As veterans, we might be accustomed to the idea that pay raises come at the will of the company or that a raise also requires a promotion. In the civilian world, people usually ask for raises in pay. Employees sometimes have to take on increased responsibilities, they might have to work longer hours or they may have specialized knowledge that means only they are able to complete certain tasks.
There's also nothing wrong with someone just thinking they deserve a bump, because they've put in their time -- and hey, sometimes a dollar just doesn't go as far as it used to. No matter what your reasons are, there are a few things to consider when building up the courage and the case for asking.
1. Prepare for the discussion.
This is like writing a performance review for your entire time at a company. Take stock of all of your accomplishments, where you have exceeded your responsibilities and the company's expectations of your performance. Also take the time to really think about the projects you've completed and the value you bring to the company. Find real numbers and data if you can.
Creating this kind of information for your own reference doesn't just give you ammunition for the conversation and potential negotiations. It's a way to hype yourself up, building your confidence so you know you deserve the raise you're about to ask for.
2. Research the policies and pay.
This is where you learn about when your company typically offers pay raises. It might be something your company does during annual performance reviews or in preparation for a new fiscal year. Knowing these policies can help you time the discussion just right.
As far as your specific role, you should know what someone in your position, with your tenure, in your industry typically makes. If you have peers, you might find out what they're bringing home every year. And yes, no matter what your company tells you, you are allowed to discuss how much you make with coworkers -- it's protected by federal law.
3. Know what you want.
Knowing what others doing similar work in the same and similar industries are making is important, but they don't have the same needs you have. You might be trying to save more money for retirement, replace or repair something in your home or you might just want to keep up with inflation. Whatever your reason, decide how much you need.
It's equally important to decide what number you're willing to accept. Think about compensation as a total package. Do you need remote work days? Equity in the company? Reimbursement for your commute? Pay is just one area to consider.
4. Start the conversation early.
Don't just walk up to your boss and ask for a raise. Start the conversation a few weeks in advance and see where you stand. Find out if you're meeting expectations and discuss honest feedback with your supervisor. Find out what opportunities you have there by asking questions like, "What do I need to do for the company to want to promote me?"
This also gives you the time to address any concerns they might have for your standing. Since you're going to be opening a compensation negotiation soon, this also will give you time to find leverage, like having a better offer from a competitor.
5. Practice the meeting.
When the time comes to make the ask, take the time to practice the conversation with your boss, just like you might practice a job interview. Find a good friend or coworker who can play the role of your boss and discuss the issues presented to you in your initial meeting. If you can address those issues, you're in good shape.
This, like doing the research, also will have the added benefit of giving you confidence as you go into the meeting. You not only will feel prepared, but also deserving of what you're about to ask.
6. Play it cool.
If you found out you're grossly underpaid, don't storm into the boss' office and demand a raise. Go through this whole process so you can get more money without risking your job. Ease into the conversation with some small talk, then transition into your finer points before making the ask.
For those who get a "no" in the initial round, understand that's not necessarily a "no" forever. Find out what it would take to turn "no" into a "yes." Maybe there's no money in the budget right now, but there will be in a few months. There might be some responsibility you could take to prove your value.
If, in the end, you're unhappy with the outcome and still want more compensation, looking around for another job offer might not be a bad idea. If you get one, be sure to offer your current company a chance to match.
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