Asking for a raise is a nerve-racking task. Learn how and when to ask for a raise and avoid common pitfalls.

You’ve worked hard and received an excellent annual performance evaluation, but your employer has not mentioned anything about a raise. Believe it or not, you aren’t powerless in this situation. You can ask for a raise, but it’s important to understand how to approach the subject. You may be intimidated, but remember, a higher income may give you more negotiating power with employers when you’re searching for a job in the future.

Steps to take before asking

Prepare your argument. You know you deserve a raise, but you have to convince your employer. Your case needs to be strong and specific. Approach your argument from a business perspective. The reason you deserve a raise should not be personal.

Create a performance portfolio. Start collecting data that demonstrates your contribution to your employer’s bottom line. Good performance evaluations should absolutely be a part of your portfolio. If you have received emails from colleagues or clients complimenting your work, add them as well. Maybe you played a direct role in successfully completing a project. Maybe clients have asked to work with you specifically because you do a great job. Make note of these contributions in your portfolio.

Look at market data. Find out if your company’s competitors are paying their employees more for comparable work. You may discover the data available does not support your case for a raise, but this is still important information to know going into a conversation with your employer. You can then build your case for a raise around other reasons. Also, research the national average for your job title or a similar occupation. You can use MySECO’s Research Occupations tool to research your occupation by geographic location.

Anticipate the counterargument. Think about reasons why your employer may not want to give you a raise. Maybe your employer always awards raises at a specific time of year. Maybe they will argue that there isn’t enough money in the budget. If you can anticipate your employer’s objections, you can come up with solutions in advance.

Plan to negotiate. Your goal is to receive a raise, but if your employer can’t offer one, maybe they can offer other options. If your request for a raise is denied, you may be able to negotiate a one-time bonus. Another option could be more paid time off. On the other hand, if your request is granted, you may be able to negotiate the raise percentage.

Practice. Sit down with a friend or family member to practice making your request for a raise. A practice run can calm your nerves and pinpoint areas for improvement in your argument.

When to ask

If you just started a new job, you don’t want to ask for a pay increase after just a few months. However, if you have worked for the same employer in the same position for a year or more, it may be time to ask for an increase, especially if you have taken on additional responsibilities.

If you’ve determined that it is a good time to ask for a raise, schedule an appointment with your supervisor. Consider your supervisor’s workload and schedule your appointment around it. When you set the appointment, let your supervisor know what you want to address in advance. No one likes to feel ambushed or caught off guard.

Pitfalls to avoid

If you are well prepared, you probably have an idea of how you’ll ask for a raise. Common pitfalls to avoid include the following:

  • Asking for a raise shortly after a bad performance review
  • Mentioning that your co-workers make more money
  • Complaining about personal financial difficulties
  • Asking for too much money based on your salary research
  • Making threats to leave for another job (especially if you don’t have one lined up)
  • Asking for a raise during a meeting about something else

Now that you know how to prepare, when to ask and some pitfalls you should avoid, assess whether you are in a position to ask for a raise. If you are, get started with the prep work. Once you’ve built your case, set up a time to talk with your employer. Remember, the biggest mistake you can make is not asking for a raise when your performance indicates you have earned one.