Getting a Raise

5 Things to Do Before You Ask for a Raise


Everyone wants a raise, who would say no to higher pay? But when it comes time to ask for a raise, too many people are content to wait for an inflation-based annual bump. Or worse, spend years punching the clock without requesting (or receiving) an increase in compensation.

If you’re in that camp, you’re either being taken advantage of, or you haven’t done anything to stand out. In either case with the right motivation you have the ability to get a raise this year.

Here are five of the most important factors to consider before you ask for a raise.

1. Recognize Your Value

Would you give you a raise? If the answer is yes, why? Thinking about the value you add can really build your confidence and that goes a long way during negotiations. How much time do you put in? Are you effective in your position? How many people can do what you do?

Recognizing your value isn’t just an exercise in adding up all your greatness, it involves an honest assessment of your marketability. To direct the trajectory of your career, you need to recognize areas where you’re lacking and work to improve them. After your self-assessment you can decide whether you should ask for a raise now, or wait and build a better case.

2. Before Asking for a Raise, Demonstrate Your Value

If you had trouble listing reasons why you’re indispensable in step one, you might need to focus on additional ways to contribute before you ask for a raise. Prove that for any task you undertake you not only accomplish it, you take ownership of it. However, sometimes when you’re eager to undertake additional projects you get roped into doing work that’s outside the scope of your role. It’s normal to have varied duties but your core responsibilities should be well-defined.

Ultimately, the more valuable you make yourself the more leeway you have to determine what you do, whether working for yourself or a company. To determine the quickest path to promotion, study how your company operates and who the key players are. Make your accomplishments known to the people who have the ability to reward you.

3. Increase Your Value First, Then Ask for a Raise

If you determine that you could do more to set yourself apart, focus on doing that before asking for a raise. Getting another degree might be the right move but that depends on your current level of education and the field you’re in. Having an additional degree, especially in the short run is no guarantee of a pay raise. Hell, you may end up paying more for the degree than what you earn for having it. In the longer run though -and the quicker you pay off any student loans- an additional degree might prove highly beneficial to your career trajectory.

Getting certifications and additional training can also be lucrative. Due to the lower costs and shorter time commitment, when compared to getting a Master’s degree for instance, becoming certified usually comes out ahead in a short horizon cost/benefit analysis. But taking this route can also be a waste of time and money if the certification isn’t highly valued in your industry. The key here is due diligence, making decisions that are likely to increase your earnings exponentially over time.

4. Create Competition

If you know what you’re worth, have made efforts to demonstrate it but your employer doesn’t recognize your value, you can get usually their attention by securing an offer for higher compensation elsewhere. This works best when you have a firm offer, one that you would actually accept if necessary. You might risk creating tension with your current employer (or the prospect, if you reject their offer) but if you truly deserve a raise you should feel no shame using this time-tested negotiation tactic.

Even if you can’t take another job right now you can still harness the power of competition. Engage in an unspoken competition with your coworkers. Or, challenge yourself to increase your productivity. A master craftsman, regardless of the craft, is honored by his colleagues and supervisors, satisfied in work and always in high demand.

5. Take Control

Sometimes you can control your pay by simply working more. When you’re paid on an hourly basis you get overtime if you work more than 40 hours a week. That overtime adds up, often to the tune of thousands of dollars per year. If overtime isn’t possible, or you’re paid on commission or salary, you can control your earnings with a side-hustle or freelance gig. Recently funded startups in beta testing might pay hundreds of dollars for projects that take just a few hours to complete. I did some creative work for company called Bublup which was fun, relatively easy and and well-compensated. Showcasing your work to these companies could net you multiple projects per year.

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