The Three Best Times to Ask for a Raise

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In his bestselling book, When: The Scientific Secrets Of Perfect Timing, Daniel Pink reminds us of the ageless advice that timing is everything. This cannot be truer with respect to one of the most nerve-racking things you will do on the job: ask for a raise. In this post, I will walk you through the three best times, in my experience, to take the leap and just do it.

Given the stakes, sometimes it can feel as if there is never a good time to ask for more money. Should I do it now? Later? In a year? After the holidays? When Mr. X or Mrs. Y is on leave? The questions can be endless. But before we get into the timing weeds, let me get two caveats out of the way:

Caveat #1: In many companies, the compensation structure is such that your boss, or even your boss’ boss, cannot give you a raise while you are at the same grade level. Because a raise will mean a promotion to a higher pay grade, when you are asking for more money,  you are really asking for a promotion. This is neither good nor bad, just something to keep in mind. The reason this is worth pointing out is that there are challenges that come along with moving to a higher rung of the ladder…so be sure you know what you want.

Caveat #2: Are you already well compensated? Research pay scales for your position, education level, experience, skill set, and geographical area and find out. There are many tools available on the internet (e.g., glassdoor) that you can use. Another way to assess if your compensation is fair is to test the markets yourself by applying for jobs elsewhere and seeing what compensation packages other companies are offering. If you are already being fairly compensated given your responsibilities, experience, education, etc., then there is no need—in my opinion—to  ask for more money. 

If neither of these caveats apply to you, let’s discuss the three best times to ask for a raise.

Third-Best Time to Ask for a Raise

End of the year. There are three reasons the end of the year is a good time to ask for a raise. The first is practicality. The other two times we will soon discuss are situation-specific and therefore not available to everyone, but every worker has the opportunity for end-of-year timing at their job. The second is feasibility. Around the end of the year, most companies start planning the budget for the upcoming new year. If you want a pay bump, this is the time to let it be known. An easy excuse most managers furnish for not giving a raise is that they didn’t put it in the budget. Avoid this by requesting your raise before budgets are set for the next year. The third is recency. End of the year is performance review time. If you receive glowing feedback for your work this year, seize the moment and use it to ask for a raise. Don’t just say, “Thank you, you are so kind.” Say something along the lines of, “I want to keep my motivation up. Can the company raise my compensation to competitive levels?” This may open the door to further conversations where you can show the results of the research you’ve done above.

Second-Best Time to Ask for a Raise

At the end of a job well done. If you have just successfully completed a big project or seen an important initiative through, bask in the applause and then pull your manager aside to ask for monetary rewards as well. Trophies don’t buy groceries. Sports people do this all the time. When they know they played a pivotal role in the team’s success, they ask to re-negotiate their contracts (read: pay raise). This is fair. When you have done a job very well, you will most likely be given a bigger one to do. Without requesting better benefits, you may soon find yourself doing really huge work and delivering better and better results for the same pay. Fairness demands that you are paid for what you bring to the table. If you bring in more, you should be paid more.

Best Time to Ask for a Raise

Before accepting a job offer. You applied for a job, the company short-listed you for an interview out of many applicants, then they interviewed you, and, after considering the pool, you were chosen. You, my friend, were chosen. You have them right where you want them. Use that to your advantage. Ask! Tell them you appreciate being offered the job, and you are excited to work for the company, but you cannot accept the offer on its current terms. This will not work every time, and it will not for everybody, but I have seen it work many times. Speak based on research. Let them know what you consider competitive. Be bold. As you can see from the above time options, opportunities to ask for a raise don’t come often. Make the most of your opportunities.

Personal story: When I was offered my current job, I first did cartwheels and called every loved one to share the good news. The offer was better than market rates or any other on the table, yet I picked up the phone and called the HR person that offered me the job. I asked her, “Is this the best you can do?” Then there was a long pause that seemed like eternity. “Hmmm, let me check.” She placed me on hold and, after a few minutes, told me that the offer had been sweetened by several thousand dollars. I said, “Thank you, but I need to ask you again, is this the best you can do?” She, again, placed me on hold and came back with an even higher offer! Feeling confident, I asked the third time: “Is this the best you can do?” “Yes!” she replied. “Deal!” I said. I got, in minutes, what normally would have taken years to accomplish because I understood that timing is everything.

What other times do you think are good for asking for a raise? Please share your wisdom with us all.

MoneyMichaeltiming, salary, job, raise