5 tips for negotiating a raise

Asking for a raise: Women vs. men
Asking for a raise: Women vs. men

The average U.S. worker gets a 3% raise each year, but just because pay increases are a common practice doesn't mean you can actually count on getting one.

If you're itching for a raise that's yet to come your way, you do have the option to broach the topic with your manager and see if you can eke out a salary boost. But before you dive into that conversation, here are a few tips for making it more effective.

1. Do your research

You might think you're worth more than what your company is paying you, but if you can actually find evidence to back up that claim, you're more likely to get results.

Before you start negotiating a raise, take some time to do your research and see what your peers seem to be earning. Sites like Glassdoor and Salary.com are a good starting point for earnings comparisons, and if you see that your compensation falls below the average in your industry, you can use the data you gather as a strong talking point.

That said, make sure you're really comparing apples to apples when digging up salary data. If you're a marketing professional who works at a non-profit, you probably won't command the same salary as a marketer for a big financial firm.

Also, keep in mind that earnings tend to be commensurate with experience, so if you're relatively new to your industry, you may not bring home the same salary as someone with 10 years' experience.

Finally, when presenting your research, try to avoid pointing to other people in your own organization who may be better compensated. Your company might have reasons for paying certain employees more than others, even if your roles seem equally matched, and if you highlight these discrepancies, it might put your company on the defensive. Furthermore, your company might have a policy against discussing salary information with peers, so this is one area where you really need to tread lightly.

2. Get your timing right

You shouldn't hesitate to argue your case if you feel you're due a raise, but be careful about when you initiate that conversation. If, for example, you've only been at your job for a few months, or you recently got a raise, it may be the wrong time to ask for more money. On the other hand, if you were recently given a load of new responsibilities, or if you just completed a major project, you'll be more justified in bringing it up.

3. Avoid getting personal

You might want, or need, a raise to pay for your dog's newly diagnosed health condition, or your child's impending college tuition bills, but in reality, the reason you're so desperately seeking a raise isn't actually relevant. Rather than ask for an increase from a necessity standpoint, make a solid case for why you deserve a raise. Compassionate as your manager might be, approving a raise should be a business decision more so than anything else.

4. Highlight your accomplishments

It's one thing to feel entitled to a raise simply because you've been at your job for a certain period of time, but it's another thing to prove to your manager that you've earned a bump in compensation. Before you sit down to have the conversation, make a list of your recent accomplishments on the job, including ways you've improved your company's numbers or saved it money. You can also, in a more subtle fashion, mention the many times you may have worked late to achieve those goals, but don't get too lost in the extra hours you've put in. Rather, focus on the results you actually produced.

5. Practice your pitch ahead of time

It's easy to get flustered or emotional when fighting for a raise. To help ensure that you keep your cool under pressure, map out what you're going to say to your manager and practice it in advance. You even might enlist the help of a friend who will role play the scenario with you, as this will give you an opportunity to address your manager's potential reaction and follow-up questions. The more prepared you are going into the conversation, the better your chances of presenting a strong argument.

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Negotiating a raise can be a stressful, and even uncomfortable, undertaking. But remember, the worst that could happen is that your company denies your request and says no. And while that's certainly far from ideal, it at least gives you a new starting point to work with.

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