You Deserve a Raise. Here's How to Ask for it.
I initially wrote this piece from more of a third party “advice” angle—you know, the kind you see on every other career site. But My Pink Docs isn’t about following what everyone else is doing: it’s about keeping it real even when it comes to talking about one of my least favorite topics: money.
I’m not sure where the aversion to financial discourse started; maybe it’s a Southern thing, maybe it’s an I-went-to-Georgia-Tech-but-now-I’m-in-nonprofit-arts-marketing thing. Either way, the idea of asking for a raise at my first full time job (before my first anniversary!) felt daunting to me. But it was a feeling I couldn’t shake. So, a few months ago, I put the plan in motion and made the big ask! Here’s how I did it:
Ask yourself why you deserve a raise. Correct answers do not include “Because I show up to work on time every day” or “Because I heard Tina just got one and she does basically nothing.” Get over yourself. Here are a few real reasons you deserve a raise:
You’ve taken on new direct reports (interns, volunteers, or full time employees).
You can produce quantifiable and qualifiable accomplishments from your time at the company.
You generate new, beneficial initiatives that weren’t in your original job description.
Did any of those resonate with you? Do you have a few legitimate reasons of your own? Good!
Write all of those reasons down. When I went through this process, what began as a quick list of accomplishments soon turned into a fully formatted job description. Next:
Locate your original job description.
On a second page, with similar formatting and company letterhead, write your list of accomplishments.
Combine the two and eliminate any duplicate responsibilities.
If you find that all of your accomplishments should be reflected in a new job title as well, now is the time to ask! Write your new job title at the top of your combined page (the same idea goes for a desired work schedule, resources, etc.) Again, now is the time to ask for any non-monetary benefits as well; make it easy for everyone write it all in one place.
Because I had been with the organization for less than a year, I decided to include an additional page on the new initiatives I was ready to immediately undertake. I picked three goals and clearly outlined how I would achieve them. This showed my boss that I was ready for more responsibility and, more importantly, that asking for a raise wouldn’t result in me resting on my laurels.
So you’ve got your accomplishments and you’ve got your goals. Great! But I know why you’re here; if you’re like me, you’re wondering how you justify that number—that big, scary number—to your boss. Here’s how:
Research your desired job title on Glassdoor and Salary.com: what are companies in your industry paying for that position? In my case, I had to keep in mind that not only am I in the nonprofit world but I’m also in the arts. I’m not making this Friends money (yet!)
Calculate what each percentage increase would equal in dollars. That way, you know exactly what your desired salary would be if you asked for a 10% increase and your boss came back offering 7%. (Because I hate math, I typed a few of these numbers out on a separate page to keep with me during the conversation.)
In some cases, including my own, it may be a better idea to write a desired salary number instead of a percentage increase. I added this as a section to my new job description page and titled it “Desired Salary: $XX,XXX” with my desired number. This way, it’s clearly written and you don’t chicken out at the last minute by asking for something lower.
Ready to ask?
Schedule a meeting with your boss. Do not mention this to him/her/them in passing at the water cooler and definitely do not email this request. Set up a meeting to discuss your “accomplishments and goals” (or something similar) in a private room at a later date. Here’s what to do after the meeting has been set:
Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. Trust me, this is not one of those meetings you want to just “wing”. I wrote a script (#HighSchoolDramaNerd) and created sections for what to do if my boss said “Hell no” or “Let’s do XYZ instead”. Kind of like a Choose Your Own Adventure game, but, you know, with your salary. No pressure.
Print out the new job description including duties, goals, and salary for yourself and your boss. If you wrote a script, print one copy for yourself and keep it in a padfolio—because they look professional AF—for reference during the meeting. Note: don’t read straight from the script; this isn’t 12th grade lit class.
On the Big Day
You know that phrase, dress for the job you want? It literally applies on this day. Wear something comfortable that makes you feel confident (and won’t show sweat stains!)
Then, dance around your room or in your car to some Queen and get your energy up.
Get your paper so you can get your paper. Got your presentation copies? Got your script? Go’n then! You're ready for the big sit down.
Take emotion out of it. Sometimes your company just can’t give you what you are asking for. Understand that it is more than likely not personal and give yourself a pep talk on how you’ll react if the answer is no. Do not, for any reason, convey your resentment to your boss if this is the case. You may not know the “why” and your boss will be even less likely to respond positively in the future if you throw a hissy fit.
Most importantly—and please do this for yourself—CELEBRATE the fact that you even asked for a raise in the first place. Here are a few stats on reasons why women aren't asking for raises, according to a 2016 Levo survey: “66% report not having known how to ask for more, 63% felt uncomfortable negotiating and 55% didn’t want to come across as pushy.”
You are being bold! You are taking financial ownership of your life! Get an ice cream and blast some Bey. You deserve this:
I love when Beyoncé's sings, "I done got so sick ‘n filthy with Benjis I can’t spend." I hope that one day you're singing the same.