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5 Steps to Take Before Asking for a Raise

By Aditi Mukherji, JD on July 31, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Now that the market is starting to pick up, you may feel tempted to muster up the courage to ask for a raise. But before you stick your palm out with a “Yes, please” and “Thank you,” remember you need to lay some groundwork before you do the big (t)ask.

Here are five steps you should take before asking for a raise:

  1. Anticipate questions -- and have answers ready. Of course, the biggest question you'll need an answer for is: "Why should your salary be higher than it is now?" You'll also have to think about the tougher questions like: "Our budget's tight, so why should we give you the raise and not [Colleague-With-A-Heart-of-Gold]?" Remember, you need to have specific business reasons why you deserve a fatter paycheck, because "Timmy needs a pony" isn't going to cut it.
  2. Research, research, research. If competitors are shelling out more moola for the same position, that should give you some great leverage. If you're getting paid quite handsomely compared to comparable in-house counsel positions, you will want to keep your focus on the microcosmic level. You should detail specifics of your contributions to this team at this company. It's important to track your individual performance, but don't forget to keep an eye on group performance as well.
  3. Do a practice run. If you're a naturally anxious person, practice the dialogue beforehand and train yourself to improvise a response. But do not go down the PowerPoint path of destruction and angle for a monologue borne from rote memorization. It won't be engaging, informative or fruitful. Remember, you did snag the job -- use that same sparkling wit that got your foot in the door.
  4. Strike when the iron is hot (and timely). If it's a particularly uncommon time in the year for raises to be granted, you may want to hold off until "raise season.' But if you just pulled off an epic project without a hitch or have been smooth sailing for quite some time, you could (and arguably should) strike while the iron is hot. Ideally, however, you want to time your request before budgets have been decided for that quarter, according to Forbes.
  5. Avoid a yes/no situation. Even if you're trying to throttle the money tree, it's crucial to have meaningful dollar proxies. You're in-house counsel, you know the risks involved in turning the request into a yes/no situation. Instead, focus on shaping the dialogue into a negotiation. How about: extra paid vay-cay, tuition reimbursement, childcare, a one-time spot bonus, a variable bonus or equity? Find alternatives to asking for money, you may at the very least snag some pretty awesome perks.

Remember, this isn't a matter of life or death. If it doesn't pan out this time around, reassess the situation and get back on that horse. Good luck!

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