For many, the New Year brings with it a time for change and goal-setting. At work, this often translates into an annual performance review. We’ve asked Jack Chapman, salary coach and author of Negotiating Your Salary: How to Make $1,000 a Minute, for his tips on what you need to know before heading into your review and how to ask for a raise effectively and diplomatically.
When should you ask for a raise?
Chapman reminds people that the New Year isn’t the only time to ask for a raise. “There are two times to ask for a raise. One is when it’s expected at the performance review. [Another is] when anything changes or if you do anything really good in your job. Or, alternatively, if you do research at salary.com and find that overall you’re underpaid or at the median and you think you’re worth more than the median,” says Chapman.
According to Chapman, another time to ask for a raise is when companies are laying off. “Often, when companies are laying off and cutting back, it is a good time to ask for a raise because if you’re not one of the people that’s let go, then typically you’ve got more work to do and that can be a time when the employer can be motivated [to give a raise].”
Make sure you’ve earned it
Before you ask for a raise, “make sure you’ve earned it and make sure your boss knows you’ve earned it,” says Chapman. You can accomplish both of these goals with what Chapman calls the pre-review memo. He recommends writing a pre-review memo summarizing what you’ve done well over the past year. “Go back over the year and find the things you’ve done well. Then send a memo with two things on it,” says Chapman. The memo should include a summary of improvements that can be made as well as written goals and objectives for the upcoming year.
“Often achievements and things that you do are invisible to your boss,” says Chapman. He recommends taking time to write a one page summary of your achievements which can “help you feel like you’re worth it and of value and your boss knows that you’ve earned it [a raise].”
To help you remember all of your achievements throughout the year, Chapman recommends keeping a journal. “A job journal is something you should keep during the year because at the end of the year you can’t think of all the stuff you did the past 365 days. Whether that was an irate customer and you calmed them down, or an e-mail with a compliment—keeping a journal is important.” As a side benefit, if salary negotiations with your employer do not bear fruit, this is a great source document for crafting your resume.
How to ask for a raise
First, get the pre-review memo to your boss outlining your goals and accomplishments. “Make sure you and your boss [both] agree on your accomplishments and goals for next year,” says Chapman. Secondly you want to ask your boss what you can do for them to help meet their goals. By asking this your “boss gets the message that you are out to help them succeed.” Once you have the person emotionally on your side, ask for a raise. “Have three numbers in mind—ideal, real and no go. Start with the top of those numbers. For example, if you want $70,000, ask for $80,000. Get the biggest possible number you can justify and have reasoning behind it—talk about your goals and how you’ve helped the company. If you don’t get your ideal or real number, don’t quit,” says Chapman.
Chapman believes that success is possible. “Help your boss succeed by doing your job the way your boss wants you to do it.”
“I got the raise—but it’s not what I wanted”
Linda Chan, a television research analyst based in New York City, wasn’t satisfied with her salary. “I was doing more work and increasing my responsibilities at the company, and I wanted my salary to reflect my growth here,” says Chan.
She met with her boss and explained that she was unhappy with her salary. Her boss gave her two suggestions—to look for another job that paid more money, or to meet with the president of the company and give a presentation on why she deserved a raise. “I really like my job and I like the people I work with so I decided to go with the latter,” says Chan.
Chan set up a meeting with the president and created a power point presentation. “I broke my presentation down to three parts. The first [part] was what my responsibilities included when I started at my job, the second one was how it had grown after a year and a half, and the third one was what I wanted to improve on in the future, and what I thought I could contribute to the company, [such as] learning the new system that we’re getting, attending more meetings on behalf of my boss, and taking steps toward a managerial role so that if we hired another person in our department, I could help train them.”
At the end of the presentation she pasted examples of her contributions to the company such as the newsletter she compiles and writes along with a few “thank you” e-mails that clients had sent her. “Basically saying that my work spoke for itself, and if it didn't, that other people I've worked with could vouch for me. The president really liked my presentation. A few weeks later, my boss pulled me aside and told me that I had gotten my raise and it was double the usual amount of a raise!”
Chan recommends talking to your boss if you aren’t satisfied with your raise. “If you feel you deserve a raise, you should talk to your superior about it instead of waiting. The worst that can happen is they say no.”
Now, go get ‘em!