Whether you work from home part-time or go to an office forty hours a week, chances are, you’ll probably reach a point in your life where you’ll want more pay for your work.
If you’re anything like me, the prospect of walking up to someone and saying you deserve more money probably seems a little daunting most of the time. After all It just isn’t a comfortable topic for most of us. Asking for more money seems frightening. We‘re taught to be satisfied with what we have. We’re often concerned about the needs of our families, our spouse, and those around us—and how we can meet those needs—but yet, we feel selfish trying to meet our own needs monetarily. (Even though it would ultimately benefit our family.)
This can be one of the biggest challenges for women. We see it in the wage gap between women and men in the workforce. In her book, Women Don’t Ask, author Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever explore why this phenomenon has become a societal norm, and why, as women, we often feel we’re unworthy or undeserving of equal pay. She suggests, as women, we have emotional strengths and needs, and we can tap into those to be even better negotiators.
This can be a challenge for two-income households as well as for single moms. As moms, we often have to consider things like maternity leave, availability of childcare, and non-monetary benefits like a flexible schedule. This can mean no matter how hard we work, we feel like we’re still not in a position to ask for more compensation.
Yet, we’re often struggling to pay our debts. We’re struggling to build up an emergency fund and achieve financial peace. We’re coupon clipping, DIYing and sale-shopping, and yet we’re afraid to do the one thing that might actually grant us more financial freedom: asking for a raise.
No matter your position or line of work, there are simple ways you can prepare yourself to ask and (hopefully) receive the answer you want when it comes to additional compensation.
Make Sure You Deserve It
As a boss, I know that good employees are hard to find, and I will do almost anything to make sure that my rockstar employees–the ones who “bring it” every single day–are well taken care of. That said, there is nothing that bothers me more than when an employee asks for a pay raise before they’ve proved their worth. When I worked in retail and property management, I would frequently have employees ask for a raise after just a few weeks. More than once, their justification for deserving the raise was that they had actually shown up. I wish I was kidding.
So here’s a little tip–just showing up and putting in the minimum effort required for a job that you are already getting paid to do does not qualify you for a raise. Anyone can do that, and workers who will do just that are a dime a dozen.
Thus, before you even begin to think about asking for a raise, be brutally honest with yourself. Are you truly putting in the maximum amount of effort every single day? Do you help out you co-workers, come to work with a positive, get-it-done attitude, and actively look for ways to do your job better, to become more efficient, and more productive? Are you interested in the success of the company as a whole? Have you worked for the company for more than six months and demonstrated a consistently excellent performance? If the answer to any of these questions is no then you might want to hold off until you can answer yes to each and every one.
Do Your Research
First of all, explore what others in your field are making and what seems to be a fair compensation for your city, state and position. Sites like Glassdoor.com can help you gain a handle on what others in your shoes are making. Before you get bummed because you hear “the average salary for x job in the U.S. is $x/year,” take into consideration experience, expertise, region and location. (For example, nurses in a rural area vs. nurses in a large city may be compensated differently.)
There are, of course, other things to research as well. Are you living within your means? Check the real estate market and cost of living in your area to ensure you’re on target with those around you. You can’t base salary negotiations simply on the fact YOU need more money. Do a reality check of your budget and the state of your finances to make sure you aren’t aiming for the stars, while living on the moon.
You should also assess the competitiveness of the market for your industry. If you’re in a highly competitive market, there may be others who can do what you do for the same price. Be realistic about your goals as well. You might need $10,000 more per year to pay your bills, but most raises are somewhere between 2-3%, on average.
List Your Accomplishments
What have you achieved over your course of employment? Don’t simply look at the things above and beyond your job description, but include any and every success. Look at those times when you’ve proven yourself to be truly indispensable.
Consider keeping a “kudos” folder. Whenever a client, co-worker, or supervisor sends you a complimentary email or tells you they’re happy with something you’ve done, save a copy so that you have an ongoing list of accomplishments and milestones.
