Inside Money: How to ask for a raise


The year is half over and you’re still making the same crappy salary you were making in January. And if you’re like most workers, it goes back even further. You probably haven’t seen a raise in years. Sure, the economy has been tough and some of us are lucky to still have jobs, but economic data shows all things financial appear to be turning around, however slowly. Here’s what you can do — and what you shouldn’t do — to give yourself the best shot at getting that long-awaited raise.

Before you ask for more cash, you need to decide what you’re asking for. Start by checking websites such as and, which offer salary databases, so you can compare your current salary to those offered to employees with similar jobs. You can also check “help wanted” ads, job search websites and trade publications to see what salary ranges employers are offering for new hires. While you search, make sure you’re comparing positions from the correct geographic region. And think twice before asking your colleagues how much they earn.

Make a list of your significant professional accomplishments for the past year. These might include innovations that are helping your company make money, save money, keep clients or attract new business. Don’t speak generally, but be specific, such as: “In February, I showed client ABC how two of our products complement each other, and he decided to buy both instead of only the one he initially asked for.” Think out of the box. Did you do something not in your job description that saved the company money? Something that went above and beyond? When you share your accomplishments, don’t go on and on. Be precise and succinct and let your actions show what you’ve done. (If you haven’t previously, keep a journal of your accomplishments for future reference. Just make sure you don’t use the company computer to do this.)

Another terrific way to show your worth is by sharing with your boss what you’ve done outside of work to make yourself more valuable to the company. If you’ve taken classes, pursued certifications, or even if you’ve been active in an industry group, explain how these activities have made you a stronger employee.

If you know a co-worker earns more than you do, however tempting it may be, do not say you should be paid more because she is. Also, don’t say you need more money because your expenses have gone up, you have a new baby or your spouse is newly unemployed. Bosses give raises because of performance, not because of personal needs.

Think carefully about the “when.” The best time to ask for a raise is when you’ve done something good for the company, such as solving a big problem or finishing a long-term project. Also consider the health of your company. If there are rumors of layoffs or lost client accounts, or if your supervisor has been in trouble with his boss, wait.

Don’t spring your raise request on your boss. You want to make sure he will listen and fully concentrate on your pitch. Ask for a meeting at a time when your boss will be able to devote time to your request.

After you share your accomplishments, tell your boss what you think you are worth. If you’re paid less than what similar jobs are worth, show your boss the evidence.

Absolutely everything is negotiable. If your boss offers a raise that you think is too low, try to make a deal. Suggest he give you a certain amount effective immediately, but if in six months you reach certain goals set by the employer, you should get a second salary boost.

If your supervisor says no, it’s time for plan B. Think about your overall compensation package and how you can get a non-financial benefit. Perhaps you can get an extra week of paid vacation, or your boss will allow you to work from home twice a week. Maybe you can get a better title out of the conversation. Another option is to ask for a one-time bonus to reflect your performance for specific projects on which you excelled.

If no is still the answer, don’t walk away with your head hanging low. Ask your boss what you can do better and request a list of specific goals you can reach in a specific time frame. Offer to come back to discuss your performance in six months and reevaluate the possibility of a raise.

And no matter how disappointed you are, don’t threaten to quit unless you really mean it. You don’t want to end up on the unemployment line.