The smart way to ask for — and get — a raise involves preparation and planning.

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First, let this be said: The best way to get a raise in pay is to change jobs.

It’s true. Salary increases you negotiate when landing a new job are almost always more than whatever raise you can get out of an existing employer.

But say you don’t want to, or can’t, change jobs. Are you stuck?

Not necessarily. You just need to be smart about it.

First, be willing to play the long game. If you ask for a raise today and your boss says no that will be the end of it for a while. But what if you plan to ask for a raise in six months?

Meanwhile, work on being worthy of a big increase. Look for problems to solve, projects to volunteer for, and profits to be enhanced. Keep records of all accomplishments.

When you’re ready, schedule a meeting with your boss and make a good business case for why you should be given an increase in pay. Describe what you have done, using dollar figures where possible. Bring emails of praise or other testimonials. Explain how you are an asset and talk about your future plans for being even more of an asset.

Do be ready to answer this question: “Well, how much of a raise do you want?” This is not the time to be tongue-tied! Have a number ready. Know the going rate for your job (do some research first). Give yourself wiggle room for negotiation, starting with a high number that is not too extreme. Try that old trick of naming a non-round number (i.e., $9,500 instead of $10,000).

What if the answer is no? Here is where you show the quality of your character. You don’t threaten to quit (though you may indeed want to start looking around). You say thank you and ask for a follow-up meeting in, say, another six months. You ask if there is anything else you can do to prove your worth.

Finally, the most important piece of advice is the simplest: Don’t forget that you have to ask. A recent PayScale survey found that more than half of all workers have never asked for a raise.

Yes, it can be intimidating. But the better you prepare, the easier it will be.

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