Thinking about asking for a raise? Before you do, make sure you've positioned yourself as strongly as possible for a yes, by asking yourself these seven questions.
1. How long have I been in this job? Typically you should be in a job for one year before you ask for a raise. Exceptions to this are if the job changed dramatically or if your responsibilities have increased far beyond what was envisioned when you were hired. In a situation like that, it could be reasonable to revisit the question of your compensation. But in most cases, you should wait until you've been employed for a year.
2. When was my last raise? Once again, the answer is one year. Typically it's reasonable to ask for your salary to be reviewed annually, so if you got a raise six months ago, you probably have another six months to wait before you can reasonably ask again. (Of course, the exceptions above apply here too.)
3. How has my value to the company increased? A raise is recognition that your value to the company has increased; it's an acknowledgment that you're now contributing at a significantly higher level than when your salary was last set and that you should be compensated accordingly. So a compelling argument for a raise will be built around that question -- not around your own increased expenses, or just the fact that a year has passed or anything else not related to the value of your work. And speaking of the value of your work...
4. Do I know what the market value is for my work? Understanding the market value for your work -- meaning what jobs similar to yours are paying in your geographic area -- is one of the most important things for you to know, because it will dictate what size raise you can reasonably ask for, as well as whether you'll seem in touch with market trends or unrealistic about what you could earn if you went somewhere else. The better sense you have of the going rate for your work, the stronger position you'll be in.
5. Am I exceeding expectations, or simply meeting them? Your chances increase the more your manager values your work. If you're simply getting by and meeting expectations but not going above and beyond, a cost-of-living adjustment to your salary might be the best you can hope for. But if you're in the top tier of performers on your team, your manager is far more likely to go to bat for you to get you a sizable increase -- because she'll be highly motivated to retain you and make sure you don't jump ship.
6. Is this the right time to ask? If the company is going through a merger, laying off your co-workers or otherwise in a rough financial period, they're likely looking for places to cut costs, not add them. You don't want to look insensitive to that. Plus, companies often freeze salaries during difficult financial times.
7. Do I know what I'll say if my manager says no? Hopefully, when you ask for a raise, you'll hear a yes. But you might get turned down, and you don't want to be caught unprepared if that happens. Figure out what you'll say in that case so that you're not put on the spot. For instance, you might ask what you'd need to do to earn a raise in the future and what a reasonable time frame for that would look like. And whether or not you're happy with that answer, you'll be better off for being armed with that information.
Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog, where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She's also the co-author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Manager's Guide to Getting Results, and former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management, hiring, firing, and employee development.
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