How to Ask for a Raise or Anything Else You Want

Women are mistakenly too hesitant to fully own up to our own worth, talent, skill; even to step up to our own ambition. From a young age, we are acculturated to feel as though we are not enough, collapsing on false modesty. If you reframe that mentality to acknowledge all that you’ve accomplished in your career and your life, you will feel more confident when you have that negotiation conversation for what you want, which includes any sort of professional advancement.

Most of us, known to be more talkative than men, are too quiet at work. Remaining quiet in the face of other people’s work, at meetings or within a project, dooms you to invisibility—never to be counted at all.

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Here’s an example: When you’re asked your opinion, you must train yourself to step up and give it even if you don’t know all of the answers. Often, this is where women falter, not wanting to ever be wrong or give information that you haven’t fully researched or processed. The reality is that you don’t have to know all the answers in order to speak up. You might say, “Well, let’s think about the facts like this,” and then talk it out with your team while formulating your own opinion in the process. Far better than to continuously say, “I don’t know,” or stay mute. With silence, you avoid foot-in-mouth disease, but you can also literally just look dumb. Just think: your inquiry might kick off a response that might surprise you or be a jumping off point for others. This could be a great thing.

Advocate for Yourself

You must learn to explain why your work, research, and results are relevant and worthwhile, and how they contribute to your group or organization to avoid feeling like you’re bragging. Comment positively on other people’s work. What is too often overlooked is the power both in the telling of your own accomplishments and commenting on the worth of others. Both are critical roles for success. And your success also hinges on the kind of relationship you have with your boss, making that as important as actually doing your job well. You have to give up feeling like an apple polisher (or worse), or that your boss is too busy (or important, or you fill in the blank). Your boss is not your school principal, stern father, or comforting mother! And in addition to doing your job well, learn to give more of yourself than what is actually in your job description—which is what you were hired for—to make yourself deserving of a raise or promotion.

Asking for a Raise

Women don’t get so many raises as men, or as much money, mostly because we do not ask for them. We buckle down to do better work, waiting to be recognized instead of stepping up. Most raises come from requests. Why don’t you ask? Afraid that your boss won’t want to hear from you when the opposite is true? Presenting what good work you have done, noting its relevancy as well as your ideas for doing more, you can motivate your bosses to reframe their opinions and open new possibilities. Most managers I’ve talked to admit that they give more raises and promotions to men just because men ask. And when they ask, they add what they have contributed, how hard they’ve worked, and provide examples of how they work outside their capacity, what it has meant to the organization, and why it should be compensated. Take heed. Follow suit. Do your part for your self.

Tip: Before asking for the raise, prepare your case.

Pay attention to the kind of presentation or interaction your boss is comfortable with: charts, graphs, a written summary or casual conversation. Match your boss’s style of deciding. Start with a brief friendly conversation and then assertively state your purpose: “I asked for this meeting to talk about my value here and my title and salary.” Arrange your points in dramatic order, and review your duties. You’ll be amazed at how fuzzy these points are in your boss’s mind. Bosses typically don’t spend time thinking about their employees; it’s up to you to give them a friendly reminder.

Prepare your negotiation

Prepare your negotiation

Prepare your negotiation

When making your pitch, remember we women ask for too little. While it’s better to ask for something instead of nothing, you want to be competitive. Find out your value by comparing your salary to what your colleagues are making in the same profession. If you are a member of a professional organization, you can usually find out average salaries based on the type of job and your experience level. A little online research can reveal so much too.

As a former labor negotiator, I found that if you ask for exactly what you want, the other party will use that as a starting point and negotiate down from it. Therefore, you have to ask for more than what you want, leaving room for the other side to have some wiggle room. I call it the “X Plus” theory.

Legitimize asking for more because in reality, you deserve it.

Get out of feeling like you’re begging, or asking for something that you haven’t earned. And don’t ask for more money because you personally need it. Make it all about the value of your contribution to the organization. This is the time to change your attitude and up your ante.

Once you courageously ask, your boss can only say yes or no. If you are shot down, instead of walking away in defeat, ask what you could do differently, and use that feedback to move forward. You will gain more leverage for when you approach the topic again—which you will, thanks to your newfound awareness of your value and worth. In short, make your luck happen!


About the Author

Adele Scheele, PhD, an internationally recognized, transformational career strategist, has guided individuals and organizations through evolving markets to emerge with new management and leadership opportunities and a deeper sense of purpose. Huffington Post blogger and author of best-selling books Skills for Success: A Guide to The Top for Men and Women; Career Strategies for the Working Woman; and Launch Your Career in College, Dr. Adele has pioneered the contemporary career process. She has made frequent appearances on NBC's Today Show, ABC's Good Morning America, and NPR as well as hosting a 3-hour KABC TalkRadio Show.