How to Ask for (and Get) a Raise in a Struggling Economy

How to Ask for a RaiseMy very wise grandmother use to say “They can’t shoot you for asking.”

As a shy kid and teenager, this advice was very helpful whenever I found myself in a situation where I was nervous about making a request.

It’s the perfect advice for anyone who feels he deserves more money than he’s earning but doesn’t feel comfortable asking for more.

However, as wise as Grandma’s advice was, it doesn’t cover all the details needed for asking for a pay raise. Here are the steps you need to take in order to have “the talk” with your boss:

1. Start with Some Research

It’s important to get a good idea of how much other individuals in your field are making (is it one of the fastest growing careers?), how much your particular qualifications are worth, what your company’s policy is for raises, and how financially healthy your company is.

Researching all this may seem like a tall order, but it is necessary to be fully aware of all of these details. In order to determine what others in your position earn and how much your background is worth, check out salary calculators online like

As for your company’s pay practices, if that is not available on the company website, schedule a meeting with your company’s HR director. That is part of his job and he should be happy to help you understand how these things work.

Finally, if your company is having a difficult financial year, it’s probably not the time to ask for more money. Knowing this in advance could stave off an awkward conversation with your boss.

2. Gather the Evidence of Your Worth

While you don’t want to think of this conversation with your boss as an argument, it is important to have several examples on hand of how you have helped the company or your department. Think of this as the same kind of self-promotion you did to land the job.

You want to make sure that you highlight your accomplishments, as well as the skills you have that make you uniquely qualified for your position.

3. Choose Your Timing Wisely

It may seem like a no-brainer to ask for your raise during your annual performance review, but that is possibly too late. Generally, management makes decisions on raises and salary prior to the actual review, and so you will want to make your case before these decisions are made.

The best time to ask for a raise is right after you have just done something great for the company—solved a big problem, landed a big new client, saved the company a great deal of money, or the like. At that point, your worth to the company is still fresh in your boss’s mind.

4. Decide Ahead of Time What You Will Do With a “No”

Thinking about this scenario ahead of time will keep you from feeling flat-footed in the moment. Your reaction will depend on the reason your boss gives, but it’s worthwhile to think through those scenarios before you get into your boss’s office.

If she tells you no because of your performance, you can decide if her criticisms are valid and ask if you can revisit the conversation after you’ve worked on those issues. Or, if you feel that this means you are underappreciated, this conversation may prompt you to dust off your resume.

Thinking through how you will handle the possible no will help you to feel calm and in control during the actual conversation.

5. Just Go For It

Set up an appointment with your boss and make your case. It can be easy to procrastinate for months at a time when you’re uncomfortable selling yourself, but it’s important to remember that your boss can’t shoot you for asking.

Have you ever received a raise just by asking? Tell us how the process went.

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Last Edited: February 23, 2013 @ 3:13 am The content of is for general information purposes only and does not constitute professional advice. Visitors to should not act upon the content or information without first seeking appropriate professional advice. In accordance with the latest FTC guidelines, we declare that we have a financial relationship with every company mentioned on this site.
About Emily Guy Birken

Emily Guy Birken is a former English teacher and respected personal finance blogger. She lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with her engineer husband and two high-energy little boys. She has written two books: The Five Years Before You Retire and Choose Your Retirement. Emily's thoughts on parenting and life in general are found at The SAHMnambulist.