How to Get a Pay Raise at Your Job

First tip. don’t talk about Percentage raises. Percentage raises are totally disconnected from value and are all about making small $ numbers look big (a 7% raise sounds nice but it’s only $180/paycheck after tax if you get paid semi-monthly and were on $100k)

  • Pre-Requisites
  • Be good at your job Seriously, there’s no substitute for this. This advice will only work for people who deserve a raise.
  • Make sure your request has natural timing. Don’t ask for a raise if the company is fucked if you quit. Ask for a raise AFTER you’ve saved their ass, not while you’re saving it. No-one responds well to blackmail.
  • Have skills that transfer. There is a range that your company will pay you that has an upper limit on your value and a lower limit on what they assume your value is to others. The more transferrable your skills are the closer you’ll get paid to that upper bound of what you’re worth (remember, if they pay you one penny more than you’re worth then they’re making a mistake. It happens, but it’s not our goal here. Our goal is to clarify your worth and to get paid as close to it as possible). Having skills that transfer means you de-emphasize skills that are company specific and focus on market-wide skills. Be careful what you volunteer for.While this is somewhat true, this is more about having options if you need to walk away. You’ll want to have skills that are marketable to other potential employers, but your current employer doesn’t really care about this unless they are concerned about losing you.

    In actuality, it is the value that you bring to the business that is most likely to get you that raise that you want. You need to be able to say to your boss “I do X, Y, and Z, and since I’ve started doing that we’ve been generating 8% more revenue” or “we’ve saved 10% in waste” or “I’ve managed to optimize this process that used to take 12 hours to complete and now it only takes 3 hours”. If you can outline how you are making the company more efficient or more profitable you are more likely to not only get the raise, but people will tend to think of you as someone who gets the big picture.

  • Ask for a performance review This is the formal setting to talk about your worth. Make sure that you let your manager know that your goal in your review is to review your value to the company. Don’t surprise them with your agenda. You’re not there to just listen. You want to talk about the value you add to the company. Saying this isn’t threatening them and it’s not demanding. It’s the very definition of what a performance review is for. But it clearly suggests that your motive is your remuneration with respect to your value.In many cases (especially at larger companies), by the time you have your performance review your compensation adjustment (if any) has already been set. In those cases the review is really just a chance for the manager to tell you what they think of your work and have you sign off that you had the review. You need to know when the performance review cycle begins and broach the subject with your manager before that happens.
  • Know what will make you happy and let them know what it is Make sure you’re clear about what will make you happy. It’s not a negotiation. It’s a request to be made happy and this is what will do that. Say something that communicates that you’re working hard to exceed their expectations and that this is the moment where you hope they’ll reciprocate. If they respond with negotiation then avoid it. Take the high road. “I’d like to avoid a negotiation where we all feel like we’ve not quite gotten what we hope for. I hope I’m giving you everything you hope for from me and I want this outcome to reflect that”. This is about having earned it before asking for it, but then not being shy about asking for it.
  • Win over the influencers If your manager is your buddy but you’re not sure if they control your pay then pull him/her into your plan. Ask “I want to have a conversation about my worth in order to talk about my salary and I’d like your advice on how to go about it.” You’ve just requested what feels like a small favor from them but may be an enormous favor to you. They’re becoming invested in your goal. They can’t advise you on how best to position yourself to get paid what you’re worth without also representing you in the best light to the people that might come asking their viewpoint.
  • Preparation: Have concrete data If you’re going to say you’re more productive than others, then quantify it. Do your research before your meeting. It shows you’re professionalism in the same moment that you’re claiming your professionalism. Focus on results more than effort. Results equate to value, effort only speaks to (your) cost.
  • There’s no ‘company policy’ about what you get paid If you’re worth it (ie, you’re not a commodity) then you can get paid for it. If anyone quotes company policy at you, divert them. “If it’s ok, I’d like to focus on what value I add and then come back to how you can respond to that”. If you’re getting underpaid it suits the company to make a deal quickly before all the facts in your favor are laid out. You’ve prepared for this and you need to make sure that they understand the way the world looks to you.
  • If the raise isn’t happening find out why “Do you feel that I’m over-valuing myself?” That’s a Great question to ask. It clarifies what you’re discussing. Is it my worth that we disagree on? Or is it just that you haven’t ‘got the budget’. If they say they haven’t got the budget (or something like it) then say that you understand and of course it’s possible that you’re over-estimating your worth anyway and that you’ll have to do some more research on it as this is obviously meaningful to you. The implication is that you’re about to go job hunting but you’re not threatening them. You’re encouraging them toward finding an agreed valuation of your services.


Tips for Getting a Raise at a Small Company

Small companies are the easiest places to get raises because there’s high visibility on your value. Everyone involved in deciding your pay knows your value. That’s ideal.

  1. Let them know that you want the review to clarify your value to the company (that’s a great scene-setting line because it communicates your focus on your value without sounding threatening)
  2. Start by asking them to tell you how they perceive your value. Ask for where exactly they feel like you’ve been valuable and as they talk about it, ask questions that make them expound. “Oh really”, you say “I hadn’t actually thought about that. What difference did that make? Would it have mattered if it hadn’t been done that way?”. Make them own their appreciation for you in vivid detail.
  3. Then it’s your turn “Well, as I was asking myself this same question, here’s what I came up with and I want to understand if my perception of where I added value is lined up with yours…”. Now you’re listing out your value and asking for their responses. But you’re not talking about money at all. Just value. But tie it back to specific company revenue numbers that you influenced if you can. do your homework before the meeting.
  4. State your goals. “Obviously, you can tell I’ve given this conversation a lot of thought. The truth is I’m looking at career advancement and that’s about adding value and getting rewarded for it. How have I done?” Past tense. Not “How am I doing?”. You’ve done it. It’s review/reward time.
  5. Summarize “My hope is that I’ve evolved my role into something more valuable than it started as” (you’re de-coupling the pay for your role from what you /should be paid).
  6. If they don’t agree then talk about it. Worst case scenario is that you come out of there with an understanding of exactly why they don’t see this the way you do. But this part of the conversation hopefully goes smoothly unless they wildly differ in how they perceive your values
  7. Ask for a big raise if you deserve it. Don’t think about % of current salary. Focus on the value you’ve adding to the company and find a narrative that turns that value into a monetary figure.

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