How to Ask for a Raise: A Deep Dive

Jen Williamson Updated on May 14, 2019

Often, whether or not you’re offered a raise has little to do with your job performance. Instead, your compensation may be based on your department’s budget, your manager’s priorities, and (in some cases) whether or not your employer thinks they can keep you doing such a great job for cheap. 

The bottom line is this: To get a raise in this non-merit-based world, you’ve got to make the case for it. Here’s a deep dive into how.

how to get a raise-781977-edited

What to say when asking for a raise

You have to be strategic when asking for a raise. The specifics will depend on your job, your goals, and your individual situation, but there are a few tactics you could take that work across most industries. Adjust as necessary to fit your situation.

See also: 80% of Millennials who Ask for a Raise Get One. Here's How to Get Yours.

Define your goals and ask for advice

Before you the raise conversation, sit down with your manager and make sure they know what your goals are. Tell them that your first priority is to do a great job in the role you’re in—but that you’ve got your sights on advancement.

Then ask for your manager’s advice. Solicit feedback on the job you’re doing, and enlist their help in setting you up to make the next move. Implement their advice, and let your manager see that you’re doing everything you can to meet their requirements.

This puts you in a stronger position when you do sit down to have that raise conversation down the line.

Toot your own horn

Because no one else is gonna toot it for you.

Assume people at work will take you for granted—that's why you need to make sure they notice your achievements. Be proactive and systematic in communicating your successes. 

Track down the results of your projects, assemble numbers and data, and make sure your boss knows the impact you’re having. Keep them informed on the outcome of what you’ve done, and don’t be shy about sharing often. This way, by the time you ask for a raise, your boss knows you’ve earned it.

Demonstrate your value

The most persuasive data across most industries is money—how much you saved or earned your company. If you can walk into a raise conversation with these numbers in your back pocket, your boss will clearly see the cost-benefit analysis of giving you a raise.

But even if you can’t tie specific dollar amounts to your value, you can still make sure your boss knows what you’re worth. Give concrete details about the outcome of projects you’ve managed and specific accomplishments you're responsible for.

Tell a story about a problem you solved—start with the state things were in before you stepped in; move on to what you did; and then talk about the outcome. What you’re essentially doing is developing a testimonial—and you can develop as many of these as you have accomplishments.

Keep short versions of these testimonials in your pocket for when you’re having a more casual conversation with your boss—and a longer version for when you’re sitting down across from them to ask for a raise.

Keep the focus on why you deserve more, not why you need more

The cold truth is, you might need more money. Bills don’t pay themselves. But your boss is not going to be as moved by your story of need as they will by a different story: one where you’re highly valuable and might move somewhere else if they don’t try to keep you. 

Your boss wants to reward you based on performance, not need. Avoid bringing up personal reasons for needing a raise. Stick to successes you’ve had on the job, and tie them to concrete numbers as much as possible.

Anticipate your boss’s objections

What are all the reasons your boss might say no? Give some thought to these—and have a plan for how you’ll respond. Consider your boss’s point of view—what are their priorities? How can giving you a raise serve their needs?

Once you’ve written out some of your boss’s possible responses and your answers to those, practice. Get a friend or trusted colleague to read the dialogue with you. Get used to keeping your cool and meeting these responses with well-reasoned answers.

Focus on shared goals

The language you use is important. Focus on how paying you more benefits the entire company, not just yourself—and express your desire to help the team and excel in your role and career with the company.

This is particularly key for women. According to a recent Harvard study, women are often unfairly perceived as selfish when asking for a raise—much more so than men—and have to be especially careful not to come across as self-serving.

Using “we” language—focusing on we and our instead of I and my statements—can be an easy shortcut to using the kind of inclusive language that won’t turn your boss off.

See also: Paying Off Student Loans

Imagine Life Without a Student Loan Payment... Start Saving Now!

How much should you ask for a raise?

To determine what’s a good pay raise for you, you’ll have to do some research.

Go on Payscale.com, Salary.com, Glassdoor’s “Know Your Worth” tool, or the Occupational Outlook Handbook. Look up the average salary for your position and your part of the country. Find out what other people are making.

If you’re underpaid, you’ll need to know that going in. Asking for the median salary for people in your job description and location is generally easier; asking for a number in the top of the range can be done, but you’ll need to justify it.

Do you have more education than most people in your position? Do you have more experience than most? Are you worth a lot to the company (in terms of the amount you’ve either saved or earned for them)? These are all important justifications you can use when asking for a raise at the top of the typical pay scale.

Bear in mind that the average raise percentage is somewhere between 1 and 5%. The bigger the raise you’re asking for, the more you’ll have to demonstrate an extraordinary contribution and value to your company.

