No one likes talking about money. Summoning the courage to ask for a raise, especially when you think you’re being underpaid, can feel downright uncomfortable.

We all wish our employers would recognize our value and pay us accordingly. Unfortunately, things don’t always work out that we. You need to ask for what you’re worth!

To do this you need to understand your own market value, how it intersects with your immediate and long-term goals, and the benefits your employer will get by keeping you on board.

I had a previous client tell me that she felt she couldn’t ask for a raise because it was simply “too hard to speak up”. She was paralyzed by her fear, which is the main reason why people don’t negotiate, without fully understanding that there is a way of asking for a raise from a respectful but firm place.

If you’re poised to ask for a raise – and actually get it – pay attention to these five steps to successfully get that raise you so desperately want!

STEP 1: ASSESS YOUR CAREER

You’ve been in a similar role now for most of your career. Your upward trajectory has seen one accomplishment after the next. And now, having been with this specific company for some time, you feel the need to ask for a raise. But where do you start?

Start by defining your own brand. That means re-equating you with you. Take an inventory of past accomplishments, professional goals, and your performance to date.

Ask yourself:

  1.       What did I professionally and personally accomplish in the last couple of years?

  2.       What are my major accomplishments? Include any certificates, awards, or adventures.

  3.       What do my accomplishments reveal about my success?

  4.       Are there any repeating themes?

  5.       What are my immediate and long-term goals?

Make sure to take the time to fully sit with these questions and develop thoughtful responses.  

Your answers become the bedrock of your negotiation leverage. By pointing to concrete examples, and articulating a story of how these successes lead to your company’s success, you’ll be able to push back against any resistance you encounter and obtain a favorable outcome. 

STEP 2: CRAFT YOUR STORY

Creating a blueprint for why and how you have succeeded in the past will help you when you encounter resistance (and, trust me, you will) and anchor expectations as to why you deserve what you are asking for.

Think of it as framing your value and, based upon the story you craft, your pitch you’ll make to your employer.

To craft your story think of the following questions:

  1.       What do you think were your best accomplishment this year? Try to hone in on one or two examples.

  2.       What does this say about you?

  3.       How will you use this story to your benefit? Remember to always be humble.

Practice this out loud or with someone else. Be as specific as possible.

Here’s how one client did it:

Jennifer was a program manager with five years experience leading small-to-medium sized teams at her current company. She had a knack for translating complex technical jargon into easy-to-follow language, which helped ensure the marketing team knew what the latest product offering was. She also continuously built cross-departmental relationships in an effort to streamline processes. Her last performance review was stellar and her latest project was ahead of schedule and under budget, saving the company thousands of dollars.

Her story: “My latest project saved the company thousands of dollars by being both ahead of schedule and under budget. I continually build relationships in an effort to streamline communications and ensure that the marketing department has easy-to-follow guidelines as to what the latest product offering is, ensuring we’re never late. I’ve had stellar performance reviews and I know the company has greatly benefited from my collaborative, results-oriented mindset.”

For clients like Jennifer, knowing the tangible benefits they bring to their role and their employers empowers them asking for more money. Whether a $1,000 raise or more, providing and clearly articulating those successes grounds the conversation in a reality the employer cannot dispute.

STEP 3: GATHER THAT SUPPORT SYSTEM

For most of us, we didn’t get to where we are professionally without the help of a mentor, boss or fellow industry maverick.

Take a look at both your internal and external networks that know you and your work, creating a list that highlights who they are, what they offered you, and how you could reciprocate now.

Based off that list, create a list of individuals that’ll be known as your “support system”. They should be people you feel safe approaching regarding private, confidential advice as well as any additional support you may need professionally.

Then, in order to leverage this group properly, ask yourself:

  1.         Who can recommend me?

  2.         Why would they recommend me?

  3.         What does relationships say about me professionally?  

  4.         What relationship(s) should I leverage?

  5.         Is there any way for me to reciprocate now and be of help?

While it may feel self-serving to do this, this process of gathering your support group is important. This is the network you’ll go to for advice, including understanding industry norms relating to your role and salary requirements, and will anchor your confidence knowing you have individuals backing you up. 

STEP 4: DEFINE YOUR MARKET VALUE

This is the most important step out of all the steps.

Defining your market value, researching how much people in similar roles are being paid in your industry, your company’s health and position within that industry, and your years of experience, will become the objective measurements underlying your ask.

To do this, use free web resources: PayScale, Glassdoor, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Investigate what other people are making in your field. Use your internal and external network to solicit confidential, informal advice regarding what someone in your capacity is making somewhere else and the receptivity of your boss for a raise.

Then compile all this information and ask yourself:

  1.         What is your company’s current market position?

  2.         What are competitors willing to pay for you?

  3.         What future benefits are you expected to bring to the company?

  4.         What do your past accomplishments say about your future prospects?

  5.         What will you bring to the table that others cannot?

Based off this research, create a salary range of what you might be expected to bring in if you were out in the free market vying for a position. This will inform your future conversation regarding compensation and ground the discussion in objective market research.

If you’re having issues figuring out what you’re worth in the free market, you can always contact an industry recruiter. This is what they do for a living and they will be able to give you an answer at the ready. 

STEP 5: PRIORITIZE YOUR REQUIREMENTS

Now, you’ve done some research into how much you could make but you should also start thinking about the “extras” that are important to you: extra vacation time, telecommuting opportunities, etc.

Write them all out and rank them according to a monetary value that equals $1,000,000.

That way, once the salary conversation has started, you’re aware of the value of each item and will have no issues conceding an issue that is of lesser value to you than something that is extremely important.

As I tell clients, research shows that the best agreements are those where both sides to a negotiation give a little to get a little. Knowing what you’re willing to give up prior to the start of the negotiation allows you to prepare for the unexpected nature of a salary negotiation by knowing what you’re willing to give up to get something.

But, in doing this, you’ll want to learn the power of sequencing. It’s a strategic component of any negotiation, which requires learning how to unbundle your items timely and to your advantage. You wouldn’t just go into a negotiation and give up all your items just to get one single item in return. Instead, you’d tease out which item is more important to the other side and gauge which of yours should be given up.

That is where I actually do most of my work with clients. Some people can do the preparation work beforehand by themselves but having the actual conversation around money is deeply unsettling. Practice makes perfect. If you can, find someone to practice with so that you don’t let the nerves get the better of you when it comes time to ask for your value!

Bottom line: any successful salary conversation requires that you prepare beforehand. By crafting a story that points to specific examples, using your network as a basis by which to garner support, and researching your fair market value, you will position yourself for success. Just remember, it’s all in how you do it!

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