It's Time for a Raise: Here's How to Negotiate What You're Worth

Fifty-eight percent of women are uncomfortable asking for a raise. Here's how to prepare, plan, and ace salary negotiations with your employer.


Negotiating a standard raise of four to five percent every few years may not sound like much, but putting it off could cost you over $1 million by the end of your career. That's all the more concerning when you consider that only 58 percent of women report being comfortable asking for a raise, compared to 74 percent of men. That's a lot of potential money being left on the table, and another potential barrier to achieving pay equity. Even if starting salaries become universal, if more men than women ask for raises, the effect will be lost.

Fortunately, it's easier than ever to prepare for salary negotiations, so if you're having jitters, don't worry — we've got you covered. Read on to learn how to prepare, set, and ace your raise talks to keep your career earnings on track.

Hit the books

Preparation is key when it comes to easing negotiation anxiety. Fortunately, the internet has made national salary data easily available so you'll be able to ground your negotiations in facts.

Consult a reputable salary guide. If possible, edit your search criteria to match your current location and level of experience. This will give you the most accurate starting point to begin your talks. A good rule of thumb would be to target the middle of whatever pay range you find as your starting point. Then, reflect on your role within the company to determine whether you should increase or decrease your target salary. Do you frequently go above and beyond the call? Do you regularly take on duties outside your purview, or cover for roles that your employer still hasn't filled with a full-time employee?

Next, think back to your qualifications. Are you in a position where certain degrees or certifications, while not required, are nice-to-have? And do you have them? Besides making you more capable at your job, these certifications provide important leverage during salary negotiations. They're another piece that can help you assemble a starting point over the industry median.

Setting up your meeting

A salary negotiation is not something you want to spring on your superiors without warning. Besides showing your respect for their time, your manager will also appreciate some advance notice to do their own assessment and calculations and, if necessary, secure budgetary clearance.

Put some time on their calendar explaining you'd like to discuss your compensation. Now, the timing you choose here is also somewhat of an art, so if you have the flexibility, try and select a time you know your company is in a position to make this kind of consideration.

Timing can be apt based on factors both in and outside of your control. If you recently completed a major project, oversaw a successful product launch or stepped up in a big way that's brought value to your team, then consider the iron hot for striking. If your company as a whole is flourishing, that too would be a good time to ask for a raise, since the chances of having your request granted near or at your target are highest.

Of course, if the opposite is true in either case, you may want to postpone your negotiations until a time when either your performance or the company fundamentals are on more solid ground.

Leading negotiations

You crushed it this quarter, your product flew off the shelves and your company's stock is rising. You requested your meeting and found a salary range that you can comfortably negotiate up and down all day. All that's left to do is sit down and have the discussion.

The good news is that with so much salary data available online, the actual negotiation phase should go quite smoothy. You'll be negotiating from a position of knowledge, with an irrefutable set of facts as your guide. Simply begin your meeting by explaining the reasons for your request that you uncovered during your prep work and reflection. Explain how these new duties or work accomplishments have benefited your team and the company. In the case of degrees and certifications, show how your new knowledge applies to and enhances the job, and what the fruits of that labor might look like for the company in the coming year.

Share your desired salary with your employer. A good rule of thumb is to start slightly higher than what you calculated based on your research. Even with so much data available today, negotiation is still a two-way street, and you'll want to allow yourself breathing room in case your employer counters with a lower number.

Whenever in doubt, stick to the salary range you settled on from the outset. If your employer doesn't accept and counters lower than what you know is supported by the data, bring it up. Explain that based on your research, employees with similar duties, level of experience and education are making X-amount and continue to work together toward a fair number from there.

Key takeaways

Asking for a raise can be nerve-wracking, but the wealth of salary data available today takes much of the emotion out of the proceedings, giving you the confidence you need to negotiate from a fact-based perspective. Research national salary data based on your position, experience and education level and reflect on your own strengths and accomplishments to settle on a range. With good preparation, your new salary will practically negotiate itself when it comes time for the big meeting.

 

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