How to ask for a raise when you are underpaid

During your salary research, you might find that you’re criminally underpaid.

Take a deep breath—go punch something inanimate if you have to—and then start formulating your strategy.

The tactics for asking for a raise when you’re underpaid are similar to those when you aren’t—but it helps to know the numbers. Walk in with data on how much people are paid in your position and area, using a range of tools.

Consider your boss’s objections, too. For instance, maybe the reason you make less is that you have less education than most people in your position. One way to respond to this is with concrete numbers about how you’ve benefited the company, showing a clear, dollar-sign value for your work.

How to ask for a raise when given more responsibility

Your boss trusts you to take on more—and that’s great! But make sure you’re not being asked to do more work for the same pay.

Gaining more responsibility is a great sign, but you may have to push for a corresponding pay raise. First, document all your new responsibilities. Write down the tasks you’re responsible for on a daily basis, and note how each one contributes to the company. Track the positive outcomes of any projects you’ve done.

If the new responsibilities you’re taking on correspond to a specific job role in addition to the one you currently serve, know what people in that role are getting paid in your area. Walk in with a strong idea of what’s realistic to ask for, given the market.

How long do you wait to ask for a raise?

The standard answer to this question is one year.

However, some situations aren’t standard. For instance, if your job has significantly changed, or if you’ve taken on more responsibilities than you had when you first started, you have good reason to ask for a raise before that time. 

How to ask for a raise in writing

If you decide to ask for a raise in writing, you’ll need to build your case in writing.

First, consider your audience. Your boss is much more likely to want to give you a pay raise if it benefits them, not necessarily you. For instance, if you’d be tough to replace or if you’ve earned or saved your company a lot of money, or if you have rare skills.

Consider what makes you valuable and hard to replace. With that information in mind, here are a few tips:

  • Read over your original job descriptions. Pull out the most important bullet points and list the ways you go above and beyond on those.
  • Track the outcomes of your projects and initiatives, and state clearly the benefits they’ve brought to the company. List specific numbers and percentages—especially dollars saved or earned—whenever possible.
  • Express how you’ve gone above and beyond in your role—and the results you’ve had. Tell a story that starts with a problem, details how you solved it, and shows the positive outcome clearly.
  • Be clear about the amount of increase you want. Do your research beforehand and know what people in your role and area are getting paid, and know what’s a reasonable amount. If you’re asking for money on the top end of the pay scale, be prepared to justify that.
  • Stay positive, and emphasize your commitment to the company and the team.

What was the average salary increase in 2018?

Not so great. Most companies are planning to raise wages about 3% in 2018. That’s downright stingy.

However, there’s hope. According to the June Job Market Update, unemployment in the United States is currently around 4%—and companies are struggling both to fill positions and hold on to their current workforce. That means your company might be desperate to keep you, even if that desperation isn’t showing up in your paycheck.

It means, in other words, that your boss may be particularly receptive to the idea that to keep you around, they have to boost your pay.

But every industry is different, which is why it’s so important to do your research and keep your number realistic.

What’s an example of how to ask your boss for a raise?

We can give you all the advice you want—but sometimes what you need is a concrete example. Don’t say we didn’t ever do anything for you.

This shouldn’t be copied word-for-word, of course—and it may not work for your industry. But here’s a very general example of how to make the initial ask in writing, including a request to meet to finalize the details.

Dear [Your Boss],

I’ve enjoyed working as a Sales Associate at ABC Company for the past five years, and feel I’ve grown a great deal in my career. The skills I’ve learned in this position have allowed me to make a strong contribution to the company’s bottom line.

Here are some of the achievements I’m most proud of from the past year:

  • Earning President’s Club recognition for my sales performance two out of three quarters.
  • Securing over $500,000 in revenue by developing and launching highly targeted sales strategies.
  • Leading the effort to expand into a new, highly competitive market, securing 50% market share.
  • Leveraging my network and connections to secure 5 high-profile new clients, worth approximately $1.5 million in total business.

Throughout my time at ABC Company, I have met or exceeded all of my revenue goals. I have also implemented new processes to streamline sales operations, and I have trained team members in best practices that have further boosted our bottom line.

I would greatly appreciate the opportunity to discuss my current salary with you. I am requesting a pay raise of 5%, which I believe is in line with both industry salaries in this area and my value to the company.

As I stated before, I am very happy to be working under you at ABC Company, and I look forward to making a positive contribution to ABC’s bottom-line performance for many years to come.

Sincerely,

[Your Name]

It's time to go for it

If you’re going to ask for a raise, do your research. Know what you’re worth, and what other people in your position are being paid. Keep the conversation positive, and your request realistic—and hopefully you’ll get what you want.

