How To Ask For A Raise Before It’s Too Late

So why do you want a raise? I mean sure, we all want more money, but usually, there’s a point that we get to where we just aren’t satisfied with our current salary and we feel like we need to ask for a bump in our salary. So When should YOU consider asking for that raise?


If you’re here, well then you’ve probably already made that decision. For most people, that point usually came because of one of two reasons:

1) Enough time has passed without a raise. It could be you’re hitting your three-year anniversary and have never gotten a substantial pay bump, or maybe it’s just been like six months since you were initially hired, but you feel like you negotiated poorly when you got hired and that you’re being taken advantage of.

2) Something’s changed.

Maybe your department’s been through a re-org and you’ve taken on new responsibilities Maybe your team just took on three new employees and you’ve gone from being the junior engineer to being the senior engineer

Regardless of what’s changed or how long you’ve been working at your current job, you’ve decided that you deserve more pay than you’re currently making. So where do you get started? Do you just barge into your boss’s office and demand more money? As tempting as that might be, In order to give us the best shot at actually getting that raise, we need to do a couple of things first.


Action Step #1: Document Your Accomplishments

The first step starts well before you even consider asking for a raise, and that is documenting your accomplishments.

Some people get terrified when it comes to simply explaining why they think they deserve a raise. Maybe they think they’ll come across as arrogant or whiney, but really, if you can explain to a friend why you’re overworked and underpaid, you can explain it to your boss. But we’re not just going to go in there and vent, we need to prepare ahead of time, and that includes being strategic about the key points we’re going to make.

The number one BEST piece of advice is to be able to quantify your accomplishments.


  • “I have completed 65% more tasks than any of my other coworkers.”
  • “My customer service rating is the highest of anybody on the team at 96%”

Whatever the case, managers respond to numbers, and quantifiable value-added is the easiest way to justify a pay raise. My suggestion is to keep a log of all your daily and weekly accomplishments. In the military, we called this our “I love me” file

In it, we’re going to write down anything we do that is marginally interesting, even if it’s not much. These smaller bullets add up and you can use them to justify larger bullets. Had a meeting where you showed somebody how to work a piece of software a little better? Do it once and you’re just helping out a colleague where you can. Do it several times, and you’ve shown leadership qualities and a pattern of mentorship… and those things matter.

We write them down because no matter how great you think your memory is, it’s easy to forget things, especially when we start trying to remember why we deserve that raise. With those achievements documented, we can move on to step two, which is preparing your pitch.


Action Step #2: Prepare Your Pitch – Why do you Deserve a Raise?

Ask yourself this question and be honest about it. If you just want a raise, but can’t justify it, you really have no place asking. There can be any number of reasonable justifications, but let’s start with what isn’t a good reason to be asking.

Bad Reasons:

  • You really really really want a raise.
  • Inflation.
  • Cost of living.
  • High gas prices.
  • Your cat died.
  • You want to impress your neighbor.

That third “really” is not going to magically convince your manager that they owe you more money. Other reasons you need the money or your life circumstances might seem relevant here, but these things still fall into the category of “reasons why you want more money”, not reasons why you deserve more money.

We want to stick with the reasons we’ve earned more money.

The most obvious justification for earning a raise is because of how well you do your job. If you’re pumping out more work than everybody else on your team, you’re in a good position to suggest that you might deserve a bump in pay.

This is why step 1 is so important. It can be difficult to remember all the amazing things you’ve done over the last several months or even years. So when we record all of that stuff in our “I love me” file (or whatever you want to call it), we’re giving ourselves the best opportunity to put together the most convincing pitch for why we deserve a raise.


Action Step #3: Know Your Number

If you’re hoping that your manager will come up with a good number that seems fair after hearing your pitch, just remember what’s “fair” to them might be significantly lower than you expect, if anything at all. Regardless of our optimism, it’s most likely that they’re going to pay you as little as they can to get you to remain a content contributing employee.

