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How to ask for a raise

Asking for a raise can do wonders for your career, above and beyond the actual money.

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Did you know that more than half of U.S. workers never ask for a raise? It’s true. Maybe their mothers told them that “good things come to those who wait.” Maybe they’re shy. Or maybe they have jobs where raises arrive as if by magic.

Or maybe not.

Asking for a raise can do wonders for your career, above and beyond the actual money. After all, you are showing that you respect yourself enough to seek better pay, and this can lead to your boss respecting you more, too.

In any case, salary negotiation is a useful skill to acquire. Here are a few pointers.

Before you say one word to the upper-ups about a possible increase in salary, be sure you know your worth. Research industry pay standards so that you can show how yours measures up, or doesn’t.

Next, put together a comprehensive list of your achievements, expressing them as much as you can in terms of dollars and cents. Did the reorganization that you suggested and implemented end up saving the company a bundle of dough? Your boss may need to be reminded of this. Can you gather together some customer testimonials? Their words carry far greater power than yours ever can.

Being able to demonstrate your past value is pretty good ammunition. But that was then — what about now? Find out, if you can, what challenges your boss or your company is set to face in the near future. And then come up with some suggestions of how you could help with these challenges.

Now you’re ready to approach the boss. Pick a time when both of you are calm and relaxed. Ask if this is a good moment to talk (or ask in advance for a 20-minute meeting). Then come to the point, clearly and assertively stating your request for a raise (some experts recommend naming a specific amount), backing it up with the facts and data you’ve amassed. Try to be succinct. Remain composed, rational and upbeat.

And then — after you’ve made your strongest case — stop talking. You may get a raise. You may not. Either way, the response you receive will tell you volumes about your future with this particular employer.

Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use. Email her at

How to ask for a raise

Asking for more in a tough economy, takes preparation and finesse.

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Asking your boss for a raise, especially in a tough economy, takes preparation and finesse. Danny Huffman, co-founder and CEO of Career Services International, a career management firm headquartered in Orlando, Fla., gives pointers.

Step 1

Keep a journal in which you make note of all contributions you make to the company that go above and beyond what you were hired to do. If you assisted in the creation of a spreadsheet that saved the company time or money, jot it down, because that is the kind of detail you might forget when the time comes to make your case for a raise.

Step 2

MERIT NOT TENURE: “You don’t deserve a raise because you’ve been in the same position for two years,” Huffman said. “You deserve a raise if you’ve (helped) the bottom line.”

Step 3

MAKE A DATE: Casually saying you’d like to talk about money might put your boss on the defensive. Plus, this isn’t casual. Make a date to talk about “how we can both continue to grow and expand.”

Step 4

PRESENT A WRITTEN PROPOSAL: Hand your boss a hard copy of a well-written proposal that lays out what your goals were when you were hired, what you’ve done to exceed them, and how you’re going to continue to improve. Not only does it indicate that you’re professional and care about the company, a document also can be entered in your permanent record, which might save you if the company has to downsize.

KNOW YOUR NUMBER: Be realistic and willing to negotiate. Generally, an hourly or entry-level worker might go for a 3 percent to 5 percent raise; middle management might ask for 7 percent to 8 percent; and executives might seek 10 percent to 15 percent.

AVOID DISCUSSING WHY: Employers want someone committed to the company, so it shouldn’t matter that you’re having a child or a parent is ill.

Step 5

DON’T THREATEN TO QUIT: Employers need to feel that they are in control, so leveraging will come back and bite you later. However, if you have an offer from another company, it’s courtesy to let your boss know, to give him/her a chance to fight to keep you.

Step 6

REJECTION: If your boss turns you down, suggest that you’d like to develop a plan for yourself so that you can revisit the issue in three to six months. “Here’s the dedication, here’s the task at hand, here’s what I’m going to do,” Huffman said. “They will love that.”