What to Say to Earn a Raise

I was chatting with my brother-in-law last week. He just earned himself a nice promotion that is several steps above his current job and arguably above his current credentials (because he’s awesome like that). I asked him how he made that happen. He said: “You can’t ask for a raise or promotion. You have to set yourself up for one so they have no choice.” Of course, I inquired a bit more. Mr. T and I are not good at things like getting ourselves raises. We want to just be given them (ha! amiright?). So this whole concept intrigued me. Here is what he told me:

  1. Decide On Your Goals – Map out where you’re at and where you would like to be in your career and when. What is the first big step that would include both a promotion and a raise? What responsibilities does that position require that you don’t currently have? What skills are you lacking? Write it all down. Decide exactly when you would like to reach that position. If the goal is one year from now, map out what skills you need to learn before then and which responsibilities you would be willing to take on.
  2. Warn Your Boss – Send an email to your boss telling him/her you would like to meet to discuss your goals. Set up a time. At the meeting, outline your plan. Say “I would like to make it to this position one year from now. I am lacking these skills and do not have experience with these responsibilities. Here are a few steps I would like to take this month to get me ready for that possibility.” See if there is anything he would add to your list of skills or needs for the position. At this point you’re not asking for a raise. You’re just talking about how you want to be a better asset to the company. Your boss doesn’t have to make any commitments.
  3. Follow Through and Follow Up – Set up meetings periodically with your boss to review your plan. Make sure you are actually doing what you said you would. Have you learned the skills you said you wanted to? Have you had an opportunity to experience different responsibilities? Check in with your boss to make sure he/she thinks you’re on the right path. Ask them what they would suggest for you to stay on target for the advancement.
  4. Set Up a Compensation Chat – When your goal deadline is approaching, set up another meeting with your boss telling him/her you would like to discuss both your goals and your compensation. No one wants to be ambushed by someone asking them for more money. This leads to defensiveness and you probably won’t get your raise.
  5. Use Real Numbers and Real Examples – At this point, your boss is aware of your plan. You made it clear that you wanted to advance. But you still have to make your case. Give specific numbers. “I used to perform this task in 40 hours. It now takes me 30 hours, so I have improved my productivity by 25%.” Use real examples of how you helped the company: “This new skill I learned equated to _____ in profit for the company when I put it to use doing _____.” Even if that promotion is not currently available, you’ve argued that you can do it and that you’ve improved your own efficiency which has directly impacted company profits. Your boss can’t reasonably say “no” to a raise.

Again, Mr. T and I don’t have a lot of experience in this department. What do you think of my brother-in-law’s plan? What would you add or change?

Accountability Friday: Last Friday through yesterday:

F(es)-Yes, M(ex)-Yes, T(Cam)-Yes, W(Ex)-Yes, Th(Cam)-Yes. Still winning!



Keepin’ it Real: Kiddos


What’s In My Freezer?


  1. I like this strategy a lot! I’m always a fan of letting your boss know what your goals are so that they aren’t surprised when you ask for a promotion/raise/whatever down the line. I’ve been lucky to have bosses who are in agreement with my goals and generally reward my work towards those goals appropriately.

    • MaggieBanks

      Yeah, it’s nice to not have to put the work in. Like I said, Mr. T and I prefer that. 🙂 I’m not sure I’m good at this kind of thing, but I do like the strategy.

  2. I think this is a great structure and #1 is definitely the key to it.

    Even if there’s no raise or promotion, everyone should have a plan as suggested in #1, personally and/or professionally, simply to not fall behind or to at least have a chance to live their dreams.

    Also, since the first step is asking your manager to be involved and share his opinion/experience on how you can progress, he definitely has a higher incentive to appreciate the results and offer a raise.

    I like that a lot, thanks for sharing.

    • MaggieBanks

      Good point. Number one is definitely a helpful exercise for anything. I certainly don’t review often enough what I want to know in a year that I don’t know now.

  3. This is the same advice I got when I started my first job out of college. So, I have made it goal to set the expectations early on. When you get management to agree what it takes to get from point A to point B, they really have no choice but to give you the promotion and salary increase you earned.

    If they don’t, then it is likely time to move one.


    • MaggieBanks

      This has worked out for you as well (based on your previous posts!). Glad to have another person saying this has worked. And always a pleasure to see you around these parts!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén