number of awkward conversations we’re willing to have. So if you want to climb out of that low income rut, you’re going to have to bite the bullet and ask–but do it the right way:

The Three Rules of Asking for Money from Your Boss

The first thing you have to do is make sure you don’t break any of these. If you do, the chances of failure are not only exponentially higher, but the consequences will also be steep. Even if you do win your raise while breaking these rules, you will incur the resentment of your employer and could pay for it throughout your career.

  • Always signal your intentions. Always give your boss forewarning. Drop a polite note saying you would like to set a time to discuss how you’re being compensated. If you corner your boss at the water cooler and ask for a raise, 99% of the time the answer will be “no”, or a polite brush-off.
  • Prepare justifications based on results, not on how hard you worked. You will need to make a list of achievements before negotiating. “Achievements” are not the number of hours you worked, or the personal time you’ve given up (we hate to tell you this, but most employers don’t care). Achievements are how much money you’ve made for the company, how you improved a product or service.
  • Always have help. Find a team or department leader whose schedule would be badly affected by your departure, and tell them about it first. If someone relies on you for budget reports, for example, tell them your plans to leave if you can’t get a raise. And then ask them to back your credentials when you negotiate with your boss. Here’s a secret: whether you get a raise is often dependent on how hard team leaders fight for you, not just how hard you fight for yourself.

Timing the Moment

Obviously, the best times should be just after a good performance review, or after a successful project. But things are seldom so convenient, so look for the following times instead:

  1. Wait About Three Working Days after Informing Your Boss of Your Intentions

As mentioned above, never corner your boss and discuss your raise on the spot. Send a short e-mail or, even better, meet her face to face and ask if you can talk about your compensation “later this week”.

Three days is a good interval, which will also give you time to prepare what you need. It will also give your boss time to reflect on your contributions.

  1. Ask about Two Weeks after a Big Win

Use the “halo effect”. When your department or you have performed well, you are in a good position to negotiate a raise. However, don’t do it immediately, as it will be too obvious that you are trying to capitalise on it.

  1. You’ve Just Heard the Report on Your Employer’s Financial Health

If you just heard a rah-rah report about your company doing better, try to time your request close to date you heard it. You can also obtain this information from a prospectus or annual report.

It is better if you make the request after it has been announced however, since it’s harder for your employer to use lack of money as an excuse.

  1. You’ve Checked and Compared Your Earnings

Use sites like Payscale to check your earnings compared to your peers. You might even want to go so far as interview for positions in other companies, to see how much they are willing to offer. In general, you are right to ask for a raise if you are on the low end of the pay scale (bottom 50%). If you are already on the high end of the scale, you had better have some kind of massive achievement of late to justify the request.

If the timing is right and you’ve prepared the right details, then go ahead and make your move.

Just remember though, if you do get a raise, don’t go crazy with it.  Your first priority should be to pay down any credit card debts that you have. Your credit card should be saving you money, not costing you money. If that’s not the case, drop by to compare and find the best credit card for your needs.

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