When you think of adding to your resume or if you’re jumping back in the workforce after a break, think of accomplishments outside the box. It’s okay to include part-time gigs and work from home. Also add in volunteer opportunities, church activities, and your positions in the Girl Scouts and on the PTO. After all, those jobs still require organizational skills, community engagement, communication, and project management. (…and you thought you were just selling cookies!)
Before you go into a negotiation, do plenty of preparation. This means you should have a history of your salary and any raises you’ve had in the past. While you don’t want to bombard your employer or client with paperwork, you do want to have everything handy to answer any questions.
You also want to prepare emotionally and mentally. It’s difficult to ask for a raise, but rehearsing the conversation with a spouse, friend or mentor will make it feel more natural. Have them enact different scenarios with you, including your “worst fear” scenario (even if it’s over the top: “How DARE you ask?? You’re fired!”). Once you’ve run through it a few times and even laughed about your fears, you’ll feel more confident about your approach.
Set up an appointment so you aren’t trying to corner your boss at an inopportune time, or suddenly springing “the ask” on a client. Choose a time when you won’t be interrupted, if possible. You don’t have to give all of the details about the meeting, but it’s professional if you at least let him or her know you’d like to get together to discuss your role, your performance and your future.
Making the Ask
Rather than walking in and demanding a specific number, it’s appropriate to offer a range (and to expect the response to fall in the low-end of that range). If you’re hoping for $35,000, for example, you may want to ask for between $33,000 and $40,000. Be sure the low end is something you can still live with.
When you meet with your boss, go in confidently. Don’t fidget, stammer or look down. Walk in, shake hands, and make eye contact. Thank your boss for meeting with you, and let them know what you’re hoping to discuss. Segue into the conversation by discussing your role, your strengths and your performance.
When you ask, you shouldn’t make the request in a way that suggests it’s about what you need or what others are getting paid. Your financial stability isn’t your boss’ problem, nor is your inability to afford a new car, vacation or even your rent. It’s also inappropriate to point out what your coworkers make, and then ask your boss to give you a raise to match their salary. Your raise should be about your performance and your value to the company or organization.
The one caveat is when you’re negotiating a higher rate with clients. It can be appropriate to refer to industry norms and what fellow consultants and those in your role are making. Talk about the indispensable nature of your services and what you uniquely bring to their table. In this case, it’s appropriate to compare your rate with others doing the same job.
If the Answer is No
You may want to throw a fit, shut down, cry, or run out of the office. Do none of those things. Instead, take a deep breath and thank your boss or client for their consideration. This can be where a woman’s sensitivity can be a real strength. Calmly ask your boss if they can outline some action items you can take to get you to the salary you’re aiming for, and then be willing to listen.
You may need to undertake more professional development. There may be issues with your performance. (Are you frequently late? Do you take long breaks or have you missed a lot of time or deadlines?) It may simply be a tough time for the company. Let your boss know you would really like to revisit the conversation in six months, when you’ve taken the steps they’ve outlined.
If a raise isn’t in the cards due to financial constraints of the company, it can be a great time to ask for other benefits—a title change, extra days off, a more flexible schedule, or the ability to telecommute a few days per week. Most bosses who are happy with your performance will want to comply to keep you with the company for the long haul.
In most cases, if you’ve done your research, you’ve set your expectations, and you’ve aimed accordingly, you won’t be left with a cold no. On the off chance you are, then it’s time to consider your options. If this is a make-or-break conversation for you, then it may be time to send out some feelers and look at other offers.
Keep in mind, it’s generally easier to ask for a higher salary when you’re offered a position, than it is further down the road, so use the same tactics to negotiate in your new offer. But, while you’re on the hunt, continue to do your best at your current position. You never know when a coworker or boss will turn into a great reference in the future. There’s certainly no reason to burn bridges.
Most jobs genuinely want happy employees. If employees are satisfied it can mean better performance for the company as a whole. Employers recognize this and work to keep their workers as satisfied as possible.
As women, providing for our families and helping to meet their needs is vital. Whether we’re the sole breadwinner or part of a team, it can add pressure to know a raise might be the difference between braces for your daughter or no summer camp for your son. Do your best, be confident, and realize you deserve to be compensated fairly and equally for the work you do.