Cashing in on Your Career: The Constructive Way to Ask for a Raise

When it comes to your professional career, it shouldn’t be ALL about the Benjamins, but let’s face it: society places an emphasis and necessity on financial income, and as such, many of our career decisions are associated with compensation.  However, the “Catch 22″ of it all is that as important as compensation may be, it can often times be one of the most painful and tricky topics of conversation you have to endure; so painful in fact, that many people stress and enter these conversations too flustered or timid to plead their case, or worse yet, avoid discussions of raises altogether.

However, it’s important you do not sell yourself short.  Hiding behind your computer and expecting your boss to throw some cash at you unprovoked almost never works (hey, never say never). Reward yourself for all of your hard work and use the tips below to approach your next compensation discussion with your boss with confidence.

Determine why you deserve a raise, and be prepared to present proof.
It is very unlikely you are going to get a raise “just because”; make sure you actually have EARNED a raise. (Reasons that do NOT prove you have earned a raise include: “I’ve been here for nine months,” “Susie got a raise last week so I should too,” and “I only fell asleep at my desk twice all quarter!”)   Have you done something to save the company money?  Have you helped implement a new system?  If you are making a positive difference in your organization, you might very well deserve a raise, but you must be prepared to outline those specific reasons.  It is often times helpful to keep a “work journal” outlining your accomplishments; then you can refer to that journal when it comes time to determine if you deserve a raise.  Be honest with yourself; if in hindsight, you haven’t accomplished as much as you could have, it is better to realign your focus and dedication at work and hold off on asking for a raise until you feel you have truly earned it.

Know what you’re worth.
It’s very difficult to determine if you have earned a raise when you don’t know what the worth of your profession is.  Prior to a compensation review, make sure to research the average market salaries for your position, in your specific region of employment.  Then make sure to see where you fit in on that scale in relation to your experience, education, and if your duties go above and beyond the normal job description for the position.  It’s easier to prove you are worth more money when you know how much your skills are worth in the first place.

Be confident, but not presumptuous.
It is important to enter the conversation confident of your skills, ability, and worth; it is hard to prove your case that you are a valuable asset to the team when you seem timid or unsure about yourself.  However, be careful to not cross the line into the territory of arrogant or presumptuous.  Remember, people aren’t typically entitled to raises, they earn them.  If you enter the discussion educated on your worth and confident in yourself and demonstrating what you’ve earned, this will render much better results with your boss.

Be prepared for a rejection, and make it constructive.
There are several reasons you might be denied a raise, and it doesn’t always have to do with you.  Make sure to brace yourself for the “it’s not you, it’s me” answer, and be aware that there may be other issues at play within the company.  There may be times when the company isn’t in a financial position to allot raises; perhaps they are currently redoing the budget, or reworking structures within the organization.  Whether it is one of those reasons, or if it is because your boss feels you just haven’t earned one yet, make sure to be mature about the issue and use it to gain knowledge on how you can better yourself so you can eventually earn a raise.  Ask for specific feedback on how you can improve upon yourself, and how you can better fit the needs of the organization.

The bottom line is, although an excessively uncomfortable experience that breeds stress and vulnerability, compensation reviews, when executed with confidence and self-reflection, are a necessary step in your growth as a business professional. CHA-CHING!

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