The key is preparation. And we’re not just talking about wearing a power tie, practicing a good, firm handshake and visualizing your boss in his underwear. (You weirdo.)
Companies still hurting from the recession need to know that you’re worth the extra money, and not just for your charm and good looks. Your likelihood of getting ahead in your career depends on how you do your legwork in preparation for meeting with the boss.
Take a Broad Look
“If you are looking for a raise or a promotion, now is a great time to strike,” says Matthew Rothenberg, editor-in-chief of TheLadders, a firm that links experienced workers with high-level jobs.
“During the recession, companies have cut what they can, and now they’re identifying the areas of the business that they can grow, and they’re beginning to spend again,” he says. And that’s coming from a job search expert focusing on those who demand $100,000 or more a year.
You may not be asking for a lofty position with a salary that high, or you may be looking for something much higher. Either way, your odds of getting a raise are better now than they were before.
Know the Job Market
“Raises have been put off for the last couple of years but companies … are still very cautious,” says John Challenger, CEO of executive outplacement firm, Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
At the same time, with many employees settling for lower pay than they wanted during the recession, companies are concerned about retaining top talent that they could lose to their competitors who are willing to pay more, Challenger says.
Think of a Number
Your buddy who has the same level of experience as you do might have a higher-level job with proportionally higher pay, but that doesn’t mean you can get the same simply by pointing this out.
If you want more money along with a title change, you can compare your salary to people in similar positions in your area at Salary.com, but demanding a specific amount might not be the best idea. While it might have been the way to get more money in grade school, “You can’t bully your way into a raise,” says Challenger, who adds that salaries are most often considered within the context of a specific company’s payroll practices and what you’ve received in the past, not by what the rest of the market is making.
“The idea is not to be the first to bring up a number” in salary negotiations, advises Challenger. But if they throw you a low-ball, come up with a bigger one.
In fact, you can even ask for much more than you’d be perfectly happy with just to see what the response is, Challenger says.
Consider the Alternatives
More money might not be the only thing you’re looking for from your employer, notes Rothenberg. If your company can’t pay you more, you can still request more vacation time or other perks along with your promotion. Or maybe you can request to work on specific projects or a position that puts you on a better trajectory along your career path.
But if all you want is higher pay, be confident about what you want. “If you say you want $150,000 and the other person says that’s well beyond the range, don’t come back and say, ‘How about $125,000?’ Wait for their response; don’t bargain yourself down,” says Rothenberg.
“If the market says you should be getting more, you might need to go elsewhere,” Challenger says.
See it From Their Side
Just keep this in mind: “It is to your employers’ economic advantage to reward and retain top talent,” says Rothenberg. “It is a great way to save on the costs of recruiting and training, and provides a solid boost to the company morale.”
You may require more money, but your employer likely wants to get something in return for it. “A successful negotiation is when both parties feel like they’ve won something,” according to Rothenberg. “Set your expectations high and make small concessions,” he advises.
Don’t Be Blinded by Gender
Communicating with a female boss about a pay increase isn’t much different from asking a male boss for more money, according to Challenger. “Whether you’ll be meeting with a man or a woman, you don’t want to box that person in, give an ultimatum, or make threats,” says Challenger.
Don’t use “or else” statements, or they may call your bluff — or be put off by your sense of entitlement. “Make sure that person is on your side,” he adds.
Set Up a Meeting
“The best time to request as raise is after you’ve done something remarkable or something that made you valuable,” says Challenger.
But even if your timing isn’t just right, strategically, “catch your boss at the right time,” he says. Think about the best time of day to talk. That probably means during downtime the first thing in the morning, at the end of the day, or possibly midday. Evaluate what time of day your boss is typically less stressed and is likely to be in a receptive mood.
Justify Your Value
Always give a reason for what you’re asking for while citing quantifiable contributions you have made to your current or previous company,” says Rothenberg.
“Lay out your case,” says Challenger. And that means being prepared with a list of your accomplishments, your impact on your company and the results you’ve achieved, he says.
And talk about how you’d like to accomplish even more, giving specifics about how you can improve your company.
Make an Impact
It would be nice if you could simply ask for the title and salary you want and get it, but that’s probably not going to happen. But you’re more likely to leave the negotiating table happy if you’ve made a solid case that you deserve more.
“Bob Lear was chairman and CEO of several companies, and on 13 corporate boards,” recalls Davia Temin, a communications strategy expert and CEO of Temin and Company, of her late mentor. “He told me that the best job anyone had done of asking for a raise … was when, in a pro forma review he had scheduled, the employee walked in with a huge paper chart,” Temin says.
“The employee proceeded to outline his objectives, and then present incontrovertible evidence on how he had exceeded every objective. He was friendly, cool-headed and businesslike … and his point of view won the day,” she says.
You may not need to present visual aids to your boss, but a making just as big of an impact could get you exactly the promotion and pay you want or even more.