7 Keys to Asking for a Salary Increase

Apr 18, 2018 | Leadership

You’ve been a consistent, high-level performer, attained a professional certification, and significantly contributed to multiple team projects. You proactively pursue professional development to continue honing your skills. Now, it’s time to make the case for a raise. But how do you approach your executive about this delicate topic?

1. Do your homework before you initiate a conversation.

What are other professionals with your education, experience, job title, and job duties earning? Can you find statistics that support your numbers? When does your company typically review salary increases? What criteria are used to determine those increases?

Make sure you’re comparing apples to apples as you collect your data. I highly recommend checking your company’s internal job postings to see if there are similar positions posted. Some companies have pay scales or ranges that they will post on internal sites.

If you contact human resources, someone might be willing to give you the low, mid, and high ranges for current job postings if you already work for the company. At the very least, they should be able to give you the ranges for your current position. This will help you get started.

You can also use your network within other companies or associations to see how much information you can gather. If I want to know the pay scales for a job posted for a local employer, find an administrative or HR contact inside that company to help you. An established professional network definitely comes in handy here.

Aside from looking internally and at local companies, there are several resources you can use to research wages and salaries:

  • Officeteam.com: The OfficeTeam Salary Guide for administrative support staffing is a terrific resource. It’s updated annually, and provides reliable and job specific information on administrative support salary ranges. You can download the Salary Guide here.
  • Iaap-hq.org: The International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) website has some great data and survey information that may be useful as you do your research.
  • Salary.com, Payscale.com, and SimplyHired.com are also useful sites. You can search for information based on region, job title, duties, etc. They have limited reporting if you use their free tools, but it will help you get started with your data collection.

Do an online search on specific salary information, job titles and their associated duties. Get very specific with your search wording. For example, “salary ranges for administrative assistants,” or “salary data for executive assistants.”

2. Use facts to make your case.

Salary related discussions may feel a bit intimidating, but facts are persuasive. The more prepared you are, the better the conversation will go. Know what you’re trying to achieve. Be willing to consider alternate solutions if what you initially ask for doesn’t materialize. For example, if you can’t get more money, can you get more time off, additional company paid training, or something else that is of significant value to you? These may not cost the company as much as a salary increase, and they may be easier for your boss to approve. Think about these things ahead of time and write your ideas down. Keep your list with you during the meeting so you can reference it easily during the conversation.

3. Document, document, document.

Document where you’re at and what you’ve accomplished, your professional development goals, and what the industry salary ranges are for your position. Take all of the supporting data with you when you meet with your executive. Be prepared with solid support for your claim. Even if you never need it, you have the data if you are challenged on your numbers.

If you have a professional portfolio with documentation and samples of your work, take it with you. Oftentimes employers get used to the excellent support we consistently provide. Showing your actual work product (and volume of it) in your portfolio can be a very impressive reminder of what you do for your organization.

4. Ask yourself what you’re worth.

It’s easy to get caught up comparing our pay rate to someone else’s. That’s dangerous territory. Instead, you need to think in terms of what you’re worth, based on your own merits. Document what you’re doing to support your claims and present your reasons with that perspective in mind. You’ll have a much more positive and proactive reason to go meet with your executive.

Take a look at these two examples.

  • “I provided critical support for the completion of the RFP for XYZ Company – a $2,000,000 contract – in a record five-day turn-around time.”
  • “I work twice as hard as Susie, and she makes more than me.”

The first statement demonstrates that you are a valuable member of the team. The second statement says you have a whining problem. How do you want to be perceived?

5. Strategically plan the meeting with your executive.

We all know there are good times and bad times to approach the executive based on hectic schedules, moods, or other things happening within the company. So, don’t schedule this meeting for the day before they leave on vacation or the day after they return. Be thoughtful about the best time, date, and setting in which to have this conversation.

I strongly recommend having the meeting at a location outside of your executive’s office. Use a conference room or go get a cup of coffee together at a local coffee shop. You want a more neutral setting free from distractions and away from the center of power often associated with the boss’s office.

Also keep in mind that everyone communicates differently. Some like a lot of detail with facts and figures; others just want a high-level overview. Some prefer a verbal exchange; others want to see it on paper, too. You should know your executive’s communication style preference and present your request accordingly.

On the flip side, once you’ve presented the information, give your executive the appropriate space and time to process the information and make a decision. Some need thinking time. Some may make a decision on the spot. Don’t expect or demand an instant decision, or you may ultimately sabotage your entire effort. Give your executive time to think and take action. He or she may need to present your data to his or her superior in order to get your raise approved.

6. Practice your presentation and delivery.

When I help candidates who are looking for a new job, we often go through mock interview questions. This is especially helpful if you’re leaving a position or a company for negative reasons. You don’t want your voice or demeanor to shift to a frustrated or defensive tone. Use this same approach as you prepare for this discussion. Sit down with a trusted friend or advisor and do a test run. Have them ask you difficult questions so you can practice thinking on your feet and using your documentation to support your answers.

One book that I strongly recommend to help you successfully maneuver through this important conversation is Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler. You’ll never regret the time or money investment for this book.

7. Schedule the Meeting.

Be confident, professional, polite, and respectful. You certainly don’t want to create an uncomfortable situation with your executive going forward. If you go in with the right attitude and mindset open to several positive outcomes, you’ll be on the right track.

What if your boss says no?

  • Ask why. In order for you to understand what you may need to do to be considered for a salary increase, you have to know what it would be based on. If it’s performance related, ask your boss to help you create a performance improvement plan so you and your boss can track your positive path forward together.
  • Pull out your list of alternate suggestions. Ask for something that doesn’t involve a salary increase, such as additional vacation or floating holidays, paid professional development or training, a professional association membership, etc.
  • Are you ultimately willing to search for a new job? This is a question you need to seriously ponder before you initiate this conversation. If you like your job, your executive, and your company, you may be okay with leaving things as they are, especially if you’re able to work out a plan for the future with your executive which outlines how and when you may qualify for a salary increase. If you can’t work something out that satisfies both sides, you may need to consider how this impacts your future opportunities and willingness to remain in the position.

If you don’t ask for a salary increase, the answer will always be no. If you feel you deserve a raise, put yourself out there! When you show your value to the company, you may be very pleased with the result.

Have you asked for and received a salary increase? Share your best tips with us in the comments, or email us at AdminSuccess@AllThingsAdmin.com!

© 2018 Julie Perrine International, LLC


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Julie Perrine, CAP-OM, is the founder and CEO of All Things Admin, providing training, mentoring and resources for administrative professionals worldwide. Julie applies her administrative expertise and passion for lifelong learning to serving as an enthusiastic mentor, speaker and author who educates admins around the world on how to be more effective every day. Learn more about Julie’s books — The Innovative Admin: Unleash the Power of Innovation in Your Administrative Career and The Organized Admin: Leverage Your Unique Organizing Style to Create Systems, Reduce Overwhelm, and Increase Productivity, and Become a Procedures Pro: The Admin’s Guide to Developing Effective Office Systems and Procedures. And request your free copy of our special report “From Reactive to Proactive: Creating Your Strategic Administrative Career Plan” at www.AllThingsAdmin.com.

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