8 tips on how to ask for a raise

Last week, my boss agreed to give me an 11k raise, bringing my total compensation to 141k per year. See the full post here. 

The next step in increasing our income was for my husband to get a raise of at least 10k as well.

We have (what feels like) a crazy goal of paying off 70k of our respective student loan debt in 5 months.

I am still 111k in debt, and my husband owes 45k. (I post about my background and how I got in debt here: About Me)

The husband’s salary increase discussion:

My husband currently earns slightly less than me at 99.5k per year. He is eligible for a 15% bonus on top of this, bringing his total annual compensation to about 115k.

Since he only started with his current company about 4 months ago, we were both a little nervous about him asking for a raise so soon.

We knew, however, that he had already made a few big process change/automation contributions to his department so far, and as a result he got a lot of praise from his boss and even the CEO of his company.

He had a meeting scheduled with his boss for 7 am today to discuss.

Contrary to my experience, his boss listened quietly as he finished the entire presentation.

He then congratulated my husband on his “ballsy Go Get ‘Em attitude”.

Not only would my husband be getting the requested raise, but he would also be promoted to a Director level position.

His boss had been interviewing outside the company for this role, and on the spot he decided to promote my husband to this position.

Woohoo! I already see my husband’s debt disappearing!


Here’s how my husband’s position will change:
  1. He will now have 3 people reporting into him. He’ll also be able to hire 1-2 more people for his team next year.
  2. He will be reviewed in 6 months for another raise.
  3. His salary will increase from 99.5k to 110k. Factoring in his 15% bonus, his total compensation will be 126.5k.
Our Combined Compensation:

Combined, we now make 267.5k annually.

The extra income is going straight towards paying down our respective debt, and reaching our goal of paying off 70k of our debt by the end of 2017.

Making the case for a raise:

In our cases, it was definitely a mix of luck and preparation in both being awarded 22.5k in salary/bonus increases.

We both are lucky that we seem to have got the timing right and caught our bosses at the perfect time.

Both our companies are doing well financially, with earnings projected to grow rapidly over the next few years.

In my husband’s case, he was lucky that no one was hired yet for the position which he got promoted to.

The fact that we both got our raises was of course also partly due to our preparing well in advance.


Tips I found most helpful in preparing for the discussion:

In preparing for the conversation, we both read up on as many articles and blog posts as we could find on the topic.

Here are the top 8 pointers I found on what to do when negotiating a raise.

