Looking for job review advice for asking for an above average raise

My first review at my new job is coming up soon, and I’m hoping to get a fairly substantial raise (I’d like about 12%). When my review happens, I’ll have been on the job for a few months shy of a year, so I realize I’m very new on the job. This wouldn’t be a raise I’d be looking for every year or anything, I just think I’m kind of underpaid, and think it would be worth it to my employer if they paid me a little better. But, I’m also OK with what I’m making now, and if my employer couldn’t/wouldn’t give me the raise, I’d be alright with it. I do really like my job,and my main concern is asking for the money, would be the potential to hurt my work situation. I’m looking for advice on asking for a big(er) raise, without doing anything to look greedy or put myself in a bad light.

My reasons for thinking I deserve the raise are pretty typical, and some are as follows:

  1. I’m making a little less than most my friends with similar backgrounds and job responsibilities.

  2. I think I could have gotten more money when I accepted the job, and I did take their first salary offer even though I think my boss was kind of expecting me to counter. (he said something like "we’re offering you $xx,xxx/yr, is that acceptable?). I understand that maybe I should have asked for what I thought I was worth right off the bat, but I really wanted the job,and was willing to prove myself in order to get paid. Another big reason I didn’t counter was that I was really getting unhappy with my old job, and the specific day I got my new offer I was really wanting to get out of there.

  3. Taking a quick look at salary.com, it looks like I’m paid below average as well. Its hard to find an exact match for my job on the site, but running my best guess puts me about 10% less than the 50th percentile for most similar job descriptions.

  4. I really think I’ve done a great job, and exceeded my boss’ expectations. I know for a fact I’m doing better than the person before me (because I’m fixing a lot of her mistakes), and I feel pretty confident my boss is very pleased with me. I’ve gotten nothing but positive feedback from management, co-workers, and customers since I’ve been here.

  5. I have no idea what any of my co-workers make, but I think I’m probably on the lower end. I also know that the amount of money I’d be asking for is chump change to my employer.

So, based on those reasons (and maybe a few others), I’d like to ask for a higher raise. How can I present this to my boss and employer without hurting their perception of me? In all honesty, I really like my job and don’t want to jeopardize it at all. If they only give me the typical raise, that would also be OK with me. Of my reasons for wanting more money, are they any I shouldn’t bring up, or any I should focus on?

Everyone thinks they are underpaid, and most of the competent ones are right.

Reasons 2 and 5 are entirely irrelevant.

Reasons 1 and 3 are essentially the same.

You have no real need to worry about their perception of you for asking for a raise. We all do it. Well, I don’t because my employer is a not-for-profiit with annual raises fixed company-wide by formulas. At my work the trick is to get your job reclassified to a higher level that recognizes the real work you do and responsibility you have.

What you should do is look at your official job description and match it against your actual performance. “I was hired to do w; and in addition to w, I have successfully taken on the responsibilities of x, y and z. My job description should reflect this and my salary should be adjusted accordingly.”

You should find actual job listings, from in-house or outside, that support your claim that you are underpaid by market standards. I don’t suggest dropping them in your boss’s lap when you have the discussion, but you should have them available if your boss disputes that claim.

You should also look at the financial performance of the company in the last year, and whether the trend is up or down. If the company is shrinking and people are being let go, you are not likely to get a substantial raise no matter how valid the claim. Unless of course you are integral to the operation of a key profit center, and maybe not then.

You should have a list of process improvements you’ve made, and the positive impact they’ve had on the department’s work flow or profitablility. Try real hard to come up with some defensible dollar figures for this. For instance, my expertise with desktop computers and software has saved our IS department more than 100 service calls in the past year, because I can solve problems that would previously require someone from the outside to resolve.

This last one is working quite well for me, I hope. My boss, and hers, are currently rewriting my position to recognize my special computer skills, and make me an “Informatics Specialist” which is a hybrid between an IT person and a specialist in some other field.

And FYI, for the next job you apply for, be prepared to reject the first offer if you believe you are being lowballed. In the public sector at least, there will be a published salary range, and if your offer is at the low end, reject it. Offer them a rationale why YOU are worth the high end. In my case, the second offer was 23% higher than the first, and I was bluffing. I needed a job, and if pressed I would have accepted the first offer.

