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How To Get A Raise At Work

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Feeling underpaid at your job? Think it’s time you got the paycheck you deserve? Here are some helpful tips on how to get a raise at work.

How To Get A Raise At Work

Each week, we choose one question from our readers and throw it out to our panel of approved career experts to answer.

This week’s question is about requesting a salary increase:

“I’ve been working at the same company for 6 years. I got a 20% raise two years ago but now I have a lot more work. I’m looking for another job but I don’t want to leave if I can get more money. How do I ask for a raise and get it without making threats? I feel I’m underpaid for the knowledge I have.”

Here’s what our experts had to say:

Make Sure You Have A Valid Case

“In my experience, telling management you’re underpaid for the industry is a great way to be put on the layoff list,” says J.T. O’Donnell, founder of CareerHMO. “Companies like to set their own pay scales. Telling them they don’t match with the industry isn’t the best way to start the conversation.”

Your goal has to be to get them to see the value in giving you the raise, regardless of what the industry rates are, O’Donnell says. If you can’t, then you can always look for a new employer with peace-of-mind that you tried to make it work with the current employer.

“That being said, you should note this: The raise you got two years ago was for future work, not past performance,” she says. “So, you need to talk about what you plan to do in the future to justify the additional salary. How will the skills, knowledge and experience you have save and/or make the company enough money to justify the increase? If you can’t prove it, they won’t give it to you.”

O’Donnell suggests considering the following: When a company you buy a product or service from comes to you and announces they are increasing their rates, what do you do? If they don’t properly justify the reason for the increase, you look for a different vendor. At which point, you either find one and leave them, or come to realize their more expensive rates are still better than what’s out there. The same applies to your company. If you make a valid case for the increase in your rates, they will do their homework and (hopefully) realize you’re worth keeping as well.

Do Your Homework

“The first step is to do your homework,” says Amanda Haddaway, author of Destination Real World: Success after Graduation. ”A 20% raise is definitely not the norm, so you need to manage your expectations for what a future raise will look like.”

Haddaway says that, in many cases, professionals have gone without raises for a few years in light of the economic downturn. For companies that are doing well, raises rarely exceed 5% anymore. Do some research on salary data for your job, industry and geographic location. You can find some of this data online or from your local workforce services office.

Next, feel out the situation at your workplace and determine how the organization is doing financially. If times are tough, it might be a hard sell to get a bump in your pay. If you’re comfortable with the financial stability of your employer, approach your supervisor and mention that you’ve taken on an increased workload and ask if there are any opportunities for a salary increase.

She says that, by asking a question, you’re not demanding and you’re not being confrontational with your desire to make more money. “If a raise isn’t a reality right now, your boss should be up front with you,” says Haddway. “At that point, you’ll have to option to stick around or start looking for a new opportunity.”

Provide Proof You Deserve The Raise

“The way I’ve done it in the past is this: go to your manager with details of the increased responsibility, your research on the equitable pay within your industry for that position, and (most importantly) any details on how you have helped the company to be more successful since your last salary increase,” says Ben Eubanks of UpStart HR.

Although you may feel “underpaid for the knowledge you have,” Eubanks says that knowledge doesn’t necessarily translate to more pay.

“Thousands of college graduates with plenty of knowledge are sitting at home unemployed right now,” he says. “If it doesn’t translate into something your company can leverage for greater success, then it doesn’t deserve to be counted in this decision.”

Quantify Your Workload

“The first step is to try to quantify how much more work you’ve taken on since you received your 20% raise,” says Cheryl Simpson of Executive Resume Rescue. “After that, write several CAR stories (challenge-action-result) stories to demonstrate the challenges you’ve solved for your employer, the action steps you took to resolve them, and the measurable results your efforts led to.”

Simpson also suggests emphasizing the bottom line impact of these results (i.e, you saved $175K in expenses, which contributed to the company surpassing their cost containment target by 12%).

List Your Achievements

“One of the best things you can do is create a list of all of your achievements demonstrating how you have added value and contributed to the company’s growth,” says Debra Wheatman of Careers Done Write. “Set up a meeting with your manager to review your contributions as a compelling reason for an increase in pay.

Instead of threatening your employer, Wheatman advises you to have a professional discussion about your performance to support an increase in salary.

“Threats never work in your favor,” she says.

Ask For A Performance Review

According to Laura Smith-Proulx of An Expert Resume, you should document the impact of your work as well as the scope and volume.

“You may have taken on more work, but unless you quantify your value (such as bringing in 13% more business, doing the job of two professionals, or attracting 200 additional new leads monthly), your employer won’t get it,” she says.

Smith-Proulx suggests asking for a performance review. That way, you can reiterate that you love your job, have the stats to prove it, and respectfully request a specific increase in additional compensation so that you can keep up your fabulous level of commitment.

Ask Questions

“I am a huge fan of ‘listening’ to what the company is telling you,” says Corey Harlock of Skills to Achieve. ”Is increasing work loads without compensation a normal practice? Are you ‘afraid’ to ask for a raise as it will affect your current standing or make your work life harder?”

If you answered YES to these questions, Harlock says, don’t waste your time asking. Business as usual and go out and quietly look for another job.

If you said NO to these, then ask. make sure you tell them that you “love the company and see a long and bright future with them.” This will put them at ease and let them know you’re not resigning or complaining. Then, state your case!

“If you do get another job offer, DO NOT bring it back hoping for a counter offer,” he warns. “This ends in disaster over 85% of the time.”

Create A Checklist

You need to be well prepared to make a case for a raise, says Dorothy Tannahill-Moran of Next Chapter New Life. Here is a checklist of things for you to research or prepare:

  • Have a list of measurable results you have accomplished in the past year. If you can quantify direct impact to the companies bottom line – even better. Use numbers and statistics.
  • Do your research to understand what the pay range is for your type of position. While you might think you deserve more pay, if the market for your skills or position doesn’t call for it – you’re facing a tough sell. It doesn’t mean you can’t make the case but you need to understand what you do that warrants something over market. If, on the other hand your pay is at or below industry standard, that is information to share when you meet, to further help make your case. It’s important that you not compare yourself to others in your company specifically. If you ask for others pay, your management may be offended. You might know that information, but don’t say something like “Bill makes X and so should I”. That never sells.
  • Set up time to meet with your boss so you have the time dedicated and you can both be private.
  • Make copies of the information you will want to reference so the boss can study it alone following your meeting.
  • Let the boss know the objective of your meeting and stay focused on that when you meet. You want to professional at all times no matter how the conversation may go. You’re right that you don’t want to make threats of leaving because people don’t take threats very well. If they do ask what will you do if you don’t get a raise, you do need to be prepared to respond.
  • Do not ask for a specific number. If asked, give a range that you find acceptable.
  • Don’t expect a commitment to a pay raise during your meeting. They most likely will have to go crunch a few numbers and consult with the higher management. You DO want to schedule time for follow up and closure. Don’t walk out of the meeting not knowing what to expect and when to expect it.
  • Should they turn down your request, it is appropriate to ask what the rationale is and to find out when they would be willing to address this subject again.

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Ariella Coombs

Ariella is the Content Manager for CAREEREALISM. She graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a B.A. in journalism. Follow her @AriellaCoombs or find her on Google+.

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