1. Take on More Responsibility:
  • Focus on excelling at the tasks and responsibilities in your current role first, and then start solving problems that you would be tackling were you already in your future role.
  • Do this by:
    • Managing your time carefully
    • Understanding your organization’s core strategy
    • Learning as much as you can about the business
    • Aligning your priorities/goals with that of your company
2. Communicate Your Successes Proactively:
  • Don’t wait to communicate all of your successes, accomplishments and contributions for when you’re up for a salary negotiation – share your accomplishments early and often.
  • Of course, to be successful in your role, you have to consistently exceed expectations.
    • Always take on more than is expected of you, and manage your tasks as well, if not better, than those in senior roles.
    • Put in as much time as needed upfront to get to this level of performance – once you’re there, make sure your boss knows how good you are!
3. Demonstrate Your Value Added:
  • Make sure you list out all of the added responsibilities you have taken on, when requesting a raise.
  • Show examples of projects completed successfully and the beneficial impact to the organization, and to your boss!
  • Highlight positive feedback you’ve received from your boss, colleagues or customers.
  • Show how you’ve earned income for the company, either by increasing sales, or improving efficiencies.
  • Let the numbers sell your performance – include metrics, statistics and measurable data when possible.
4. Never say why you need the raise, only why you deserve it:
  • The best approach to asking for a raise is to keep the discussion centered on why you deserve more money, NOT why you need it.
  • Your employer most likely does not care whether you think you’re underpaid, or how much you need the money. Your employer only cares about giving raises to people who have earned them based on performance.
5. Practice Your Presentation, and Expect Questions:
  • Rehearse the presentation multiple times in advance. I recommend recording yourself and playing it back to listen to how you sound. Repeat this until you think you sound great!
  • Anticipate that your employer will ask questions. Brainstorm as many as you can. Write out answers to them, and practice your response. Anticipate your boss’ reaction, and know how you’ll address it.
6. Know your number:
  • Before you ask for more money, do your research to understand your market value.
  • My husband and I did this by looking at salary trends for professionals in our geographic area, with similar job titles, qualifications and responsibilities.
  • We used sites like Glassdoor, Salary.com and Payscale to find the market rate for our role.
  • Also, be aware that the average raise is between one and five percent. Don’t suggest a number that is totally unrealistic.
7. Focus on the Future, not just on past performance:
  • Demonstrate that you’re invested in and committed to the success of the company.
  • Tell your boss honestly how much you enjoy working for them and for the company. Tell them what you want to achieve in the future, and what you’ll do to help the business grow and succeed even more.
  • If you took on, or plan to take on, more responsibility, leverage this to get your raise. Explain how these added responsibilities will help the company grow and become even more profitable.
8. Understand that you might get NO as a response, and plan for this:
  • Don’t see a negative response as the end of your negotiation – far from it!
  • If the answer is no, ask for a subsequent performance appraisal (i.e. in 3 – 6 months’ time), with clearly defined performance goals and salary increase.
  • If your boss makes it clear that a salary increase is out of the question, ask for benefits like an increased bonus, other incentives, personal/professional development opportunities, more vacation time, work from home opportunities, etc.
  • The worse that can happen is your boss says no to everything you ask for. Even if this happens, by going through the process, you’ve learned to advocate for yourself and appreciate your worth.
  • You’ve also gained valuable experience which you’ll use to your advantage during the next discussion!
Final thoughts:

One thing I did have a twinge of regret about is that I couldn’t help but feel like we could have asked for even MORE.

We both got the 10k raises we requested so easily (plus some), I felt like maybe we could have asked for 12 or 15k more each.

It’s funny how it’s human nature to always want more.

Once we get want we want, we start taking it for granted and playing down the significance and benefit of what we just achieved.

That feeling aside, I AM truly grateful and happy for how the discussion turned out. Plus, there will always be more chances to ask for even more money ;o)

Have you asked for a raise, and if so, what was the outcome?

If you got what you asked for, what strategies did you use to do so?

What articles, books, blog posts, etc, did you find helpful when preparing for the discussion?


12 thoughts on “8 tips on how to ask for a raise

  1. As someone who is sitting down with leadership regarding a potential new position this week, it was reassuring to read about your positive experiences. The best advice I’ve received for career growth is to take on the jobs no one else wants to do. If you fail, everyone will have decided it was close to impossible anyway… but if you succeed, then they will think you work miracles! Congratulations on the raises and your student loan debt goals. I’m sure you’ll do great!

  2. Spot on re: the advice on career growth, Melanie!

    And I wish you the best of luck in your discussion with management on the new position – I’m sure you’ll do wonderful :o)

    Also, your blog is so lovely! I love the minimalist, clean theme, and the content really pulls you in. #bloggoals

  3. I’m really curious about how to go about making sure your bosses and uppers are aware of your accomplishments. I always find it so awkward to talk about or accept praise and congratulations. I’ve been working really hard to say “Thanks” or “You’re welcome” instead of deflecting and downgrading with a “Oh, it was nothing”. The people I work with are so good at making sure my contributions don’t go unnoticed, but I always feel so flustered when they put me in the spotlight. On one hand, I feel like I just do what I’m supposed to do, but on the other, I realize that I’m able to problem-solve and anticipate a lot better than most people in my role. I just don’t know how to accept that praise with class.

    And I know that my work has been recognized because of the jobs I’m getting, but it’s still something I struggling with. Any tips?

    I did ask for a raise once, but it was for something ridiculous like 0.73 cents. I pointed out that I was clearly worth much more than that. And the company gave it to me! It wasn’t much, but it was a gesture I appreciated. Now that I’m not an ‘intern’, I’ll be making a lot more money, and they’ve even agreed to cover the costs of me upgrading skills that’ll be useful on upcoming contracts which feels nice.

