I’m the first person to preach about knowing the market value for your work, but what happens when you’re in a position that you don’t want to leave, when you deserve higher pay? Most people make one of two mistakes: either they’ll wait for the management team to acknowledge their efforts and reward them with a raise, OR they’ll barge in unprepared and demand a raise, yielding less than stellar results.
I propose a middle-ground. If you’re working hard and deserve a bump in your pay, here’s how I suggest you approach the topic with your team.
1. Keep Tabs on Your Impact
If you’re not already doing this, keep a running list of your wins and responsibilities. I don’t care if this is scribbled on post-its or typed out in Google Drive. Personally, I’m a sucker for a good planner and rely on this one year after year because it splits each week into two pages: one side for scheduling and tasks, and one lined note page adjacent. This lets me track and check off my tasks, and I make it a point to write down at least one major project or win each week on the note page.
Every few months, I go back through and see exactly what I spent my time on, and what the victories were for my company. Think of this as your ammo, and don’t be shy about owning the fact that you’ve changed your company for the better.
2. Find Your Market Rate
If you’re going through this process, you probably have at least a vague sense of what your time is worth. Find your realistic range. Thanks to the internet, you can do this with free tools like Glassdoor, Indeed, Comparably, Payscale, and Salary.
These are helpful for ballpark numbers, but they’re still ballpark. Consider as much data as possible, and be honest with yourself. How long have you been doing what you do? Where are you based? How large is your company? All of this will impact your market rate.
Don’t forget this one: is your job title even accurate? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people use erroneous titles that have nothing to do with their job descriptions. If this is you, figure out what a more accurate title would be, based on what you’re already doing. This will make a huge difference in what your market rate should actually be.
If you really want to get into the weeds, you might test the waters by interviewing elsewhere and hearing their expectations and salary ranges. Proceed with caution; this can give you concrete numbers, but be willing to walk away from your current role if you want to bring this data into your negotiations. If you and your manager have a strong relationship that can withstand it, kudos to you both. Otherwise, your manager may see this as a sign that you are not planning on staying very long, and you’ll put your long-term future with the company at risk, even if you get the raise you’re looking for in the interim.
2.5 Find an Ally
This isn’t necessary, but it helps. You’ve been keeping tabs on your growth and hard work, but you’re probably not the only person that’s been impacted by all of the things you do. If you have a friendly HR person or higher up that has seen first-hand the fruits of your labor, talk to them. It’s fair game to ask their advice or perspective on your role, strengths, and areas for improvement. Think of this as a practice round for meeting with the stakeholders — it’s an opportunity to get feedback, but also to have additional support on the team.
3. Plan and Present Your Case
This conversation comes down to three things:
- What have you done so far for them? And how has your role evolved since you last touched base on comp? Use those wins you’ve been tracking to support your value.
- What is the market rate for your what you’re doing? Be sure to include sources and data points that got you to that range.
- What do you want to do moving forward?
Some suggest broaching the topic in person, but I prefer email for two reasons: one, it’s harder to put your foot in your mouth via email, and two, it’s something your manager can refer back to in the likely chance that they’re unprepared to discuss your salary right then and there. In my perfect world, your email would look like this:
I’m hoping you have a half hour to discuss my future with [[company]] sometime this week. As you know, [[honest reasons you’ve appreciated your time with company thus far, and the tangible things you’ve been able to accomplish]].
After a lot of thought and research, I found my market rate is [[rate]]. This is based on [explanation of rate].
I’m sharing this with you because I strongly believe my future is here with [[company]], and I want to invest in my career here long-term. [[Reason you’re excited about your future there, and specific projects you want to take on]].
I would love to discuss this further in person. Are you available on [[proposed time(s)]]?
Thank you, and I look forward to talking soon!
Word to the wise: don’t embellish or exaggerate. It may be tempting to reach for more, but any stretch of the truth could lead your manager to dismiss your entire proposal. People tend to let one exaggeration tarnish an otherwise strong argument, and you’ll shoot yourself in the foot by giving your manager the opportunity to discount your point of view.
During the in-person meeting, come prepared with those same data points, and be receptive to your manager’s feedback. If they bring up areas that could use improvement, make a sincere effort to work on them (and track your progress) before opening the discussion again. Either way, be sure to ask for next steps or a timeline.
4. Follow Up
Nobody is going to care as much about your raise as you do. You’ve set the process in motion, but don’t walk away thinking the ball is in your manager’s court. Set reminders for yourself to check in on progress or updates based on the timeline you discussed, and keep in mind that as much as your manager may love and value you, it’s ultimately not up to them. They’re likely working within the confines of upper management and HR, and must follow some sort of process. Be cognizant of those hurdles, and be respectful when you check in.
There’s never a guarantee that your company will be able (or willing) to give you the bump you know you’ve earned. If your company is unwilling to seriously consider it, it may be a sign that they don’t want to invest in your long-term involvement. If they are willing to consider your proposal, but have feedback for you, take it to heart and prove to them that you’re capable and worth your target rate.
Ultimately, you’re giving yourself the best chance at getting it by going in knowledgable and armed with data to support your value. Whether your salary increases or not, keep tracking your growth and progress, and you’ll be prepared for the next time you’ve earned a higher rate.
Have you successfully asked for a raise before? How’d it go?