Since all women should feel empowered and confident when asking for a raise, we’re partnering with Secret—a brand that’s been supporting women and their strength since 1956—to deliver the below tips on what you need to know before talking to your boss.
We can all agree that feeling confident enough to ask for a raise is super important. Actually doing it, though? Not always easy. “Women talk about [empowerment] all the time, but you have to actually advocate for yourself,” says Alyssa Gelbard, founder and president of Point Road Group, a global career consulting and personal branding firm.
Because we could all benefit from the wisdom of women who ace the raise conversation, we asked career gurus and women in senior positions (who’ve been on both sides of the table) for advice on how to ask for a raise—and get it.
Successfully asking for a raise starts way before you sit down with your boss. A few months out, start taking on more responsibility, volunteering for bigger projects, and offering to be the team lead whenever you can.
Upping your visibility outside your own office is key, too: Attend networking events, join company committees, and contribute to conferences or industry publications. “It’s not just the things that your boss sees, but everything that you do,” Gelbard says.
Start keeping a list of your accomplishments—client praise, projects outside your job description, thought leadership pieces you’ve published—so you’ll have your highlight reel handy when it’s time to plead your case. Be an advocate for what you’re worth to the company. “You want to make sure your boss knows about your accomplishments,” Gelbard says. “It doesn’t have to be in a braggy way; it’s more like an FYI.”
If you’re really uncomfortable tooting your own horn, you can also ask other people—like your mentor—to bring your wins to your boss’s attention. If you’re working with senior people in other departments, ask them to CC your boss on any feedback they send you so she’ll see the awesome work you’re doing around the office.
A couple of weeks before the big talk with your boss, ask for a few minutes of his or her time, says Cindy Eckert, CEO and founder of The Pink Ceiling. “Let them know you’re looking forward to your review and are preparing some performance metrics to walk them through, and ask if there’s anything specific they’d like for you to include,” she says. By being upfront with your manager, you’re letting her know that you’re taking the conversation seriously—and you’re coming prepared.
“You’ve also given him or her a chance to call out anything they want to discuss, which serves you well in terms of getting a sneak peek into what they’re going to focus on,” Eckert says. But most importantly, you’re taking control of the convo before it even starts, so you can walk in with the confidence that comes from being prepared.
Being transparent with your boss is especially important if you’re asking for a raise outside of your yearly review, says Gelbard. “Your boss may be doing 90 things and not be involved in your day-to-day, so they don’t know that you’re ready,” she says.
With the raise conversation on your boss’s radar, it’s time to pull together a dossier of your awesomeness. “Take an inventory of your responsibilities, noting anything that’s been added to your job description and highlighting areas where you’ve improved processes or made your role more efficient and effective,” says Maggie Mistal, a career and executive coach in New York.
All the great feedback and compliments you’ve been hoarding? Pop it into a folder as back-up proving you’ve earned a salary bump. “Having data really helps your case,” Gelbard says.
Don’t leave it up to your boss to start talking money—have a number in mind before you walk into your meeting. “Do your research to understand the market value of your position,” says Mistal. “You can get a range on sites like payscale.com that take into account years of experience on the job, level of education, and the type and size of organization you work for. It also provides salary trend information so you can see if salaries in your field are increasing or not.” With that info, you’ll know when it’s appropriate to ask for a bigger raise.
Have this research in front of you when you talk to your boss—that way you can explain exactly why you deserve that number and show that you know your stuff. “It’s going to be a much easier conversation, regardless of the outcome, when you have research handy to back your argument up,” Gelbard says.
Before you go in for the big convo, “practice your ask on a tough friend or colleague,” Mistal says. Think about the questions your boss might ask—especially ones that make you nervous—and run through your answers. That way, you’ll stay on your A-game even if you feel like you’re being grilled on why you deserve the raise.
“We talk ourselves out of things before we’re even there,” Gelbard says. Rather than telling yourself your boss will probably say no before you’ve even walked in the door, shift your mindset. “Tell yourself, ‘I’m confident, I deserve this, and I’m going to go in and ask for what I should have,’” Gelbard says.
Before the negotiations begin, remind yourself this isn’t about being confrontational. “Don’t consider this combat. Consider this self-audit a discipline you owe yourself and your boss,” says Eckert. “Seeing it that way will take the edge off of your defensiveness.”
“Taking the emotion out is hard, but you really need to do it,” Gelbard says. “Be confident, look your boss in the eye, and have a strong voice. These things can really impact a conversation and a negotiation.”
The same rule applies even if the conversation doesn’t go the way you want. “You don’t want your attitude to shift and get upset, or angry, or quiet, but you can say that you’re disappointed,” Gelbhard says. Even if the answer is a no at first, the conversation should be about working with your boss to figure out how to get her onboard by your next check-in.
“Should the conversation not go the way you’d hoped, get creative,” says Eckert. “Have a plan B in your back pocket. For example, without compromising the absolute amount you want, ask your boss if they’d consider paying you the difference as a bonus if you hit certain mutually agreed-upon objectives.”
Be ready to bring up other benefits too, like more vacation days or equity if you work at a small company, and next-step questions to ask so you’re set up for a future raise. You might even consider asking if your company will pay for you to get a certification or degree if a raise isn’t on the table. “This shows your company that they will benefit from investing in you,” says Gelbard. “But then again, so will you.”