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Everything costs more, but how do you make more? Sometimes it’s as simple as asking for a raise. According to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, a survey of female professionals conducted by Citi/LinkedIn revealed that “not getting paid enough” is among women’s top three work-related frustrations.
Yet the same study showed that only a quarter of women polled actually requested a raise in the previous year. For the one in four who asked, there was good news: 75 percent received a pay bump—in fact, 50 percent ended up raking in as much—or in some casesmore—than they expected.
A recent Salary.com survey found similar results about the discrepancy between men and women when it comes to salary negotiation. The survey discovered that regardless of their position, 36 percent of men always negotiate, compared to just 26 percent of women. What’s more, 86 percent of the women surveyed expressed the desire to learn stronger negotiation skills.
It’s not always easy to ask for a raise, though, and not all approaches are equally effective. It often takes more than “explaining your value” to get what you want. For sound advice on the best ways to request a higher salary, career-intelligence consulted with a panel of workplace experts:
Requesting a raise is not something that should be done on a whim. It’s important to take the time you need to prepare a perfect pitch. Leadership growth expert Val Wright suggests gaining leverage by planning the conversation for a time when you have just delivered a successful project or achieved a significant career milestone. She also suggests providing your supervisor with a heads-up about your intentions. “Give advanced notice to your boss that you want to discuss your career and compensation so they are not surprised,” says Wright.
Business owner Vannessa Wade, CEO of Connect the Dots PR, emphasizes the importance of doing your research before deciding how much to ask for. “Gather your evidence,” says Wade. “You can’t walk in without it. How much would you like to make? This also means being prepared to talk about all the outstanding work you have done.”
Consultant and author Barry Maher agrees that it’s important to be ready with a list of your accomplishments, pointing out all of the reasons why you’ve earned a pay raise, as opposed to why you think you need a pay raise. “If you can assign a dollar value—how much the accomplishments on that list have earned or saved the company—so much the better,” says Maher.
Requesting references from colleagues and clients can also provide a strategic advantage. Gina Visram, owner of Limitless Coaching, suggests starting to ask key work-related contacts to write a recommendation for you on your LinkedIn profile a month or two before you approach your boss with your request.
“For any of those sources that you can be specific with, do let them know you are aiming for a promotion/raise, and their recommendations will hopefully hit the right note,” says Visram. “When you have your meeting with your manager, this can be an aspect of the meeting – i.e. where you can show off how well you are doing, using the words of others.” Visram adds that having the additional recommendations on your profile will be useful not just for your current career progression goal, but also for the future.
For your raise request to be taken seriously, your suggested pay hike needs to match the prevailing compensation for your job. An Internet search can be a great place to start. Salary.com, for example, allows you to review appropriate salary levels based on your location, company size, and type of work.
Laura Poisson and Susan Klaubert, vice presidents at career transition firm ClearRock, note that various websites can help determine where your pay stands within your industry and region—as can HR. “Your company’s human resources department should also have information about salary levels,” says Poisson. “You should have this information ready before you meet with your manager.”
Another piece of the puzzle is to determine your organization’s specific policy regarding raises. “Research whether your employer awards increases only once a year following a performance review, gives bonuses instead of raises in base pay, or rewards only senior-level or high-potential workers,” says Klaubert. “More employers are also segmenting their workforces, with the highest performers getting the biggest hikes.”
Increasing your salary is not the only way to improve your compensation package. Other benefits, either in addition to or in lieu of more money, can boost your bottom line as well. Depending on your individual situation—for example, if your request for a raise is rejected—it may be smart to shift gears and explore alternatives to raises.
“You may want to consider requesting awards that do not enlarge base pay, such as a one-time cash bonus, additional vacation, or the opportunity to work from home more frequently,” says Poisson.
While research such as the Citi/LinkedIn survey above suggests that asking often results in a raise, you should also be prepared to deal with the possibility of a negative answer. “If you do not receive what you asked for, determine the reasons why and what you need to do,” says Klaubert. “Work out a plan to achieve desired results within an agreed time frame and to revisit the issue. You then will be able to demonstrate your higher value in future meetings.”