Whether that raise not comes through or not, paying less on your student loans is always a smart strategy. Find out if you're Refi Ready. 

Read more articles about Your Financial Future

About the Author
Jen Williamson

Jen Williamson is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn. She has written for a variety of industries, including software, education, business, and personal finance. Prior to that, she worked at an adult literacy nonprofit in Philadelphia, where she coached nontraditional students in passing the GED test and applying for college. When she isn’t writing or reading—which is rare—she can usually be found planning her next travel adventure, training for a marathon, or sneaking in somewhere she’s not supposed to be. Read more by Jen Williamson

Refinance and Save Today With These Lenders

#1 - Comet Recommended View More Details

Earnest empowers people with the financial captial they need to live better lives.

  • APR: 2.41% - 7.82%
  • Minimum credit score: 650
  • Refinance up to $500K
View More Details
Visit Earnest View Loan Disclosure

Using technology, data, and design to build affordable products, Earnest's lending products are built for a new generation seeking to reach life's milestones. The company understands every applicant's unique financial story to offer the lowest possible rates and radically flexible loan options for living life.

  • Commitment-free 2 minute rate check
  • Client Happiness can be reached via in app messaging, email, and phone 
  • No fees for origination, prepayment, or loan disbursement
  • Flexible terms let you pick your exact monthly payment or switch between fixed and variable rates
  • Skip a payment and make it up later
  • Online dashboard is designed to make it easy to apply for and manage your loan

Click here to apply with Earnest and to see how much you can save.

#2 View More Details

Many ELFI customers save hundreds per month month and thousands over the length of the loan term.

  • APR: 2.80% - 6.69%
  • Minimum credit score: 680
  • No refinancing maximum amount
View More Details
Visit ElFi View Loan Disclosure

Education Loan Finance is designed to assist borrowers through consolidating outstanding education loans into one single loan that effectively lowers your costs of education and/or makes repayment very simple. Education Loan Finance - backed by the strength of SouthEast Bank - combines the benefits of traditional education loan refinancing with the superior products, service, and support found in the private market.

Education Loan Finance (ElFi) review

Check out their low rates today to see how much you can save.

  • Get Your Rate. With Education Loan Finance's Find My Rate tool, you can complete a short application to receive a preliminary quote on your eligible rates and terms, all without affecting your credit score.
  • Apply in Minutes. Education Loan Finance's online application is fast and simple.
  • Outstanding Personalized Service. Our Personalized Loan Advisors specialize in student loan refinancing and help busy professionals find the option that's right for them.
  • Student Lending Experience: Education Loan Finance isn't a start-up company - we have a longstanding history and expertise in serving student loan borrowers.

Attractive Bonus and Referral Programs:

  • Education Loan Finance Fast Track Bonus**: Education Loan Finance's application process is streamlined and simple, and you can earn a $200 bonus just for closing your loan within 30 days of your initial application.
  • Education Loan Finance Referral Program**: Earn $400 for each new Education Loan Finance Client referred by you!
#3 View More Details

Works with 275+ not-for-profit community lenders for higher approval chances

  • APR: 2.38% - 7.50%
  • Minimum credit score: 660
  • Refinance up to $300K
View More Details
Visit LendKey View Loan Disclosure

LendKey operates student loan programs for over 275 not-for-profit and community lenders across the country. By partnering with these lenders, LendKey is able to give consumers direct access to the best rates available from the most borrower friendly institutions. As the servicer of all loans obtained through its platform, you can rest easy knowing your personal information will be safe and that the best customer service team will be ready to answer your questions from application until your final payment.

LendKey Student Loan Refinance review

  • Lightning fast rate check - 2-minute rate check with no impact on your credit score
  • More lenders, more options - see the best offers from over 275 not-for-profit and community lenders for higher approval chances
  • Life of loan relationship - With LendKey, your personal information will never be sent or passed on to third parties. Their customer service team is with you from the moment you land on their website until you've completely repaid your loan.
  • Unmatched benefits- Community lenders put people over profits and offer unique benefits like cosigner release after 12 on-time payments, interest only repayment options to keep monthly payments low, the largest unemployment protection period in the market, and more.

Get a personalized quote from LendKey now.

#4 View More Details

Operates in all 50 states; 2nd largest student loan refinancing lender

  • APR: 2.43% - 7.02%
  • Minimum credit score: 660
  • No refinancing amount maximum
View More Details
Visit Laurel Road View Loan Disclosure

Laurel Road is a national online lender with customers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Many of our non-bank competitors are not able to lend in all 50 states.Laurel Road has grown to be the second largest player in the student loan refinancing space in large part because of our reputation as the go-to low rate provider.

