Office life used to be simpler. Once a year, your boss would call you in for a performance review and, presumably, a raise.
But in today’s economy, it takes a special employee to earn some extra dough.
So we’ve talked to the pros and compiled this list of tips to help you convince your overlords to show you the money.
“Always act and dress appropriately for the status you’d like within the company. Make sure those with the power to promote you start thinking of you as the type of person who’d be appropriate for that status.”
1. Put in the work.
The first step in any campaign for a raise is to earn it. Karen Galli, a leadership coach in New York, suggests the BIRR model to analyze your performance: Behavior (what did you do), Impact (what was the result of those actions) and Recommendation/Reaffirm (what you will do next time).
Caroline Ceniza-Levine, co-founder of SixFigureStart, says your case for a raise must show that you “impacted the bottom line by generating revenue, saving costs or increasing profitability” and that “your scope of day-to-day responsibility is commensurate with more money.”
All of this is to say that you’re not getting a raise if you don’t work your butt off. (You just knew there was a catch, didn’t you?)
2. Get noticed.
All of that hard work, extra effort and dedication won’t mean a thing if the people above you on the corporate ladder don’t see it. Author and speaker Barry Maher suggests a style change to make yourself stand out to your superiors.
“Always act and dress appropriately for the status you’d like within the company,” Maher says. “Make sure those with the power to promote you start thinking of you as the type of person who’d be appropriate for that status.”
So ditch the jeans or those same old khakis and trade them in for something a little snazzier to make your boss give you a second look. In a good way.
“Most workers look back at what they did as the basis for a raise. That’s old news. Go to your boss and ask them what you need to do to be bumped up. Put it in writing with specific goals you have to hit.”
3. Stay on top of it.
Your boss is a busy person; giving you a raise is not top of his or her mind. The best way to change that, though, is to stay on your superior’s radar. Galli suggests that you “manage up” throughout the year by giving signals to your boss about your hard work to set the tone for your annual review.
Maher recommends sending your boss a quick note at the end of each week to make him or her aware of everything you did that week. Not only will it keep your boss updated on your progress, but it might pay off when you bring up a raise.
“Come evaluation time the boss may well use those notes to help write the evaluation,” Maher says. “And at the very least you’ll have all that ammunition when it’s time to talk about that next raise or promotion.”
4. Be direct and be prepared.
Sometimes the best way to earn that big raise is to simply ask for it. But when you do, be as prepared as a trial lawyer to defend your case for more money.
“Do your homework. Be prepared to justify why you should have a large raise from what you are making,” says Elizabeth Lions, author of I Quit! Working for You Isn’t Working for Me. “Employers are slow to ‘buy’ talent, so you had better have it all—skills, presentation, attitude, dress, etc., or they will not write the check.”
Most of the experts we spoke with point out that many people think they deserve a raise, but that’s not enough to justify one. Preparation and articulation are key when discussing the topic with your boss. Business guru Steve Duffy has another suggestion that he calls “asking for a raise in reverse.”
“Most workers look back at what they did as the basis for a raise. That’s tricky because it’s old news,” Duffy says. “Go to your boss and ask them what you need to do to be bumped up 10 to 15K, to get a better title or to make X amount per year. Ask for them to put it in writing with specific goals you have to hit. Make sure to cut out anything subjective like ‘be a team player.’ You want accomplishments that can be easily quantified.”
“You want to influence the right decision makers. Your boss is definitely one of these but does (he or she) need approval elsewhere? Know who you have to make your request to, who can actually help you.”
5. Know the right people.
Even if you put in the work, impress your boss and make an airtight argument, there’s still no guarantee that you’ll get that raise, because sometimes your direct superior isn’t the one calling the shots.
“Unless you work for the President or the CEO, your boss has to go up the chain and defend any request for a raise,” Duffy says. “It’s not just a snap of their fingers to make it happen.”
Fortunately, you can tip the scales in your favor if you know who your boss must talk to in order to secure you a raise.
“You want to influence the right decision makers,” Ceniza-Levine says. “Your boss is definitely one of these but does (he or she) need approval elsewhere? Know who you have to make your request to, who can actually help you.”
6. Look elsewhere.
“For whatever reason, once a person is at one place, superiors typically ‘see’ them at their current salary,” Lions says. “Raises come slow. Going outside is recommended.”
A 20 percent raise might seem completely justified, but Duffy explains that the higher-ups in a corporate office might feel differently.
“Many companies will do a yearly raise for everyone and act as if a 2.5 percent raise is a big deal. From their perspective, it is,” Duffy says. “If you have 100 employees, that 2.5 percent adds up quickly. I’ve been in situations where a $5,000 a year raise was considered a miracle.”
If that scenario sounds familiar, then a change of scenery might be in order.
“Every time I’ve changed jobs, I’ve been able to snatch upwards of $20,000 in added pay or bonuses since I’m a clean slate to a new employer,” reveals Duffy.
Just make sure to send us 20 percent.