Young Pros: How to Ask for Your First Raise

first raiseIf you entered the workforce after 2008, your entire professional life has been in the shadow of the Great Recession.

So it is quite possible you’ve read countless articles about how precarious the job market was, and in many cases, still is. Along the way, you might even have experienced a layoff or two. Understandably, all this uncertainty may have created a deep-seated fear of losing your job.

So the thought of asking for a raise may scare you to death.

But the recession is over. The economy is improving. Companies are hiring top talent, and they are giving raises to key employees. If your work is stellar and deep down you know you deserve a raise, ask for it! But you must do it the right way.

Here are some tips that will put you in a good position to get your first raise:

Make Sure Your Timing is Right

No matter how good your work is or how deserving you are, if your company is struggling and there have been recent layoffs, now is not a great time to ask. If you’re really good at what you do, and you’ve developed marketable skills and industry credibility, it may be time to look for a raise another way: a new job at a company on more solid footing.

Don’t Employ Negative Language

”You get more bees with honey than vinegar” is especially true when asking for a raise. Your language — in writing, verbal and non-verbal — needs to maintain a positive tone and be solution-focused. Telling your employer they “owe you” a raise won’t work. But showing them your impact and potential with concrete examples just might.

Think like a Business Person

You must approach your salary negotiation for what it is: a business discussion. That is not to say that emotion doesn’t belong in business. After all, great companies inspire employees to be passionate and to pour their heart and soul into their work. But bringing emotion into a salary negotiation can cloud your judgment and cause you to make a strategy mistake or verbal miscue.

Remain Reasonable

You may be a rock star. You may have accomplished amazing things for your company. But if this is your first raise at your current place of employment, be sure not to overshoot your mark. Standard annual raises are around 3%. That doesn’t mean you must stick to that number. But as you’re setting expectations, for you and the employer, don’t ask for a 20% raise and expect it to be approved. Throughout the conversation, position yourself to be deserving of a reasonable raise, but not greedy.

Ultimatums Are a Fool’s Tool

Do not ever give an ultimatum to your employer. This is a negotiation, not a hostage situation! Good negotiators aim to build a win-win situation. That may mean agreeing to take on new responsibilities with your raise, or agreeing to less of a raise than you hoped. That’s called compromise. But threatening to walk if your financial demands aren’t met will cause a defensive reaction and talks of a raise might be replaced with talks of termination or resignation.

Leave with Something

If you get a no, leave the experience with something. Your first request may not result in a raise, so plan ahead to the second ask. Make sure you get clear criteria from your employer on exactly what timeline-based goals you must meet to earn a raise. Schedule a time to review the agreed-upon milestones. Understand exactly how you’ll be measured. Then work hard to exceed expectations so next time you ask for a raise you’re likely to get the answer you want.

Asking for that first raise can be a nerve wracking experience, but gather all your confidence and do it. At the minimum, you’ll walk away with a better understanding of your path forward — and your employer will better understand your value.

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