Salary.com is notoriously high – most of the data comes from headhunters, and so reflects people who have just changed job (and thus tend to be at the higher end of a range.) If you’re coming out at 40th percentile by salary.com, you’re probably doing just fine.

Assuming you’re working for a large company, you can just ask your boss to ask the HR Dept to please check your salary against their market data. You could mention that on salary.com you’re at 40th percentile and then see what they say.

You might also try to disconnect it from your review. Get the review focused on your performance, on future growth, on where you’re going short-term and long-term. Keep the salary discussion separate if you can, so that you’re not “asking for money.”

What is a normal raise? 5-10% is a raise. Anything less is a cost of living increase so that you aren’t making LESS due to inflation. Anything more, without a change in roles or responsibility is a salary adjustment. IOW, you were making a lot less than what you should be making.

The first step is understanding how your raise is decided. It’s not like your boss has a big pile of money he’s sitting on and waiting to give to the first person to ask him. His group has a buget that is likely decided on by higher ups and is based on the success of the company, profitability of the group and other factors. If your company’s not doing great financially, it doesn’t make sense to ask for a raise.

Next, when are raises decided? Do you have a regular review process? If so, then the time to ask is 6 mo before. It should take the form of “based on X Y and Z, I think I should be making so much…what do I need to be doing to get to that level?” By the time raise time comes around, you should already have a good idea if your getting one or not.

Thanks for the replies, they are definitely appreciated. It is nice to get an outside perspective on my situation. I’m glad to hear that salary.com may be a bit high on their numbers, maybe I’m not as underpaid as I think? I’m also glad to hear that bringing up a raise generally won’t necessarily put me on bad terms with my job.

As far as my as my raise and reveiw process, I think they’re both tied together and happen next month. As far as I know its a once a year thing, but I haven’t had once before at ths job so I don’t know for sure. Maybe I should focus on next year’s reveiw instead of this one?

I guess I’ll see how the review goes, and if the opportunity presents itself ask for a little extra of a raise. Or, maybe bring up that I’d like to be bumped eventually, but not necessarily right away.

Thanks again for the input.

My advice, as a manager who just went through the annual merit increase cycle:

Yes! The time to talk about getting a big raise is right after you get this one. Assuming that you work for a fairly large company, then as **msmith537 **points out, the budget for raises (merit increases, cost of living, whatever you call it, it’s the annual increase in overall salary expense) is set beforehand, and giving you 12% will take a huge chunk out of what the other folks in your area can get.

What you want, by the way, is not a “raise” in the annual sense, what you want is a salary adjustment. Depending on your company’s policies, this may need to be accompanied by a change in job description (as Boyo Jim pointed out), or it may be a simple adjustment. Again, depending on your company you may be able to find out the pay range for your job – if you’re below the midpoint and doing a good job, you and your boss will be able to work together to bring you up.

A good boss, by the way, will be interested in doing this as well – people who are paid below the median salary for their position are a risk to leave, since they can make more elsewhere for doing the same thing, and training in their replacement will take time you can’t afford – and you’re likely to have to pay more for the replacement as well. So getting your salary up to the midpoint is in your boss’s best interests as well as yours.

If you’re at or above the midpoint, by the way, the scenario changes significantly. Then you’re looking at identifying what you do that exceeds expectations and having the job description changed and the position regraded with the new expectations, and then a salary adjustment based on the new position.

Oh yeah, salary administration is fun. Like a hangnail. But worth the work.

Just want to echo what Brainiac4 has said. The pot of money that your raise will come out of was set whenever the entire budget for your department was set. If someone in your dept. gets a large raise, it diminishes the pot for everyone else. So, expect to get a typical raise this time. BUT!

Structure your conversation around your salary GRADE, not the salary itself. Most large organizations tie pay levels to grades. For example, I was level 12 at my last job. A level 12 had a set salary range, and could not exceed that range – to exceed it, I needed to shift to level 13.

Part of your discussion could be around what responsibilities distinguish your grade from the next one up. If they seem to be the same, ask to be re-graded. If they’re different, ask to be given a chance to perform those duties as well to earn the re-grade. You would then be MUCH more likely to be regraded, but it still may not happen until the current budget cycle has finished, as your new salary would be accounted for in the next budget.

Go get 'em!