How to ask for—and get—the raise you want

YourCareer-Jan15-smallIt’s safe to say, the economy is experiencing a real boost. According to Department of Labor statistics, in each month of last year, employers added an average of 246,000 jobs—making 2014 the strongest year for employment since 1999.

As we head into 2015, we do it with the momentum of a growing economy and jobs market at our backs.  It’s the right time to look at your paycheck and ask yourself, “Should I ask for a raise?”

Of course everyone wants a raise and feels deserving of it, but the question really begs a political assessment of your specific question. Don’t jump to requesting a raise if you have reason to believe your position may be insecure, or if your company happens to be struggling. 

Fortunately, many of you are securely ensconced within a healthy and profitable company. It is to this portion of our readership that I recommend the following:

1. Research

For in-house counsel, understanding how much you’re worth is one piece of the puzzle. It includes going through the exercise of asking peers at other companies how much they make—yes, that may be uncomfortable, but according to Mike Evers’ advice in a column he wrote for InsideCounsel, you’ll see why it makes sense. It also means sifting through the most recent benchmarking survey data you can find. If possible, understand the salary bandwidth of your current grade level. It is much easier to ask for a raise that does not require a promotion to the next grade level.

2. Think strategically

Use your research to arrive at a specific percentage increase that correlates with the salary number you are targeting. Raises of 10 percent or more are rare, of course, and usually come with a promotion or additional responsibilities. So balance your ideal outcome with a view of what is realistic. Clearly advocate for yourself and be ready to discuss in detail recent accomplishments, both individually and in your role as a catalyst for team success. Additionally, if your performance review is just around the corner, it may behoove you to approach your boss early to start setting the stage for your expectations.

3. Argue your case

Whether you wait for your performance review to come around or decide to proactively seek a pay increase now, go into the discussion with confidence and the data to support your request. Be direct.

A recent salary study released by PayScale—a salary, benefits and compensation information firm—showed that of the 43 percent of respondents that had asked for raises, nearly half of them received their desired pay increases. And the most successful of the bunch were high-income earners.

The news bodes even better for lawyers. The report also showed that employees with law degrees receive the raises they requested more often than any other degree holder.  Apparently, the lawyerly ability to logically persuade comes in handy!

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