An exploration of money, mindset and a meaningful life
Pay rise meeting

How to ask for a pay rise, in five steps

Far too often I hear the financial advice (especially to women) to be stop spending on frivolous little things like buying coffee and other small pleasures, rather than on earning more and investing. And don’t get me wrong, I am a huge believer in spending in a mindful way, but why aren’t we telling women that they can and are capable of aiming higher? I want to switch the focus from spending to a conversation about how we can earn what we want and need to sustain our ideal lives. A regular pay rise can accumulate pretty significantly over the course of your career, so negotiating for it is something that you want to get good at and incorporate as a regular and normal part of your working life.

The truth is that we can only cut our expenses by so much, whereas the scope to increase our income has so much more potential.

So, if you want that fancy coffee, buy it (erm, as long as it’s in a Keep Cup, of course, *wink*) and then do these things to get the pay rise you want and deserve.

Step 1: Book a meeting with your boss

The first discussion around negotiating a pay rise cannot happen early enough. Seriously, even if you only just started your job, creating a habit around discussing your role, performance expectations and remuneration will serve you well as your career progresses. To be clear though, you should not go into your first meeting expecting or asking for a pay rise – it’s a little like asking someone to marry them on the first date – it’s just way too forward and honestly, pretty inappropriate.

Step 2: Plan ahead

Once you’ve booked a meeting with your boss you need to put some thought into what it is you’re going to discuss. Think about your role, how you can not only do your job but how you can excel at it. What additional value can you bring to the table, what skills and knowledge do you have that would benefit the organisation and also help to make your bosses life easier (and even make them look good to their boss)? Don’t wing this meeting, be prepared.

Step 3: First Discussion

The first discussion is an opportunity to show to your boss that you are showing initiative and that you’re in it for the long haul. You can be explicit here, don’t be afraid to say that you want to be a top performer and that you’re willing to put the work in. Talk about some of the examples that you came up with for how you can add value to the business and ask them what their expectations are and what they think you can do to become a top performer. Make it a discussion, but also really listen to what your boss is saying and take notes.

Once you’ve established what the expectations are and what they want you to achieve, you can then introduce the idea of a future pay rise. For example, you can ask something like this

“So, do you think that if I accomplish these things over the next 12 months we would be able to discuss a salary adjustment?”

Obviously, the timeframe will depend on how long you’ve been in your role. If you have only just started then 12 months is a reasonable timeframe, whereas if you’ve been doing your role for a while and have just never asked for a pay rise, then 3 – 6 months may be more appropriate.

Finally, as soon as you get back to your desk make sure you send an email to your boss. Obviously, it’s a good opportunity to thank them for their time and guidance, but it’s also an opportunity to clarify (and document) the expectations that were discussed during the meeting. It’s also a good time to confirm that you will arrange the next meeting with them at the agreed time.

Step 4: Get to Work

Now is the time to actually get to work in achieving the things you need to achieve. The good news here is that now you have a framework for what you need to do. There is nothing worse than working away at something that isn’t valued and isn’t going to contribute to yours or the business’s success.

Be sure to document your progress in achieving your goals. Keep a folder in your email or on your desktop with notes, emails, and other work that backs up your progress. Not only should you keep this information for yourself or for the next meeting you have planned, but it’s also a great idea to provide regular updates to your boss.

I find that as women we are particularly bad at “tooting our own horn”. For the longest time, I used to believe that as long as I did a good job, I would get noticed and that the work I put in would be appreciated and rewarded. It’s simply not true. Not because your boss doesn’t care, but because they have their own work, pressure and expectations to focus their attention on. I learned this the hard way when working at Goldman Sachs in London, where I was passed over for a promotion two years in a row. I certainly made sure it didn’t happen the third year! If you don’t “manage up” you’re doing yourself a disservice.

Step 5: The Ask

By now you should have a folder or notebook full of examples of how you have added value to the business and have met the performance expectations set out in the original meeting. You will then make another appointment with your boss to discuss your results. Once again, you can’t go into this discussion without being prepared. Not only with what you have done, but also with what your own expectations are around salary. Do as much research on what the average salary is for your role and your industry and decide in advance what level you want to aim for (hint: above average). Keep that figure in mind when you go into negotiations and be prepared to back up why you believe it’s appropriate.

And if in doubt, the indomitable Cindy Gallop suggests this:

“Ask for the highest amount of money you can say out loud without actually bursting out laughing”

BUT, don’t say your number first. Confused? Many experts say that by revealing your number first you risk capping your potential as this creates an anchor for the hiring manager. This means, if you’re interviewing for a new role, avoiding the question around how much you currently earn and getting them to tell you first what they’re willing to pay (Hint: it’s never the highest amount available). If it’s within you current company, you could ask them what is within their budget for an increase, rather than being the first to say what your expectations for an increase are.

If the whole negotiation process scares the living daylights out of you, practice on someone. Whether that be a colleague, close friend or partner – there is power in saying it out loud. And if you want additional help with negotiation tactics, what to say and building your confidence, a coach can be really an invaluable resource.

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Pay Rise