Most of us think that getting a raise is about asking at the right time or framing the question in a certain way. We worry about coming across as ungrateful or overbearing, and we don’t want to run the risk of creating a bad situation and upsetting our boss. However, the truth is that most raises are won long before we ever bring up the question.
The five steps below will help you prove that you are worthy of a raise, so that next time you can ask for one with confidence.
- Realize that experience does not equal value
Simply “putting in your time” does not make you worthy of a raise, a promotion, or even a job. Many of us make the mistake of assuming that experience merits higher pay. In reality, higher value merits higher pay.
This is a good thing. It means that there is something you can do to earn more money regardless of your situation or experience. It means that you can take action and “earn” a raise, rather than sitting around “hoping” to get one.
You can start this process by being honest with yourself. How much value do you provide at your job right now? How much responsibility do you hold compared to your peers? Let’s say you went to a new job; do you provide more value than the person that would replace you? These questions are not meant to discourage you, but rather to help you realize where you currently stand as an employee in your manager’s eyes. It’s easier to move up the ladder if you know what rung you are starting on.
- Determine new ways to create value
Once you have an idea of where you stand, you can begin looking for ways to increase your value. This is a pretty straightforward process. More valuable employees have more responsibility and generate more results. Let’s turn back the clock and look at a very wealthy man as an example.
Andrew Carnegie was one of the most successful — and wealthy — businessmen in all of history.
When he was a teenager, Carnegie began working for the Pennsylvania Railroad Company. He did extra projects whenever he could, took on additional responsibilities as soon as he could handle them, and showed enthusiasm for getting results. In reference to his time at the company, Carnegie said:
“I could not resist the temptation to plunge in, take responsibility, give train orders, and set matters going.”
Carnegie made the practice of doing extra work a habit long before he had his own company and built his fortune in the steel industry. As a result, he earned promotion after promotion and raise after raise. He took honor and pride in the work that he did and showed a desire to go beyond the standard expectations.
Do you perform duties outside of your regular department? Do you “plunge in” and “take responsibility” like Carnegie? If not, how can you start doing so?
Make a list of additional projects, committees, and responsibilities you can take on at work. Has there been a project that has just been waiting to be finished, but no one has stepped up to work on yet? Is there an upcoming conference or meeting that you can help plan? In many cases, there will be some obvious tasks that you can help out on right away.
- Ask for suggestions
Employees that earn raises are often taking initiative. You can start by having a brief conversation with your boss.
Tell your boss that you’re looking to take on additional responsibilities and ask him if there are any suggestions for what you can do. If he asks why, tell him that you have career goals and improving your skills and increasing your responsibilities is part of that.
If your boss gives you some suggestions, then you know what you should work on next. In many cases, however, your boss will put off the conversation and tell you that he’ll “get back to you.”
That’s fine. This is where you begin to stand out from the crowd.
- Follow up
Give your boss about a week and then follow up with him.
This time, however, come with your own list of additional projects and tasks in hand. Show him that you have taken the time to seriously think about how you can create an impact and increase your responsibilities. Very few employees make an active effort like this and your actions will begin the process of setting you apart from your co-workers.
This is an important step because it shows your boss that you are serious about providing additional value to the company.
When you finish this follow up conversation, you should have at least one way that you can make a bigger impact. Join a committee. Take on an extra assignment. Become the go-to guy or gal in your office. There is always something you can do.
- Make sure you have proof
Take advantage of your increased responsibilities by doing an amazing job. You should make sure that your new project is your best work.
As you finish your new projects — and as you go about your regular job — be sure to collect clear proof and evidence of your value. Did a customer give you an over-the-top compliment for the job you did? Get it in writing if you can. Did your co-workers find the presentation you gave to be very beneficial? Save those slides for later reference.
If you can, try to quantify your impact with exact numbers. Did you lead a new training seminar for your peers? How many people attended? How many new skills did they learn? Did you save the company time or money? How much? Using numbers makes it easier for your boss to see your value.
Using proof is the strongest tool in your toolbox. Keep track of what you do so that you can prove why you deserve a higher paycheck. It is much easier to get a raise when you have clear, specific proof of why you should get it.
You earn your raise before you ask for it.
After a few months — or maybe even a few weeks — you will have settled into your new responsibilities and you’ll have proof of the value you provide. Now that you are armed with these tools, you can confidently ask for a raise. Your additional work will put you ahead of the standard employee and show that your value is worth rewarding.
Yes, it’s extra work, but compare the cost of a few months of additional projects to the payoff that you get from earning more year after year. Asking for a raise is something that most employees always want to talk about, but “never get around to it” because they know they haven’t proven their worth.
If you are serious about getting a raise, then put in some work beforehand and prove that you are worthy of one.