So you’re wondering how to ask for a raise when you are underpaid.
A million things have probably passed through your head:
What’s the best way to handle it? Should I even do it?
But here’s the deal:
Asking for a raise has a snowball effect.
Even a small pay increase will mean larger yearly raises and possibly larger bonuses in the future.
It will also carry over to a new employer, who almost always asks:
What was your last salary?
Here’s what Linda Babcock, author of Ask For It, has to say about it:
“I tell my graduate students that by not negotiating their job at the beginning of their career, they’re leaving anywhere between $1 million and $1.5 million on the table in lost earnings over their lifetime.”
And that number doesn’t include retirement contributions, which are also based on a percentage of salary.
“People wait to be offered a salary increase,” she says.
“People wait to be offered a promotion. They wait to be assigned the task or team or job that they want. And those things typically don’t happen very often.”
Here’s the thing:
Even though asking for a raise is intimidating – if you clearly deserve it, then there’s no shame in asking for it.
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Realize it’s Normal to Ask for a Raise
It’s not greedy, demanding, or rude to ask for a pay increase.
If your boss has had any previous management experience, then they’ll be prepared for this.
They won’t think: what a crazy request or Ashley is in this just for the money.
“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.”
– Milton Berle
So change the way you think.
Look at it like this:
A raise is simply a recognition that you’re now contributing at a higher level than when your salary was last set.
A pay increase isn’t a gift or favor; it’s a way for our employers to pay us fair market value for our work.
Because if they want to keep us around, they gotta pay us what we’re worth, right?
So when it comes to learning how to ask for a raise when you are underpaid, here are seven steps:
Step 1. Know Your Accomplishments
Focus on why you deserve it – not why you need it.
It’s no secret that when you’re important to your company, the negotiation goes more smoothly.
You need to be able to prove to your boss that you’re valuable.
And how do you do that?
You know what you bring to the table.
“Be so good they can’t ignore you.”
– Steve Martin
Have you successfully completed an important project?
Did you save the company from losing a customer?
Did you help increase sales?
Have you received good feedback from coworkers, other supervisors, or customers?
Has your job description changed and increased your responsibilities?
These are also great tips for learning how to ask for a raise when given more responsibility.
Remember, you need to be your biggest cheerleader. You can’t expect someone else to do that for you.
Step 2. Do Salary Research
(I recommend using all three, then taking the average between them)
Glassdoor has a Know Your Worth salary estimator that will tell you what you should be paid based on title, company, location, and experience.
As a rule of thumb, the average raise is between 2%-5%.
I know you’re trying to find out how to ask for a raise when you are underpaid, but unless you’re severely underpaid – you usually don’t want to ask for more than 5%
With that said, don’t be afraid to provide a number to your boss.
Columbia Business School found that asking for an exact number instead of a round number makes the employee seem more informed about their market salary data.
The employees who used this technique were more likely to get counter offers.
So instead of asking for $65,000 – you’d be better off to ask for $63,500.
It will show that you’ve done your research and determined the market value.
“The man at the top of the mountain didn’t fall there.”
– Vince Lombardi
Step 3. Focus on the Future
Gone are the days of lifelong employment.
With so many options, we’re more likely to make the switch when something better comes along.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t show long-term interest in your company.
Every manager values loyalty.
So start the conversation on a good note by explaining how much you enjoy working for your boss and the company.
Then, talk about what you want to do in the future, and how you plan to contribute to growing the business.
Make sure you know the companies goals and values.
Get to know the regular customers and understand the products and services inside and out.
Show your boss that you’re invested by asking questions to get a better picture of where the company is headed.
Dedicate yourself to supporting increased growth within your company.
Over time, your boss will become a supporter of your growth and success.
“Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
Step 4. Time Your Pitch Right
Picking the right time to ask for a raise is just as important as preparing for the negotiation.
Here are some perfect opportunities to ask for a raise:
Annual Performance Reviews
I always say that if you’re trying to figure out how to ask for a raise when you are underpaid, then annual performance reviews are the way to go.
Why? Because they’re natural times to bring up the topic of more money.
It’s not only good timing, but it’s usually expected.
After Finishing an Important Project
There’s no better way to show your worth than proving what you can do.
After you’ve shown your hard work, then take that as a cue to ask for a raise.
When your Boss is in a Good Mood
You’re going to approach your boss to ask for the raise, and your boss is a human with normal human emotions.
That means that you shouldn’t bring up the topic of money when your boss is having a rough day, stressed, or nervous about future budget cuts.
“You can’t build a reputation on what you’re going to do.”
Step 5. Keep it Short and Sweet
It’s easy to feel like you should have a detailed presentation during a raise negotiation, but that’s not the case.
You can clearly communicate your reasoning without launching into a full blown speech.
Thankfully, keeping it short, sweet, and to the point will also help ease your nerves.
A lot of pressure comes from wondering what to say and how to say it.
So the more we feel like we have to say, the more nervous we tend to become.
So a good negotiation might start like this:
“I’m really thankful for the new responsibilities and opportunities I’ve taken on, like A and B. And I’ve successfully exceeded the goals we set in those areas. Could we talk about adjusting my salary to reflect that?”
Then, let your boss lead the conversation.
Chances are, your manager will ask specific questions about your performance and what amount you’d like to receive.
By this point, you’ve taken time to know your worth and you’ll be fully prepared.
“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”
– Alice Walker
Step 6. Practice Makes Perfect
The key to learning how to ask for a raise when you are underpaid is sounding confident.
After you’ve noted your accomplishments and done your salary research, start practicing what you’ll say.
One thing to keep in mind while you practice is that it’s always a great idea to start with gratitude.
Professional speaker, Dr. Ramiro Zuniga, states that there is a clear link between confidence and gratitude:
“When a person shows gratitude, it helps create a positive atmosphere. The display of gratitude conveys the message that all is well and moving in a forward direction.”
Thus, finding a way to express your gratitude to your boss is a great way to convey confidence and break the ice.
Practice enough times so that your words flow smoothly and easily.
“The future depends on what you do today.”
– Mahatma Gandi
7. Be Prepared To Hear No
It happens – and it’s always best to be prepared for it.
But if you ask for a raise and get told no, all is not lost.
Take it as the perfect chance to ask what it would take to get a raise in the future.
“The comeback is always stronger than the setback.”
– Ethi Pike
A good boss will be willing (and able) to explain what you need to do to make more money.
It doesn’t hurt to request the performance appraisal sheet or handbook with the raise requirements.
Make sure you know and understand what needs to be done before your next annual performance review.
This way, you’ll have plenty of time to meet and exceed the requirements.
Doing this not only communicates how seriously you take your job, but it will also let you decide if it’s worth the investment or if you should find something else.
If your boss can’t give you specifics about what needs to be done to earn more money, then take that as a glaring sign that you need to find another job.
Lastly, don’t let the fear of being told “no” stop you from negotiating a raise in the first place.
You won’t know unless you try.
If you try and don’t succeed, don’t be afraid to pay your favorite job board a visit.
There’s always better opportunities out there – you just have to find them.
One thing I learned from being a manager was that the best employees leave first.
Because they can. They know their worth.
They are always searching for better opportunities even if they like their current job.
They are forward thinking.
They focus on learning the skills they’ll need for the next job.
They realize that the best opportunities come from change.
So just know that the right job for you won’t necessarily be ready at the exact same time you are.
Always be open to searching for opportunities all the time and not just when you’re “ready”
So there you have it! 7 tips on how to ask for a raise when you are underpaid.
Thanks for reading.