How to Ask for a Raise ... and Get One

What do you need to do to ask for a raise ... and get one?

How much do you make? It’s the quintessential question that a lot of technology folks ask and — let’s face it — a lot of them care about. If your job doesn’t pay you as much as you’d like it to, or as much as you’d hoped that it would, then it may be high time to ask for a raise.

There are a few things that you should keep in mind when asking for a raise. How do you know when it’s the right time to ask for a raise? How and when should you bring it up with your current employer? How would you (or could you) compare your compensation with that of your technology peers?

Let’s say that you do decide to ask for more money. How would you estimate what is the right amount to ask for, and how would you make the case for yourself when the time comes? What is the absolute best way to get what you are asking for?

Let’s group these topics into three broad categories:

Getting the Timing Right

First off, when is it the right time to ask for a raise? Do you feel that you are lagging the market, and you know others make more than you do? Did you come in low and need to make what you were promised (or what you promised to yourself) a while back? If you answered ‘Yes’ to these any or all of these questions then it’s probably time to think about better compensation.

Successfully negotiating a pay raise is often more about timing more than about your approach. If you get the timing right, then you begin to stack the odds in your favor. People tend to give money out when they are in a good mood and when the business is doing well.

Part of getting the timing right is looking inside yourself. There is one question you must ask yourself before going to see your boss: Do I deserve a raise? Take the time to answer this question honestly. If your honest answer is that (gulp) you probably don’t deserve a raise, then it might be a better idea to wait.

If you do think you deserve a raise, the element of your timing is to ask yourself what makes you valuable. Maybe there is a big project going on. Maybe you hit your quarterly target. What is happening now, or coming up soon, that underlines your value to your employer?

Here are four more quick elements of timing:

What do you need to do to ask for a raise ... and get one?

1) Consider the company’s financial situation. If the company’s finances are thriving, or at least sound, then you’re in a good spot.

2) Consider your manager’s position. Is that person currently overworked, or dealing with a significant amount of stress? If so, then you might want to hold off.

3) Consider the company calendar. Is it the right time of year? For example, asking for a raise as annual budgets are being formulated is typically a good play.

4) Consider the company’s recent achievements. A successful product launch, for instance, is like a runway in front of your request. A rising tide floats all boats.

Know Your Value

The next critical step in asking for a raise is knowing what you’re worth. This will help you zero in on what amount to ask for. To start with, understanding your value in the workplace goes beyond your performance. Performance is often rewarded with praise. Of course, three cheers and a pat on the back doesn’t pay the bills, as they say.
How can you ask for the right amount? Knowing your value also depends on your salary compared to the market average. Are you worth more or less than others who occupy your niche? Therefore, you must determine whether your current salary is above or below the market average.

If your pay is below the market average, then you may have the leverage to negotiate a raise. By contrast, if your salary is at or above the market average, then it might be tough for you to justify getting a raise. The question then becomes, how can you find out whether your salary is at, below, or above the market average?

You could ask a peer what they know — someone who works for a different company but in the same field. There are also some great resources that will allow you to assess your worth: Glassdoor is a handy resource to check average salaries for virtually every job in the market. Glassdoor’s tool allows you to determine whether your salary is fair. You can also find have a lot of employees disclosing their exact pay. It’s a great resource.

You can also visit and pay a few bucks to get a good report. You could try PayScale— they offer free information on salaries and wages for individual jobs, industries, and companies. You could even play a mind game and ask your employer for a pay evaluation, as a not-so-subtle signal of your intentions

Browsing job boards such as Indeed or Monster can help you understand what companies are currently offering new employees in your job role. This data can also help you determine whether you have a good chance of getting a better salary elsewhere.

The Moment of Truth

When the time is right and you have a good sense of your value, the next step is to ask for what you want. It can be helpful to have a specific number in mind: I love to use a random number somewhere within the range of what I’m looking for. It makes your employer think you have done research and thought things through.

What do you need to do to ask for a raise ... and get one?

Don’t just drop the bomb: Be sure to schedule an appointment with your boss and let that person know in advance what you want to discuss. No surprises: Catching your boss off-guard with this type of discussion is almost certain to backfire. Instead, try to get an idea of what your manager’s reaction will and decide how you will respond.

Talking to your boss during a coffee break or at lunchtime to find out when they will be available to meet with you. Mention you want to speak to them about your job and your role within the company. Then be patient and wait until your boss gets back to you regarding their availability. Don’t force a meeting.

When the actual meeting takes place, avoid leading off by mentioning “a raise.” Using the word “raise” implies “more money.” Perhaps you might be able to negotiate your raise in terms of benefits and not salary. A raise isn’t always money. Would you be happy with getting a company car, or increased PTO? What about tuition reimbursement, or better insurance coverage?

Again, go into the meeting with your pitch prepared and at least brief answers in mind for any objections that are likely to arise. If you’re having trouble with scenarios, talk to a trusted friend or colleague and ask them objections they would prepare for.

You Did It

No matter the outcome, remember to thank your boss sincerely for having heard you out. Nobody gets what they want 100 percent of the time, and it never hurts to be gracious. Bear in mind that “no” today certainly doesn’t mean a closed door to ever asking again.

I am confident a thoughtful and thorough approach will be successful, and that careful planning will get you the raise you want and deserve. I wish you the best of luck and happy raise hunting.

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About the Author
Nathan Kimpel is a seasoned information technology and operations executive.

Nathan Kimpel is a seasoned information technology and operations executive with a diverse background in all areas of company functionality, and a keen focus on all aspects of IT operations and security. Over his 20 years in the industry, he has held every job in IT and currently serves as a Project Manager in the St. Louis (Missouri) area, overseeing 50-plus projects. He has years of success driving multi-million dollar improvements in technology, products and teams. His wide range of skills include finance, ERP and CRM systems. Certifications include PMP, CISSP, CEH, ITIL and Microsoft.