5 steps to confidently ask your boss for a raise or promotion

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Do you feel like you deserve a pay raise or promotion at work? You're not alone. Considering most companies opted out of rewarding employees with bonuses or pay increases due to the pandemic in 2020, the workforce is anxious to see an uptick in the amount on their paychecks this year. And while many people have taken on more responsibility at work in recent months, many have yet to receive a title change or be compensated for it.

According to a study done by The Simple Dollar, around 60% of Americans are expecting to see their salary increase. But many wonder when it will actually happen. Employees (especially women) struggle with how to approach their boss and ask for a raise or promotion. 

You’ll want to have a face-to-face meeting with your immediate supervisor to discuss, but also have evidence in your hand. That means putting in some work to get your ideas and asks in order.

Also, the more preparation you can do ahead of time the more your confidence level will increase. As you build your case you’ll likely realize you should have asked for this raise or promotion a long time ago. Maybe now you’ll finally feel like you deserve it.

So, here’s your no-nonsense guide to asking for that raise or promotion so you can start the conversation now!

1. Establish your worth

When asking your boss for a raise or promotion at work it's important to identify why you deserve it. You'll want to clearly show the impact your work has had on the team and the company as a whole. Build out a simple document with measurable outputs, growth numbers, or accomplishments you’ve made in the last year (or since your last promotion or raise). Let’s call it your “Moving on up!” brag sheet. Here are a few examples:

  • Anything you were a part of that generated revenue for the company (products, sales, launches, services, etc.)
  • Increases in traffic, acquisition, visitors, followers, or awareness
  • Processes you developed for better efficiency, productivity, or planning

At the end of your “Moving on up!” brag sheet feel free to add examples of when you’ve gone above and beyond your normal responsibilities. 

  • Are you a part of a committee?
  • Have you helped with one-off projects?
  • Did you dedicate time to onboarding a new hire outside of your job description?
  • Do you serve as a mentor to a less-seasoned colleague?

The goal of this upfront work is to make the pay increase or promotion decision a no-brainer for your boss. And if he/she has to go to someone else for approval, you want to make sure everything you shared is translated effectively to that person as well. Preparing a document helps with this as well as guiding you through the conversation with your boss.

2. Know what you want and why

It won’t go over well if you step into a meeting with your boss planning to ask for a raise or promotion and your ducks—or desires—aren’t in a row. This is a crucial step that many people skip. Determine the salary and/or new title you want and believe you deserve. Be upfront and clear about this. 

So, how do you figure out what that number should be? The average raise in 2021 is between 2.5% and 6.2%. However, it’s okay to ask for more, especially if your current salary isn’t in line with similar positions in your niche. Research the market value of your current (or desired) position in your area. Use resources like Glassdoor and Payscale to help you come up with a number. Then, add it (and the research you’ve done to get there) to your “Moving on up!” brag sheet.

3. Ask for the meeting

Once you’ve done your research it’s time to be brave and schedule a meeting with your boss to ask for the raise or promotion. It’s perfectly acceptable to be transparent about why you want to meet. This is not the time to blindside your boss with one of those, “Can I get some time on your calendar?” emails. Simply let your supervisor know you want to have a conversation about your professional development and future within the organization. 

Be respectful of everyone’s time and keep the meeting to 30 minutes if possible. This will ensure you’re clear and to the point. Share your gratitude for the opportunity to have an open, honest conversation about this.

4. Practice for the real thing

If you’re asking your boss for a raise or promotion in person, ask a friend or partner to sit with you as if you were in the actual meeting. If it will be over a video chat or phone call, practice that scenario, too. Act as if you’re really in the situation and make it as real as possible. Try being confident, concise, and clear. Doing this will make you feel more comfortable when you go in for the ask. You can prepare in your head all you want, but mirroring the actual conversation will automatically boost your confidence. One other quick tip: visualize the meeting with your boss going well. Focus on and see yourself getting that raise or promotion. 

5. Confidently meet with your boss and ask for a raise or promotion!

Treat this meeting with your boss like any other and try to relax. Going in worried won’t do anything for you. Remember, you will be fully prepared to state your case. Once you do that—using your “Moving on up!” brag sheetsit back and listen. Give your boss a chance to respond and be open to feedback. 

If there are specific things you know you need to work on (or you and your boss have discussed previously) those may be brought up in this conversation. And that’s okay. During your preparation phase write those down on a separate piece of paper along with how you are actively working on them. Have that paper with you to reference so constructive criticism doesn’t derail you. Don’t add it to your “Moving on up!” brag sheet, though. If the areas for improvement aren’t mentioned by your boss then there’s no need to bring them up yourself.

And remember that there will always be areas for improvement. Should they prohibit you from a raise or promotion? Only you know the answer to that, and if you’re making the request, the answer is likely no.

If your boss comes back to you with excuses or reasons a promotion or raise isn’t feasible, it may be time to reevaluate your work situation. There could be better opportunities—like your dream job—waiting for you. Start considering other options and make that tried and true pros and cons list to help you decide whether you should stay or go.

Bypass the cover letter


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