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Getting a Raise: The Prep Work

The idea of asking for a raise intimidates many people, especially those who have never done it. But you can turn the process from mysterious to manageable by doing some important planning before saying a word to your boss. The following five steps will help you prepare the best case for a salary increase before you meet with your manager.

  1. Get a good reason.
    If you are going to ask your boss for a raise, make sure you have a good reason. "Needing the money" doesn't count. Your company doesn't care if you are drowning in student loans, can't make your rent, or have to finance a wedding this year. Like everything else in the business world, the money you get paid is all about the value you add to the company.

  2. Assess your contributions.
    Prepare a list of contributions that have had a positive impact on the bottom line. As you're putting together your case, be hard on yourself. Look at the situation from your company's point of view. Have you honestly acquired such valuable skills, performed at such a high level, and exceeded expectations to such a degree that your company should shell out more assets to keep you?

  3. Look at the big picture.
    Check out compensation surveys like the National Compensation Survey by the U.S. Department of Labor ( or web sites like to determine how your salary stacks up to what other local employees in your position are making. Don't forget to take into account other financial incentives you may receive from your company, including bonuses, stock options, insurance packages, 401(k) contributions and tuition reimbursement.

  4. Take the economic temperature.
    You have to evaluate your request in the context of the current economic conditions, your company's financial status, and internal policies regarding raises. In today's business climate, many companies are foregoing merit increases or are only issuing them at a certain time of year. Some organizations also have fixed salary ranges, or grades, that prevent managers from increasing compensation beyond the amount pre-determined by your level or title. Still others place the authority to decide matters of compensation in the hands of a few individuals -- and your boss may not be one of them. Find out about such things ahead of time.

  5. Consider the timing.
    When is a good time to ask for a raise? Coming off a strong performance review in which your boss acknowledged your accomplishments is a good bet, because he will probably be expecting you to broach the subject of money. If you have just taken on a new role or your management has raised the bar for your performance, it is perfectly legitimate to ask for an appointment to discuss "compensation commensurate with new responsibilities."

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