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4 Tips To Consider Before You Ask For A Raise

Chess pieces with the rival pawn up front.

It’s tax time! Around this time of year, we not only think about our taxes, but we also think about our overall financial health. This week we’re sharing financial resources as well asking experts in budgeting, student loans, and more how nonprofit employees can make the most of their paychecks. Be sure to read all of the posts in this series.

You’ve done your research and think it’s time to ask for a raise at your current job. Some organizations offer annual reviews and salary increases, but if your organization doesn’t, or things have changed drastically with your position since your last review, you may have to take things into your own hands.

We asked Michael Watson, Senior Vice President of Human Resources and Diversity at Girl Scouts USA, for his advice on negotiating a raise. He encourages employees to look at it as a long-term pitch, which you should be working toward for months before bringing it up.

“You definitely want to have a solid business case and hopefully you’ve been giving your manager updates all along about what you’ve been doing, what you’ve been contributing, the projects you’ve volunteered on, and what your input has been,” he said. “Hopefully it doesn’t come as a complete surprise, then, when you package it all together to say, ‘hey, I think I’m ready for additional responsibility and I want to talk to you about my compensation relative to what I’ve been working on.’”

Additionally, he said, if your organization does offer annual reviews and raises, be sure that something major has come up in your current position, not that you just need more money. Once you are sure you have done your best and truly deserve additional compensation, here are some things to consider:

Pay attention to timing

In addition to the timing on your end—such as after completing a big project or reaching a challenging goal—be sure to consider the timing on your boss’ end. If he or she has an upcoming deadline, or major changes are about to happen, it probably isn’t a good time to approach them about a raise.

“If CEO has just announced that you’re cutting expenses by 30% and laying off 10 people,” Watson added, “the next day is not the right time to ask for a raise.”

But if the timing is good, and you know that your company is open to salary discussions, Watson suggested picking a day and time that works for you and your supervisor. Avoid the dreaded Monday morning or Friday afternoon. You should also try to get a sense of your supervisor’s working style. Is he a morning person? Does she like to share good news in the afternoon? Work with that as a guide for when you can set up a meeting.

Be prepared for the added responsibility

Many times, employees look at what they have done in the past when asking for a higher salary. But a raise, and especially promotions, also mean you can’t just rely on past successes and must be ready to do more going forward.

“You have to show that you are ready for a higher level of responsibility,” Watson said. “Get involved with special projects, volunteer, identify problems that exist that need to be solved that other people just haven’t gotten around to addressing. You have to consciously think about how you differentiate yourself from others and how you differentiate yourself from your prior performance. Show that you are on the upswing in terms of performance and ability.”

Quantify your contributions

You know you have given your all to your organization, but how can you show that in ways that the powers-that-be understand? Quantify it, Watson said.

“If you acquired or kept a major donor or you increased membership by a certain percentage or you put a new program in that has saved time and money, that shows you’ve made particularly large contribution to the organization,” he said. “You have to be able to demonstrate concrete results in terms of having that conversation with your manager.”

Think about next steps

If you do get a raise, know what the organization will expect of you going forward, whether that is taking on a new project, leading a team, or staying late the next time a last-minute deadline strikes.

Likewise, if a raise is not in the cards, be sure to ask if a higher salary or promotion would be a possibility in the future, and suggest ways you could get more benefit from your current position, Watson suggested.

If you don’t get professional development opportunities in your current position, ask if you can attend a conference, join an association as the organization’s representative, or take a class. If you would rather take on more responsibility as an employee, ask to be the leader of the next special project, or offer to look into a new program or tool you want to learn how to use.

It’s also important, Watson added, to know when it is time to move on, especially if an organization doesn’t have lots of room to grow and is unable to properly compensate you over time.

“A long time ago, managers had a big primary role in their employees’ development and a lot of managers still do that,” Watson said. “But if you don’t have that, you’re responsible for making sure you develop it yourself. You’re responsible for your own development plan and, ultimately, you’re responsible for your own long-term value.”

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