How To Ask For A Pay Rise (From People Who Have Succeeded)

Asking for a pay rise is one of the most difficult and daunting things you’ll have to do in your career, and the internet knows it: Google results pages sit choked with millions of listicles, opinions and vaguely patronising tips for how to score your first raise. But forget the opinions of online “experts”: what about the people who have actually done it? Here are three things to know before you ask for a pay rise, straight from people who have successfully scored them.

#1 Show why you’re worth it

It’s not just enough to say you want more money, says Jason Yip, a chemical engineer in his late 20s who successfully scored his pay rise by demonstrating to his boss exactly what he’d added to the company over the year.

“In the last year, I have delivered X, Y, Z, for a benefit of A, B, C,” Jason suggests. Good preparation here is key: comb back though your work plan, emails or meeting minutes and identify exactly what you’ve done and how it’s helped your company, team or department.

Make sure don’t confuse worth with wage. “Asking for a raise isn’t about making your boss think you’ll leave, it’s about demonstrating value to your employer,” says Jason. “Don’t just say, ‘Pay me more because John at your competitor is offering me more’.”

There can be real temptation to invent an offer from another firm, or to deliver an ultimatum about the salary you think you deserve – but if it blows up in your face and your boss walks away, that fictional pay cheque won’t land in your account, and you’ll lost serious favour with the person who could have made it happen.

#2 Time it right

You may have more luck when you ask for a pay rise if you time your request to coincide with more work or more responsibility than if you just ask out of the blue. Timothy Ko, a finance professional in his early 20s, says he aligned his pay rise request with his boss pushing his KPIs higher.

“I just said something like, how much more can you pay me to do that, because that’s a lot more responsibility,” says Timothy. “And my boss acted as if it was a totally normal question.”

Melody Ross, a sociolinguist in her early 30s, says she approached her boss after a colleague quit and her workload doubled.

“I sat my boss down and told her it was too much for my position.”

“I sat my boss down and told her it was too much for my position, that I’d interviewed for a similar job with higher pay, but that I’d prefer to stay there and get paid at a level consistent with the two jobs I was doing,” Melody says. “She gave me a raise.”

Read over your position description or employment contract and make sure both you and your boss understand exactly what’s expected of you, so that when your workload shifts, or you’re asked for more, you can clearly show why a higher salary is reasonable. Consider how much more you’re being asked to do, and put a mental figure on it, so you’re not blindsided into deciding your worth on the spot.

#3 Prepare for anything

Usually, you’ll have a pay conversation during a performance review – so, prepare for it as you would a high-school exam or a footy grand final. Tamara Day, a marketing manager in her 30s, suggests doing your research before going in, and making back-up plans for if your boss pushes back.

“Have statistics on what the going rate in your location for an equivalent role is, consider how long you’ve been at the company for, and prepare examples on when you’ve gone above and beyond your job description,” she suggests. “Have an amount in mind to ask for, as they’re likely to turn it back on you. You may need to go higher than where you want to settle to give yourself room to negotiate.”

Tamara adds that value can be made up in non-financial ways too, which may be easier for your boss to say yes to. “Extra leave, a fuel card, a paid-for mobile phone,” she suggests. You may also ask for a higher superannuation contribution, which will reduce your taxable income, and if you work at a not-for-profit you can ask your payroll manager what deductions exist for you.

It may seem uncomfortable, but it can be done – and if you demonstrate real value, at the right time, and prepare before you ask, you’ll be in with a shot. Try this to-do list to prepare to ask for a pay rise.

Sophie Raynor is a writer and list-maker from Perth living in tropical Timor-Leste. She loves ethical development communications and taking about sweating, and tweets at @raynorsophie.