When it comes to asking for a raise, the numbers don’t lie: women are less likely to believe that their paycheck is negotiable. But asking for a raise, while intimidating, can be an empowering exercise that leads to both more money and more confidence. Knowing your worth in the workplace and advocating for it without fear will help your paycheck reflect all of the hard work you put in to your job. Yes, it’s intimidating. But with the right preparation, you can walk away knowing that you’ve valued your work appropriately and been a professional.
Here are five tips for asking for a raise with grace.
01. Do your research.
The first step in asking for a raise is to try to find out what other people in your field are making. Since your co-workers probably don’t want to share their salary, check out Glassdoor—the popular website that lets people post their salaries anonymously. You can also filter by your area, years of experience, or, depending on the size of the business, your own company. That will help you see if you’re being paid in line with others in your field.
It’s also important to pay attention to what’s going on with your company. If it’s the national news for losing a lot of money, it’s probably not a great time to ask for a higher paycheck. But if you’ve recently made a large sale, completed a large project, or have just had an amazing quarter, your odds are much higher to get what you’re asking for.
02. Pay special attention to your body language.
When you go in to meet with your supervisor, pay extra attention to your body language. A whopping 55 percent of our communication is nonverbal. If you walk in to the meeting with crossed arms or slouched shoulders, your nerves will show, and you won’t be portraying the professional, ambitious woman who deserves a raise. Make sure to sit tall with your shoulders back. Also, don’t fall in to the trap of thinking that “professional” means “cold. Research indicates that simply smiling can put you in a better mood and make you more at ease.” Try and give off body language that’s both friendly and confident.
03. Be specific.
When you go in to ask for a raise, make sure you’re prepared with why you deserve one. Avoid sharing personal reasons about why you need the money, like explaining how you’re trying to save up for a down payment on a house or that your husband recently lost his job. Instead, focus on the value you’ve brought to the company and be as specific as possible. Think:
“Last year, I grew our Instagram following by 200 percent. Our website analytics show that much of our sales page traffic comes from that particular platform.”
“After our intern left last spring, I’ve taken on all of her responsibilities, including vendor coordination and invoice tracking. It’s about five extra hours of work a week.”
“I took the lead on planning last month’s banquet, which brought in $50,000 worth of donations and involved taking on new roles within my team.”
Statements that use specific numbers demonstrate that you’re contributing to the financial growth of the company. In turn, the company should reward you financially.
04. Make a direct ask.
It’s easy to get to your meeting, spout out your accomplishments . . . and then freeze. Practice saying the big ask out loud so that you feel more confident in the moment. Something like, “I’d like to have a conversation regarding the potential of adjusting my salary to more accurately reflect my contributions to the company.” It’s not too formal but still clear. Then, after you’ve presented your argument, make yourself clear: “Is there a possibility of raising my salary to $X?” You don’t have to go in with a specific number. But by providing one, you’re making it clear what you’re expecting, and you're avoiding any awkward confusion about exact amounts.
05. Create a back-up plan.
If the answer is no, don’t panic. More often than not, a no means not right now, not never. Inquire about the manager’s reasoning. Does he or she disagree with the points you’ve laid out? Is it a bad time for the company? Or were they planning on having this conversation at a later date? Try and create a plan with them towards a raise, like taking on a new responsibility or honing in on a certain set of skills in a new way. At the very least, ask if you can re-evaluate the conversation in six months. If your supervisor can’t lay out a game plan for having another conversation in the future, you may need to consider looking for new opportunities if you truly feel you deserve a higher paycheck.
Lastly, remember that asking for a raise is normal. A good guideline to keep in mind is that if you’ve been working somewhere for eighteen months but haven’t seen any changes in your salary, it might be an appropriate time to have the conversation. Some companies will automatically discuss salaries during a yearly performance review, but oftentimes, you’ll have to start the conversation yourself.
Raises are a normal, healthy part of a flourishing business. So try to banish those thoughts of being too selfish or grabby. Even if the answer is no, you’re not going to damage your relationship with your supervisor if you ask in a respectful and professional manner. You’re simply trying to get paid at a level that reflects how the market values your services—and to be rewarded for all of your hard work. You’ve got this.