Are you underpaid compared to your peers? Have you taken on more responsibilities at work without a salary increase? You probably need to advocate for a raise — a task most people find daunting, especially the first time. But you can do it, given the right strategy, proper preparation, and a little confidence.

Determine the Right Strategy

The first step is to determine what strategy will be the most effective. Who has decision-making authority over your possible salary increase? It may be your immediate supervisor. Depending on your company’s process and your supervisor’s personality, a direct, fact-based appeal may be the most successful approach. But the decision-maker might be two levels above that person, or there may be multiple decision-makers. Some may be persuaded by logic. To appeal to others, you may need to pander a bit.

Do Your Research

Being able to prove you are underpaid relative to your peers can strengthen your argument for a raise. Find salary data for comparable positions in your region, using websites like Glassdoor and PayScale, as well as salary surveys published by relevant trade organizations. Use this information to figure out a range of salary increases you’d be willing to accept, which will help you determine the salary increase you should request.

Make Your Case

While there may be informal tactics you plan to use — like making yourself more visible or complimenting your boss — your strategy will almost always involve a formal request about your proposed salary increase. Ask for a meeting with the deciding manager and provide them a one-page memo outlining your raise request that includes:

    • Well-sourced comparable salary data
    • A list of your recent accomplishments and responsibilities
    • Excerpts from recent exceptional performance reviews and other written feedback

During the meeting, be prepared to discuss why you believe you deserve a raise. Don’t be nervous. Ground your request in facts, make eye contact, and speak with confidence. You may be surprised that you’re offered exactly what you’ve asked for. If so, congratulations!

However, if they return with a counter-offer below your desired salary range, politely ask them to explain how they came up with that number. Then, use your research to push back against their justifications and counter their counter-offer.

If they flatly reject giving you a raise, politely ask for their reasoning and thank them for their time. Then, reassess your strategy, as well as the best time to re-approach them or other decision-makers who may hold sway. Most importantly, don’t give up!