personal finance

You Should Ask for a Raise Right Now—Here's How

Twenty/20

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Right now might be the opportune time to ask your boss for a raise.

That's what my co-worker Abigail Johnson Hess found after speaking to a few economists about the current labor conditions in the U.S. In addition to rising inflation, there are labor shortages in some industries — particularly leisure and hospitality — that can give employees a leg up in asking for more money.

"Workers have employers over a barrel for a little while," Josh Bivens, director of research at the Economic Policy Institute, told her. "I don't think it's going to last all that long. But for now, I think workers see the higher inflation, they see employers in some sectors are pretty desperate to attract workers, and they think 'I'm gonna go for it.'"

That's good news for U.S. workers, who, on average, have experienced pretty sluggish wage growth over the past few decades.

That said, asking for a raise can be a scary prospect (I've been there). You want to strike the right balance between advocating for yourself and illustrating your value to your company, which isn't always easy to do.

But there are a few tried-and-true tricks that can help you secure a bigger paycheck. If you want to ask for more, here are three tips to get started.

1. Prepare for your salary discussion

First things first, understand why you want a raise, says Chelsea Jay, a resume writer and career coach. Are you overworked, or have you taken on more responsibility in the past year? Are you below the average salary in your position?

Understanding your "why" will help you arm yourself with the facts you need to advocate for higher pay.

"Walking into a conversation where you ask for a salary raise requires having a clear understanding of the market, the value you bring and your financial needs," Jay says. "Raise requests always require justification."

You also want to make sure your timing is right. If your company isn't doing well — say, it recently laid off workers or instituted a hiring freeze — it might not be able to meet your request. Additionally, if you've received a bad performance review, you're likely not in the best position to ask for more money.

2. Make your case

Researching the average pay for your position in your city or state can help you make your case, or at least give you a ballpark figure to aim for. LinkedIn and Glassdoor offer salary ranges for many positions, which can help you determine the number you're going to ask for.

Jay also advises bringing up any skills or knowledge you've accrued or honed since your last salary bump. Joining associations, gaining credentials or being recognized for your work, such as through an industry award, deserves to be compensated.

You want to focus on why you deserve the raise, not on why you need one. Avoid talking about personal expenses, for example, or bringing up a co-worker. Instead, detail your accomplishments and contributions to the company.

When you've landed on a number, say something like, "based on my market research and X projects that brought Y value to the company, I believe I deserve Z," says Kathryn Minshew, founder and CEO of careers site The Muse

"You may be tempted to ramble at this point in an effort to pad the number. Don't," says Minshew. "Stop there, and wait for your manager's reaction."

And you don't have to wait for your annual review to ask for what you want, says Joe Mullings, a career expert.

"Set up a meeting with your supervisor and bring the previous period's accomplishments, how the supervisor benefited, what the loss would be to the organization if you were no longer part of the team, and what it would cost to replace you and the time lost in doing so," Mullings suggests.

3. Have a backup plan

Always have an action plan in case your initial ask is denied. Consider if there are other options you can negotiate, like your employer funding a new certification or a more flexible schedule. Other benefits to consider include student loan repayment, enhanced paid sick and family leave, child- or senior- care benefits or the ability to work from home.

"Know your options, understand what motivates you to do a job well done and ask for it," Jay says. "Bosses and employers who want and value their employees will always do what they can to keep them."

If you don't get the raise you want, Mullings suggests asking your supervisor what you need to deliver in order to get one. Then, keep a record of what you accomplish each month over the next year and how your supervisor and company benefited from it.

"Evidence in the hands of your supervisor will allow them to take it to the powers that be who decide on merit increases," he says.

That said, if you're still not satisfied — say you're an overperformer and your company still won't compensate you to your satisfaction — know that many workers get the biggest salary bumps when they switch jobs. Especially now, you might be able to find higher pay or better benefits at a different company.

What's your best advice for getting a raise? Let me know at alicia.adamczyk@nbcuni.com.

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