Friday, June 17, 2011

Negotiating Your Next Raise

Asking for a raise doesn't come naturally to many of us, especially us women. Men initiate pay negotiations about four times as often as women, and women sacrifice on average half a million to $1.5 million in pay over the course of their careers by failing to negotiate, according to author and researcher Linda Babcock.

Handling the potentially awkward conversation about a raise is an acquired skill, but one well worth having. This is, after all, your livelihood we're talking about. So we've called in an expert with over 25 years of experience: Amy Lynch, the Vice President of Human Resources for Startek, successful woman and HR professional. Her advice? First, know your reasons for asking. Second, find the right time. And third, prepare for the conversation, and go for it.

Know why you're asking

Your request for a raise should be grounded in an inequity you see between your job and your pay. This can mean a variety of things: Maybe you learn that your co-workers—or competitors—with the same job are making considerably more than you are. Maybe you've been taking on more projects or greater responsibilities at work, but have not seen any increase in your paycheck. Or maybe it's been an exceptionally long time since your last raise.

If you've been offered a higher-paying job at a new company but are happy where you are, you're in a particularly good situation. "When this happens," says Lynch, "it's a great time to ask for a raise. You have nothing to lose and a lot to bring to the bargaining table."

But if you can't point to any inequity you shouldn't be asking in the first place. Timing is everything—don't jump the gun asking for a raise, particularly your first one.

Schedule a meeting

When you're ready to ask, Lynch advises you set up a specific meeting to discuss your career, and bring it up there. Annual reviews can be a good time to schedule that meeting, but if you're new to a job, the timing should depend more on how long you've been there than when the annual review falls.

How early is too early? Three months is definitely too soon. "You negotiate your salary when you're offered the job, so asking for a raise three months in shows you didn't negotiate properly or do your homework when you were first hired," says Lynch. "A year is usually a good time, but nine months would be ok–especially if you have a hot job or skills that are in high demand."

Be ready

Before the meeting, do your homework. Research salary ranges for your job online and among your friends and colleagues to find out what is reasonable. These figures will ultimately strengthen your case for a raise in the conversation with your boss. Lynch recommends using any online compensation analyst or salary comparison site. Your industry's local organization can be a valuable resource, too.

Next, practice makes perfect: rehearse. Rehearsing the conversation will help you get everything out that you want to say. You'll be more relaxed and less likely to trip over your words.

During the conversation, be polite but direct. Lynch advises that you ultimately focus on your career trajectory rather than just the money. You can start the conversation with, "I love what I am doing here and it would be great to know what my options are for the future." Next, use your research. Don't be afraid to cite what you've learned about competitive salaries. "I have done some research for my job in this market and I found that the typical salary range is $45,000-50,000, but I am receiving $42,000 for this work." Finally, you may name your target amount—"I would like a $5,000 raise"—but you should never name a range. By being direct, you provide your employer the opportunity to counter, for example, by offering you a different amount.

What happens if your boss says no? Don't get embarrassed or upset—you had every right to ask. Your boss should provide a reason why, but if not you can ask, "Help me understand why?", says Lynch. Ultimately you want to end the conversation on a positive note. Even if you don't receive the raise, you can ask, "What can I expect for this role going forward?" This provides your employer the opportunity to tell you if a raise could be in your future, and enables you to leave the conversation with a better sense of where your role is headed.

Thanks to Pretty Young Professional


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