A bright young woman sat across from me at dinner, extremely upset because her annual raise was again less than expected.
I asked, “What exactly did you expect?”
“That my boss would give me what I deserve.”
“What do you deserve?”
She stared at me … down at her plate … back at me.
As I told the young woman I was mentoring, one of the lessons I learned from working in business for over 20 years is this: we can’t get what we think we deserve if we don’t even know what that is. In order to get the compensation we want, we have to name the figure, weigh it against what’s reasonable, and ask for it. The best way to demystify the process is to do your homework; don’t expect your boss or anyone else to do it for you.
So, what does that look like? At minimum, research and answer these questions prior to having a salary discussion:
- What’s the salary range for your position in a company your size? Your geographical region? Your industry?
- How many years’ experience do you have?
- Do you have a relevant degree?
- What’s your company’s total benefit package, and how does that compare to other companies?
- What have you done in your position to increase the company’s profitability? Efficiency? Brand?
- What are you willing to settle for?
This list isn’t all inclusive, but it’s a strong start. Walk into the meeting with your documentation and an additional set for your boss. At the appropriate time, review your findings and ask for the raise you believe is fair and warranted. Sell yourself—there’s no shame in it. You haven’t sacrificed humility because you aren’t demanding an increase, you’re negotiating. And you’ve shown respect for your boss and the process by being prepared.
Oh, and that saying “It doesn’t hurt to ask”? It’s completely false. It does hurt to ask. It takes work to think about what you want, do the research, present your case, and risk being told “No.” It’s much less painful not to ask—and the outcome is guaranteed.