How to Ask for a Raise

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I work in academia, and we recently completed our academic year. At the end of each year, we receive our annual evaluations and have an opportunity for a career conversation with our boss.

I’m really proud of my output this past year. I have been a little productivity machine. Overseeing projects, course programming, curriculum development and expansion, and more. Additionally, I personally came up with a creative solution to a specific problem we were having. In addition to fixing the problem, my solution netted our department upwards of $600,000 this past Spring. These are big numbers in academia (this isn’t the tech world!), and the increased revenue will continue for the foreseeable future.

All that said, I think I have the justification needed to ask for a raise. There’s just one problem……a lack of confidence.

Difficulties Asking for a Raise…

Asking for a raise is tough. And women are far less likely to ask for a raise than their male counterparts. And more than that, some research suggests that even when a woman asks for a raise, she’s less likely to receive it than her male colleagues.

Plus, some of this is a personality thing for me. I put my head down and work. I don’t ask for much from anybody and I don’t need much to get the job done. Additionally, I recognize all the non-monetary perks I’ve received lately – my boss just paid to upgrade my office (new space, new paint, new carpet and furniture), paid for me to go to Nashville in April, and Jakarta, earlier this month, etc. I am so grateful for all those things, I don’t want to come across as greedy or ungrateful.

But even so, I think I deserve a raise. I can point to numbers as evidence to back up my worth. So I started doing some research and wanted to gather together some tips I found helpful. By the time this post is published, I will have already had a meeting with my boss to ask for a raise. I will report back on how well (or not) these tips worked for me.

Tips to Ask for a Raise

Justify it. This can’t be a personal justification (e.g., “rent is going up!”). It needs to be business-based. For example, I can point to the extra revenues I’ve generated. I also plan to put together a brief portfolio of my major accomplishments from the past semester. Also, it’s very common that women are paid less than their male counterparts and, if that’s the case, you could use that as part of the justification of deserving a higher salary. Equity is important!
Rehearse the Ask. This may be more beneficial for folks like me who are nervous to make the ask. The best way to get comfortable with it is to practice. Think about (or even write out) what you plan to say. Thank your boss for their management/past raises/whatever, and express your gratitude and appreciation. Then go into your ask and justification. It may feel awkward or uncomfortable at first. So practice again and again. Practice out loud in a mirror. Practice with your spouse or a friend. The more you do it, the more natural it will become.
Have a specific number in mind. Don’t just ask for a raise, in general. Be prepared to ask for what you really want. I’m going to ask for 15%. But if I end up with a 10% raise I’ll be happy. But there was one time in my career that I was given almost a 55% pay increase! So don’t be afraid to ask for what you’re worth! Even if it’s a large percentage point.
Set a meeting. Set a meeting specifically to ask for the raise. Don’t try to squeeze in a request for a raise to an already packed meeting agenda. You don’t want it to be rushed or try to squeeze in the request as you’re heating lunch in the office microwave. Instead, request a special meeting for the sole purpose of going over your accomplishments and asking for the raise. You can even tell your boss its coming (e.g., send an email saying you’d like to meet to talk about your recent accomplishments and to discuss your compensation).
Have a plan for the long game. The last time I specifically asked for a raise was 2 years ago. At that point, I asked for a steep 32% raise. I knew it was a long-shot due to the high figure, but I also knew I had the justification to support it. My boss couldn’t meet that figure, saying the best she could do was 22%. But that didn’t stop me from asking for more down the road. I asked what it would take to make up that last 10% – what numbers I would need to hit, what goals or markers needed to be reached. And in the end, I got another small raise 6 months later (about 2.5%) and another more moderate sized raise after another 6 months (about 8%). That put me at the total figure I’d originally asked for. It just took a little time to get there. Asking for raises should be the long-game. A continual conversation.


Do you have any other ideas to add to the list, above? What are your best tips about asking for a raise?

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