How do I ask for a raise at work?

To get ahead, you need to be your biggest advocate. Career experts share the best way to ask for a raise at work.

If the idea of asking for a raise at work makes you nervous, you’re not alone. “It’s money,” says Jenn Smith, a career coach. “People find it hard to talk about money.”

“They also fear rejection—or worse, that they’ll lose their jobs,” says Ana Goehner, a bilingual career strategist. Plus, she adds, many people would simply rather avoid having to negotiate a new salary at all.

But none of those reasons should keep you from asking for a raise.

“I like to say that you are your chief career officer,” Goehner says. “Don’t wait for someone else to see your value. If you don’t advocate for yourself early, you may wait for a promotion for years. Managers promote those working the extra mile and those who show their work.”

In other words, if you’re working hard and racking up on-the-job achievements and accolades, you might be due a pay bump. But you may wonder, “How do I ask for a raise at work?”

While there is no single best way to ask for a raise, here are five tips aimed at helping you advocate for yourself and snag a salary increase:

1. Be strategic in your timing

Timing is critical when it comes to how to ask for a raise at work. Before you ask your manager to increase your salary, plan for the right moment. Prior to broaching the topic, you might also want to consider: How often should you get a raise?

A man and a woman sit at a table talking.

The performance management cycle can clue you in to the right time to ask for a raise, according to Smith. Performance reviews typically occur anywhere from once to several times a year. Because most companies divvy out raises during the performance review period, Smith suggests getting on your supervisor’s calendar about six to eight weeks prior to your next performance review.

“That way, you’re bringing up the conversation about compensation at a time when it’s happening more broadly at the organization,” she says.

Initiating the conversation well ahead of your next review gives your boss plenty of time to prepare for the pay-raise discussion. “You don’t want to make it a surprise,” Smith says.

A little notice can also go a long way to strengthening the relationship between you and your boss. They’ll likely appreciate that you didn’t catch them off guard, which might make them more inclined to help you advance in your career.

While you’re thinking about timing, you also want to consider frequency. So, how often should you get a raise? Companies typically offer raises once a year, so keep that general time frame in mind as you consider when to make your next pay raise request.

2. Highlight your achievements

When considering how to ask for a raise at work, you want to highlight your strong performance in your role.  

“Bring your achievements to the table,” Smith says. “You don’t want to say, ‘Oh, I’ve been in this job for six months and I should get a raise.’ You want to say something like, ‘I’ve been in this job for six months; here are all the things I’ve accomplished. I’ve exceeded your expectations.’”

In other words, a compensation conversation is an opportunity to make the case for how valuable you are to the company.

Your professional wins will be determined by your industry and job role, but as much as you can, Goehner says, you want to underscore the ways you went beyond your basic responsibilities and achieved something significant. “You want to ask for a raise when you know you performed well,” Goehner says.

“Don’t wait for someone else to see
your value. If you don’t advocate for yourself early, you may wait for a promotion for years.”

Ana Goehner, bilingual career strategist

3. Conduct salary research

“How much of a raise can I ask for?” is a common question for raise-seekers—especially if it’s their first job and they’re just starting to grow their savings. To answer it, you’ll need to do some salary research. Taking the time to do your research will help you understand the market value for your job and where you likely fall within a salary range, says Smith.

Goehner recommends looking at salary websites to determine if you are being underpaid. As you’re researching, she says to filter your search by job title, years of experience, and location, because each of those metrics can affect your placement within your role’s salary range. Also keep in mind that salary bands can vary among organizations, so you’ll have to consider if your company tends to pay more or less than others in the industry.

Requesting a 3% to 5% salary increase is a typical ask, but Smith says that you should couch your request in the research you’ve done. If your current salary is a lot lower than the market value for your position, you might want to ask for a larger increase.

“If the market is paying $10,000 more for the position and the company offers a raise or promotion of $5,000, you may need to negotiate,” Goehner says.

In other words, when you’re considering “How much of a raise can I ask for?” you need to do your research to get closer to an answer.

4. Ask with confidence, not entitlement

In addition to finding the right moment, listing your achievements, and doing your research, it’s also important to approach the discussion in the right way.

As you consider how to ask for a raise at work, Smith says a collaborative conversation is the best approach. The best way to ask for a raise involves communicating your achievements and salary expectations in a way that walks the line between humility and confidence, Smith says.

Prior to her current role, Smith worked as an HR leader for a couple of very large companies. Over the years, she spoke to many employees about compensation, and some communication styles worked better than others.

“I appreciated when they came to the table, communicated their value, and it was a discussion,” she says. “It wasn’t a demand or an ultimatum or anything like that—it was a discussion. They kept it factual and left emotion out.”

A man drinks a cup of coffee and looks at his laptop.

5. Know what to do if you don’t get a pay raise

What if you followed these tips for how to ask for a raise at work, but you don’t get a salary bump? Sometimes you can do all the right things but your boss still won’t budge.

“If your manager says no, you need to figure out why,” Smith says.

Depending on your manager’s response, Smith recommends politely asking some follow-up questions. For instance, ask if your timing is off. Is it not in the budget? If not, when will the budget be reevaluated? If they’re still looking for a higher level of performance, ask what they’d like to see from you. (And the more specific of an answer you can get, the better.)

Throughout this exchange, keep your cool. “Don’t get upset or talk negatively about the situation to colleagues,” Goehner says. “Instead, ask for feedback.”

Near the end of the conversation, be sure to ask your boss when you can talk about compensation again. That way you’ll have a reason to follow up and reopen the discussion further down the road.

It’s also important to note that you can increase your earning potential even if you don’t get a raise at this time. If you’re happy at your job but still want to make more money, you could consider starting a side hustle you can do while working full time. But Goehner adds that if your supervisor isn’t happy and you’re not happy—and if you don’t see a raise or career advancement as a likely outcome in the future—then that’s probably a sign it’s time to change jobs.

You now understand how to ask for a raise at work. Next, be sure you know the five things to do when you get a raise so that you’re setting yourself up for long-term financial success.

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