Sure some companies are better than others. They know that it’s cheaper to retain an existing employee and keep them happy than go through the process of finding a new person and training them. Although I love and agree with this company view, if you’re waiting around for your company to give you a proactive raise, you might be waiting for a while. I’m not saying there are not great companies out there who will do this, but you are the first and the last person you can rely on to have your best interests at heart in your career, and that means being proactive when it comes to your own career advancement.

Not to go off on a cynical tangent about covering your own ass, but this is why you need to be able to have that number in mind that you feel you’re worth when you approach your manager because nobody else is going to come up with a better one for you. This includes doing some research. What is the current going rate for your job position? There are a couple of ways to do this. The first is to ask around. Yes, there’s still a taboo about salary conversations at work. I’m still of the opinion that the more transparency there is the better, and that secrecy only benefits the company. If you can get an idea of what other people in your company are making that’s a great start, but if you want to get an even better idea of what you are worth, go out and interview. Talk to other companies in your industry. If possible, get offers so you really have a good idea of what your skills and experience are worth before coming up with a hard number to give to your manager.

Though, a word of caution. You might be tempted to throw it in your manager’s face that you’ve been interviewing at other companies and might even have offers, but I would recommend avoiding that if possible. It just makes for a weird work environment. Take the information that you gained from those interviews and those job offers, and simply let your manager know that you are confident that the number you’re asking for is reasonable. It’s always nice to have a job offer or two in your back pocket though just in case.


Action Step #4: Schedule a Meeting with Your Manager

This is it! It’s time to set up a one-on-one with your manager to ask for that raise. This can be kind of scary, but if you’ve done your due diligence in the first three steps, then this is more just a conversation or a debrief. You’re not begging for more money, you’re simply setting up a meeting to make your manager aware of the fact that the work you’re doing is actually worth more money. I would even come to the meeting with your main points laid out in bullets for your manager to have because, in all actuality, they probably can’t unilaterally make this decision right here right now. This brings me to the first potential outcome you can expect, and that’s “let me get back to you”.

Your boss is probably going to have to go to his/her boss, who might go to his/her boss. Most of the time the budget isn’t actually determined by your manager, and they’re likely going to have to ask for extra money to pay you from somebody else. And that’s okay! That’s why we give them our pitch and lay out the numbers, so they can take that information and try and sell it to somebody else to try and get that money.

The point here is that it can take some time and that’s a reasonable thing. Sure “let me get back to you” though might actually mean “no, but… I’ll wait a few weeks to tell you no”. This is of course the second thing you might expect to hear from your manager after you give your pitch… “NO”. Usually a “not right now”, “Maybe in six months”, “maybe during the end of the year reviews”, or sometimes even just a flat-out “no.” Regardless, this is an outcome you have to be ready for.

At this point, you can either consider finding another job that will pay you more or take the next steps to understand exactly how you can continue in this company, including what advancement looks like and how you can take steps towards it. In any situation, we’re still not done, because step 5 is the follow-up.


Action Step #5: Follow-Up With Your Manager

If you’re going to stay with the company, with or without the raise, you’re going to want to follow up with the manager. Whether to check in on the progress of your potential raise or to make sure you’re on track to advance in another way, keeping constant communication with your manager is key. Yea I get it, some managers are worse than others, but again this comes down to the fact that YOU are the person who cares most about this, so it’s incumbent upon you to keep your manager on their toes and keep the chains moving to keep your career advancing.

Asking for a raise can be stressful and downright scary, but it can be a critical part you getting the money you deserve for doing the work you’re already doing. But asking for a raise isn’t the only way to get more money, often times the biggest pay bumps actually come from changing job roles. Now that CAN be by going to a different company, but there are also steps you can take in the company you’re in to give you the best shot at scoring a promotion. If you’re interested in how you can start moving towards that promotion, check out some of my other articles or videos in the ‘Career Advancement‘ category!


James is an Air Force veteran and software developer. He's passionate about personal development and sharing that knowledge with those who want to learn. He loves to mentor students to land their dream job, and excel once they’ve got it.

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