    Good luck in the new positions! To both of you! And thanks for sharing : )

  4. HI,

    Great question!

    I actually struggled a lot with the exact same thing for years.

    I have a bunch of tips that were incredibly helpful for me in improving in this area over the years.

    I summarized them into a quick blog post for you ;o)

  5. Holy crap, you and your husband are #GOALS.
    I got a 20% raise a few months ago (off of a much smaller base though), due to the combination of some of the above, a job offer elsewhere, and sheer dumb luck. It felt like a huge increase at the time, but I was being underpaid compared to my market value (thank you, Glassdoor) and I had proven my value to my company multiple times over.
    These are extremely useful tips for any one who is trying to negotiate a raise. The most important thing I’ve found is that it never hurts to ask (in a prepared manner). Many people have this notion that asking for a raise can sour work relationships, but mine have all been positive. Negotiating right tells your employer that you care about the work you’re doing at the company, regardless of the result.
    Thanks for compiling these all in once place 🙂

  6. Thanks so much, Jane! Glad you found it helpful :o)

    CONGRATS on the 20% raise! That’s an amazing achievement.

    I couldn’t agree more about how important it is to just ask for the raise, instead of waiting to be given one.

    When I first graduated, the thought of asking for more money was really intimidating. Since then I’ve thankfully gotten over my fear of being turned down, and I’ve asked to be paid more many times. Like you, my experiences were all positive.

    I actually think it helps your image with your employer – as you noted, it shows you take the work you do seriously and know your worth.

    I also love using Glassdoor and other sites to check if I’m being paid enough for my title and experience level. Very helpful to point to when negotiating ;o)

  7. Thanks for sharing these tips! I believe everyone who already works hard and accomplishes more than they are paid worth, should request a raise. That being said, in the corporate world, I view promotions and salary increases with a wary eye.

    For context, I do not have any debt and never have. I started my corporate job through a rotational program and many of my cadre peers are senior level managers and principals 10 years later. I, on the other hand, am a senior project manager. Here’s why: I grew up poor, but relatively happy. I knew that you don’t need much stuff to enjoy life. So when I started on the corporate fast-track, I realized pretty quickly that there is a price to pay.

    For every promotion, I was asked to give more time and energy. I noticed it early on, and had to think about my choices. I decided that while I expected to get occasional promotions and salary increases, I didn’t want to sell my soul and free time any more than 9-5 on average.

    What does that mean? It means that I reached FI in 2017 along with my hubby, 10 years after starting my corporate journey. We focused on doing just well enough to get steady salaries and bonuses, but going home on time most days. It meant that I didn’t need to spend money on as many stress-relieving activities along the way. Focusing on budgeting for some luxuries, but keeping our fixed expenses low, we still reached FI 5 years after getting on the path.

    Could we have gotten here faster with bigger salaries along the way? Probably, provided we kept our budget similar. However, time is the most precious resource to us, and good health is correlated with less stress. So, we chose the slower path, but one that ensured we got here happy and healthy, and enjoyed the journey along the way.

    I applaud you for your goals of paying off debt sooner. Just make sure you aren’t burning out along the way. Life is short, and every day matters, so Carpe Diem, baby. 🙂

    1. Great comment!!

      So true that there are strings attached with each raise and promotion. After a certain point, the benefit might not outweigh the costs. I certainly felt it with my last raise – I’m already booking more hours and taking on more responsibility.

      Kudos to you and your husband for having your priorities straight and getting the money/time balance right.

      When are you looking to retire? Sounds like it could be any day!

      1. Yeah, the “give us more with each dollar” not only can drain you, it often turns out that you get paid less per hour of work you do, especially if you put in more hours for only incremental increases over time. Don’t let them milk you for all you have to offer. 🙂

        We reached FI in January of 2017 and plan to retire in Q3 of 2019. Two more years! The countdown to the “RE” of FIRE is on. 🙂

        1. Nice!!! You’re SO close to freedom! I would have ZERO motivation at work if I was that close to retiring. I’ll have to live vicariously through you guys till 2031 :o)

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