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The Do's and Don'ts When Asking for a Raise

Money makes the world go around. That is the real truth. As much as I love my career, I don’t just get up each morning, drive through dense traffic, and sit in my office all day just for the sheer fun of it. I’ve got bills to pay, and a life to live, and of course, I need money to do that.

Now, that being said, initially, it was my goal to earn money as I continue to advance in my career. Overtime, I realized that money can’t just be the sole motivator when taking a job, and in my experience, I also had to accept the fact that even a higher salary meant nothing if I didn’t feel fulfilled in my job.

Back in June 2019, I lost my job. Rather than rush for employment, I decided to take the time off to weigh my options and focus on other projects. I was able to do this because of the severance pay and a healthy bank account balance. This time gave me space to properly vet job offers, determining the best option for me. My searching paid off, as I landed a job in August, a position that aligned with my career goals and qualities.

However, this new job came at a cost—literally—I took a significant pay cut.

When the time is right, I may ask for a pay raise, but I also know that for many employees, asking for a pay raise brings feelings of confusion and anxiety due to the sheer lack of knowledge as to how to do so.

So, here are the do’s and don’ts of asking for a raise:


  1. Understand Pay Ranges: Every position has a pay range (low, mid, and high) and managers usually be pretty careful not to pay their employees at the top of the range? Why? Because managers don’t want employees to top out, thus being ineligible for a pay raise which will take them too far outside the range.

  2. Understand What Skills & Abilities are Needed for Your Role: Many positions evolve over time, as do the new skills you need to perform them. Take a deep analysis of your role (talk with your manager if you must) to get a full understanding of your position. Again, managers won’t pay higher than what the position requires in terms of skills needed to perform the role. Ex. At my current job, we pay our machine operators between $15-17/hr. This position doesn’t require any previous skills or formal higher education beyond a high school diploma. As such, these jobs with less required skills mean you can’t leverage your additional educational experience when asking for a raise.

  3. Understand What Your Skills are Worth in the Job Market or at Similar Companies: There is nothing wrong with comparing numbers externally because many managers know (or at least they should) if they are paying their employees either at or above the salary market. Having this information gives you some leveraging power when talking to your employer.

  4. Understand What You Bring to the Role: Are you even a good employee? What accomplishments have you achieved? Do you deserve a raise or just want one? Now is the time to start keeping a portfolio to present to your manager. You must earn your keep.

  5. Understand Your Manager Needs: Having a conversation with your manager prior to even asking for a raise is a plus. Ask them how they view your contributions and where they see you headed.


  1. Ask for a Raise Too Soon: Ideally, employees should wait until they have been in their respective roles for at least a year and have had their first annual performance review. Coming to your manager too soon is the wrong move. Give the role some time to determine if the job, company, and manager is a good fit for you.

  2. Ask for Obscene Amount of Money: Making $56K a year and you want your manager to pay you $66K? Ha, good luck with that. Respect that all positions have a price and managers are trying to get the most bang for their buck. If there is a cheaper person to do the job, they aren’t going to overpay to keep you.

  3. Come Unprepared: Again, do your research and develop a case for your request.

Even if you follow these steps, you aren’t guaranteed a raise but it can put you in a much better position. Take the time and come at this from a logical and business-minded approach. Leave your emotions out of it.

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