How to get a raise in 2017

At the start of a new year, many of us resolve to shrink our waistlines and fatten our wallets. One path to the latter is to a land a raise, whether that means finding a higher-paying job or convincing your current employer to cough up more money.

Getting a raise can be surprisingly simple, said Lydia Frank, a negotiation expert and vice president of content at PayScale, a compensation data and software firm.

Very often, employees who ask for a raise, get one, according to Frank. Yet many workers, she said, are loath to bring up the subject -- for fear of rejection, being perceived as pushy or going about it the wrong way.

In late 2014, PayScale surveyed 31,000 workers and found that less than half of them had asked for a raise in their current fields. Of those who did ask, 75 percent got a raise, even if they didn’t get exactly what they requested.

“People have a lot of fear around negotiation. We like to point out that some times getting a raise is as simple as asking,” said Frank.

“The fear has a lot to do with lack of practice,” she added. “Negotiation around salary is something people do once or twice a year. It is awkward and difficult for anyone.”

Here are her top five tips for making the process less painful and boosting your chances of success:

1. Keep a lid on past salary information.

Whenever possible, don’t divulge your salary history when applying for a job, including a position within your current company. Instead, try to keep the conversation focused on salary expectations. It’s common practice for companies to ask job seekers about past pay, but offering such information may give employers the upper hand in salary negotiations.

“Whatever you got paid in the past has no bearing on the value of the role for which you are interviewing,” said Frank.

If you encounter an online application that requires you to enter past salary information, submit the data, she suggested. Afterward, if you’re lucky enough to get an interview, you can make it clear to your prospective employer that you’d like to discuss salary expectations at some point.

2. Do your homework.

If you’re negotiating with a prospective employer or seeking a raise at your current job, don’t wing it. Be sure to arm yourself with information on what the market is currently paying for the position in question. Multiple sources provide that kind of information, including the Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook, PayScale, Glassdoor and Indeed.

If you find that you’re underpaid on a relative basis, broach the subject with your employer, but be diplomatic about it, said Frank. “You never want to threaten to leave, but it’s OK to say ‘I think the value of this role is higher’” than my current compensation, she added. “Nobody wants to lose their best people, and it’s expensive to hire” new employees, noted Frank.

3. Build a business case.

You’ll have a better chance of landing a raise if you can convince your boss that you’re worth the added cost. Be specific about why you think you deserve higher pay and how your skills and contributions have contributed to your employer’s success.

“Look for the win-win,” said Frank. “You want both sides of the table to feel good about the discussion. You don’t want anyone to feel like the loser in the scenario,” she explained.

4. Timing is crucial.

Try to get a sense of how your company and industry are faring before pushing ahead and asking for a raise. Job gains have been steady since the end of the Great Recession, and greater demand for workers is finally starting to translate into meaningful wage growth. 

In December, wage growth hit a seven-year high of 2.9 percent on a year-over-year basis, according to the Labor Department.  But, of course, not all sectors and companies are in good shape.

“You have to be emotionally intelligent and make sure that you think about the context in which you bring up a pay discussion. Some times are better than others,” said Frank.

It’s also a good idea to let your manager know that you’d like to discuss compensation when requesting a meeting. “Nobody wants to feel ambushed,” noted Frank.

5. Consider negotiating for something other than a pay increase.

It’s easy to forget that salary is typically just one piece of an overall compensation package. If a raise is out of the question, consider asking for other perks that would improve your life, such as a flexible schedule, the opportunity to work from home on certain days or more vacation.

“Understand what’s important to you so that a ‘no’ to a raise doesn’t have to be the end of the discussion,” said Frank.

Also, keep in mind that you may need to ask for a raise more than once. If your boss nixes the idea the first time, ask what you can do to improve your performance and thus your odds of a future increase. You may also want to consider a higher-paying role within the same company.

“I would never take a ‘no’ as the end of the conversation,” said Frank. “If you get a ‘no,’ ask what you can improve and ask to check in again in, say, six months and revisit the conversation if you’ve improved on those things.”