If you are convinced that you’re worth more than you’re being paid, before you jump at the first offer that comes your way or even start looking for that new job, try negotiating a raise. With the proper preparation, you can either convince your employer you’re worth the investment or see if it really is time to move on to greener pastures.

To stay or not to stay
If you do feel underpaid, first consider whether you want a new job or if you simply want more money. While a new job can be enticing, there are distinct advantages to remaining with your existing employer, chief of which are familiarity and comfort. You know how your current employer works and vice versa. Going to a new employer means selling yourself anew to strangers, something that you might not have done for a while and could find difficult. As much as I deplore the use of clichés, “Better the devil you know” and “The grass is not always greener” can hold true in this situation.

A cautionary tale for job hoppers
Here’s one example of trying to jump ship but hitting the water instead. A friend of mine was recently offered a new position with better pay, weekends off, a great staff discount scheme, and less responsibility. Not surprisingly, she jumped at the chance. She gave her current employer a month’s notice and accepted the new post. She arrived home after her last day at work, looking forward to her new job. That evening, however, she received a call from her new employer. They had undergone a change of heart (and management) and had decided that her services would not be required.

Having trained her replacement and set her to work, my friend no longer had a job to go back to and is currently unemployed. While I recognize that this type of employment practice is not the norm, and that some work situations make a job change the only viable option, keep in mind that changing jobs doesn’t always mean a change for the better. If pay is the only issue, explore the possibility of a raise with your present employer before making for the exits.

Although my friend had some minor issues with the way her employer did things and wanted a raise, overall she was treated well. When what seemed like a good deal came along, she jumped at it instead of first talking to her current employer about a raise. With a little negotiation, she might have been able to get a raise and keep her original job.

Preparation is everything
If you do decide to try to negotiate a raise, the most important thing is to do your homework. You need to consider and have good answers ready for the following questions:

  • Why do you want more money?
  • Why should your employer give you more?
  • What benefit can you provide in return for more money?
  • How can your employer recoup the cost?
  • What would be the consequences of not getting a pay raise?
  • Would you be prepared to leave if you didn’t get the pay raise?
  • Would the company care if you left, or would they be happy to let you go?

Make the sales pitch
These questions follow the framework of a classic sales pitch. To successfully negotiate a pay raise, you need to convince your boss that such an increase represents an investment for your organization, not merely an additional cost. Your employer could find someone else to do your job but more cheaply. Can you offer something better than your competition?

When the time comes to negotiate your raise, have all your facts ready and make your pitch. Make your value to your organization clear. For example, have a selection of suggestions or ideas that you can offer in return for your pay raise. These can include plans for the future and ways that you can simplify, expand, or diversify your department that will make more money, cost less money, save time, or increase productivity. The more your employer sees how valuable you are, the better your chances of reaping the rewards. If your negotiations take a bad turn, however, here’s word of warning. Be careful before you play the resignation card. Doing so could backfire on you—especially if you aren’t really valued by your organization.

If you do your homework properly, you have a great chance of getting the raise you want as well as enabling your boss to see a new side of you, one that says, “I can do things for this company, so sit up and take notice!”
Do you have a story about asking for a raise? We want to hear about it. Whether it was a failure or a resounding success, how did you approach your boss about receiving a raise? Post a comment or write to Jeff Dray and share your experiences.