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'It goes beyond money': How to ask for a pay rise AND get your boss to agree

It’s the universal question. So what’s the best way to tackle it?

SO YOU’VE BEEN in your job for a while now, you work hard, and you get nothing but positive feedback. You feel like it’s time for your talents to be recognised on your payslip – but how do you ask for a raise?

Jessica, 23, recently bagged herself a raise after over a year in her position as a marketing executive in Dublin. What made her think it was time to ask for more money?

“I’d been mulling it over for a while and thought about how my duties and responsibilities had increased since I started the position, and it was coming up to my one year review, so I felt that now was a good time to ask for one.”

And she got the increase she was looking for. A great result – especially as she very nearly didn’t ask at all:

I almost didn’t ask for [a raise]…because in a typical Irish fashion I didn’t want to cause any trouble or make a fuss and didn’t want to be seen as having notions or illusions of grandeur.

So what’s the best way to go about it? Naturally, it’s not a case of arriving into work one day and asking your boss for a 50 per cent salary bump out of the blue – there’s a lot of preparation required. And the first question is…

How much do I deserve this?

Many people believe that they deserve a raise, but not all of them ask for one: as career manager Rowan Manahan put it: “The sky is blue, the grass is green, and pay rises are hard to get”.

If you’re confident in yourself and your work, it’s easy to convince yourself that you’re a remarkable employee, worthy of a decent pay increase. However, that’s simply not always the case, says Rowan.

“Many think that they’re special when they’re just a solid performer. If you’re serious about this, you need to take some time to glean real insight into yourself, your company, and your knowledge of what is above the norm.”

Rowan told us that he sees “a lot of delusion masquerading as confidence” in his line of work – so take the time to decide if you’re objectively worth it.

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Partake in a bit of self-reflection. Ask yourself some questions: do you feel overworked and underpaid? Have you taken on new responsibilities without extra pay of late? When was the last time you were given a raise?

As well as that, think about the company, and what it offers. From the employer’s point of view, pay is only one of several ways to motivate staff. Declan Bailey, Head of HR for GSK Ireland, says: “Over the years, I have found that development and values-fit are as important as reward and recognition for keeping employees motivated and engaged.” Is there a way that your company can reward you outside of your payslip?

The key preparations

If you think you genuinely are worth more money, and it’s money that you want, then here’s the best way to go about getting it.

You need to have a strategy. According to Rowan Manahan, the best strategy here is to play the game long-term. “A conversation about a raise should never come as a surprise to the powers that be. The conversation should be an ongoing part of career-management efforts.”

Organise regular review sessions with your boss: if you can bring your financial expectations up in these review sessions, and give yourself space to discuss the raise without discussing numbers, you’re letting your boss know that the issue is on your mind – and, crucially, keep reminding them, so that there’s no room for surprises.

Next, when you achieve something new at work, or get an especially good review, write it down, so you’ll have plenty of cold, hard facts to discuss with your boss when the time comes.

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Know your worth, but have the metrics to back that worth up – the most important aspect of getting your raise is getting yourself “match fit” for the big meeting, says Rowan, and being able to prove that you’re worth the extra money.

Crunching the numbers

Next, you have to think of a number. All our experts agreed on one thing here: to aim too high is to make a huge mistake.

“There’s a gap between what employees and employers see as a good wage” according to Rowan, and what employees can see as unfair could be considered the industry standard.

It’s worth checking out what sort of money your contemporaries are on. and are both useful sources when trying to figure out what you should be paid.

Jessica says she asked for an 11-15% increase, factoring in a number of things. “It has to go beyond just ‘I would like more money’,” she says, and recommends showing your boss that you’re serious about “your job, your career path, and the company”.

The big meeting

Ready to make a killer argument for yourself? The meeting with your boss is when you pull all your hard work together. Going in underprepared is about the worst thing you can do, our experts said, so be sure to have all your bases covered under the below sections:

  • What you do for the company
  • What you have done well in the past
  • What you’ve done badly (and learned from!) in the same time
  • What kind of increase you’re looking for

Sometimes employers will say no to your raise. Sometimes they won’t have the resources, (or the desire) to give it out, no matter how hard you work. Rejection stings, but stay motivated and be sure to find out the contributing factors – it could be a short-term issue preventing your company from paying you more.

Our experts agreed, too, that if this is an ongoing issue, it might be time to look elsewhere. “Sometimes it won’t matter if you can turn water into wine: you’ll just be met with ‘This is not a pay rise company’,” Rowan says. If this is the case, perhaps it’s time to look elsewhere for now.

All going to plan, though, your boss will see that you’re worthy of bringing home a bit more cash. Keep the conversation going with the powers that be, ensure that you have the information to back up what you’re saying, and deliver with confidence, and before you know it, that summer holiday mightn’t seem so difficult to fund after all.

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