Laurel Road Student Loan Refinance Review

  • National reach - Online lender that is available in all 50 US states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
  • No fees & the lowest rates in the space - Laurel Road is the most transparent about the rates they provide customers, and offer the lowest rates where it counts. Our customers will save more than $20,000 over the life of their loans on average. 
  • Customer service reputation - Laurel Road's customer service representatives are no rookies. With 19 years of experience on average, Laurel Road’s Customer Service team delivers an experience that is best in the industry. They work to build meaningful, life-long relationships with our valued customers to improve their overall financial wellness.
  • The stability & security of a bank - They are a division of Darien Rowayton Bank, a stable and secure FDIC-insured bank, regulated by the FDIC and the Connecticut Department of Banking.

Get your personalized, pre-approved rates in less than 5 minutes.

#5 View More Details

For every loan they fund, they contribute to the education of a child in need

  • APR: 2.48% - 6.25%
  • Minimum credit score: 660
  • Refinance up to $500K
View More Details
Visit CommonBond View Loan Disclosure

CommonBond was founded in 2011 by three MBA graduates from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School who wanted to help their peers escape from high-interest student loan debt. Its original focus was on grad students, but it has since expanded to cover undergrads as well.

Of all the companies we reviewed, CommonBond has some of the best customer service. The company prides itself on being easy to reach by email, phone, or live chat. It offers networking events, expert panels, insider newsletters, and even has a program help borrowers who lose their jobs to find new ones. CommonBond also makes you feel good about choosing to refinance with them by donating money to an education nonprofit for each loan they write.

CommonBond Student Loan Refinance review

  • Unemployment protections - If you lose your job or decide to go back to school, you can delay your payments for up to 24 months.
  • Social promise - For every loan they fund, they also contribute to the education of a child in need.
  • Hybrid loan option - Offerings include a 10-year hybrid loan with fixed interest for the first five years, and variable interest for the final five.
  • Referral bonus - For every friend you refer who refinances their loans with CommonBond, you’ll earn a $200 cash bonus.
  • Qualification - Borrowers must have graduated at least 2 years prior if they want to apply without a co-signer. And borrowers in 6 states – Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, South Dakota, and Vermont – cannot currently refinance through CommonBond.

Get a personalized review of your refinancing options with CommonBond today.

#6 View More Details

Offers unemployment protection and career/coaching/networking

  • APR: 2.430% - 8.074%
  • Minimum credit score: 650
  • Refinance up to 100% of student debt
View More Details
Visit SoFi View Loan Disclosure

SoFi, which stands for “Social Finance,” was created by a group of Stanford business students who found themselves with a mountain of debt after graduation. They set out to change the student loan industry and help borrowers like themselves to get lower interest rates. SoFi has some of the lowest interest rates and, unlike the other lenders we reviewed, it has no maximum amount you can finance. However, Nevada residents can’t currently refinance with SoFi. Minimum loan balances are higher in Arizona, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania due to state laws. Additional state restrictions may apply.

SoFi Student Loan Refinancing Review

  • Low interest rates - For well-qualified borrowers, SoFi offers some of the lowest rates we have found.
  • Strong customer service - It has more than 350 customer service reps available to help applicants through process.
  • Career coaching and networking - Perks include career services representatives who can help you find a job or negotiate a higher salary. SoFi also hosts networking events, happy hours and educational lectures on topics like buying a home in major cities around the country.
  • Unemployment protection - Borrowers who lose their jobs through no fault of their own may apply for Unemployment Protection. If approved, SoFi will suspend their monthly SoFi loan payments and provide job placement assistance during the forbearance period. These benefits are offered in three month increments, and are capped at 12 months, in aggregate, over the life of the loan. Note that interest will still accrue while loans are in forbearance.

Find out what interest rate SoFi can offer you here.

#7 View More Details

Special offers for medical resident and fellow refinance products

  • APR: 3.02% - 7.76%
  • Minimum credit score: 670 w/cosigner
  • Refinance up to $350K
View More Details
Visit Splash View Loan Disclosure

Splash Financial is a leader in student loan refinancing with new rates as low as 3.25% fixed APR which can save you tens of thousands of dollars over the life of your loans. No application or origination fees and no prepayment penalties. Splash Financial is in all 50 states and is intensely focused on customer service. Splash Financial is also one of the few companies that offers a great medical resident and fellow refinance product. You can check your rate with Splash in just minutes.

  • Low interest rates – especially for graduate students
  • No application or origination fees. No prepayment penalties.
  • Co-signer release program - you can apply for a cosigner release form your loan after 12 months of on-time payments
  • Specialty product for doctors in training with low monthly payment

Click here to see more of Splash's offerings and to see how you can save money.

Comments

I reduced my student loan payment by $152 per month, by refinancing thru Nitro:

Save Money Now