THE BLOG
11/08/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

How To Ask Your Boss For A Raise

Dear Christine,

I have been at my company for over a year now and want to ask for a raise. I am shy and a bit insecure at work but I think I do a good job and take my work very seriously. I'm nervous about approaching my boss about it, but I need to make more money. What's your advice for mustering up the courage to ask?

- Raise, 25, Florida

Dear Wanting a Raise,

If you want to increase your net worth, increase your self-worth first! It sounds like your confidence at work could use a raise as well. My guess is you are under-valuing yourself and bringing insecurities from your past into your present. I encourage you to make a list of all of your strengths, skills, completed tasks, and lessons learned from not just this job but your entire work history. While you are doing this, do not minimize anything you have done. Every task is relevant and significant. Reach out to past bosses and co-workers and ask them what they appreciated and observed when working with you and add those things to your list. Reread this list aloud every day for at least a week and feel free to add to it as you go. Reframe your perception of who you are as employee. If you want your boss to see you as a valuable employee, you need to see yourself that way first.

To boost your confidence a bit, practice being a bit more out-going and assertive with your coworkers. Ask one of your colleagues out to lunch, join in a water cooler conversation, make a comment or raise a question at a meeting. If your boss is intimidating to you, then practice approaching people who are not your direct superior to build your self-esteem muscles.

In terms of mustering up courage, you are just going to have to go for it! Courage is not the absence of fear; it is feeling the fear and doing something anyway. There are things you can do to calm your nerves. Preparation and practice are great companions to courage. Instead of just going in cold and asking for more money, treat this like a formal meeting with your boss.

Set a time to meet with your boss so that you have uninterrupted, scheduled time together. Get on his or her calendar by saying you'd like to have an appointment for a review and to discuss your growth at the company. Most companies do this at least once a year with their employees so it is not unreasonable to ask for this.

To prepare, make a bulleted list of your performance and accomplishments at the company that you can review with your boss such as: daily tasks, goals reached, projects you've worked on, procedures you've improved, individuals you've supported/assisted, sales numbers you've impacted, and so on. Also, brainstorm new ideas or responsibilities you could act on that would make you an even more valuable employee. Getting outside feedback is helpful as another person may bring your attention to things you overlooked so consider reviewing this list with a co-worker, mentor or professional you trust.

Next, research competing salaries for the type of work you do. Monster.com, Indeed.com and Salary.com are good resources. Know salaries for similar positions, doing the same kind of work, and in cities with comparable costs of living. Have an exact figure in mind that you intend to ask for. Be reasonable, not greedy. Going in and just asking for "a raise" is too broad and does not demonstrate you've done your professional research.

A hitch in this advice is that the timing for a raise may not be the best given the current state of the economy. If you have a sense that a raise would be a big stretch for your company, go in with other compensatory ideas in mind. Could you ask for extra vacation days? The ability to work remotely one day a week? The freedom to leave at lunch on Fridays? Think of reasonable requests that are not monetary but would afford you more freedom and flexibility. I highly recommend that you rehearse this conversation before you have it. Enroll a trusted co-worker, mentor, friend, or coach that you can practice with by presenting your proposal and asking for what you want.

When it's time for the meeting, take a deep breath. Bring your bullet point list of accomplishments and ideas with you. Start the meeting by thanking your boss for his or her time, and for the opportunities you've been afforded so far. Be clear that your intention in having the meeting is to review job performance, present ideas and discuss a salary increase. This is not a time to be vague or hint around. Tap into that part of you that knows you are worthy and ask for what you deserve! The worst thing that can happen is that your boss will say no and then you can bring forward the non-monetary requests that you brainstormed. You are not going to die or be ridiculed, I promise.

Remember, negotiating on your own behalf is something to feel confident about! Being your own advocate is a skill integral to your success.

Christine

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