How To Ask For A Raise

Christi Hegstad July 11th, 2013

Dear Dr. Christi,

I have been in my profession for 12 years, am very good at what I do, and truly enjoy the work. I recently learned, however, what some of my peers in my industry earn, and I am shocked! They’re making quite a bit more and don’t have nearly the experience I do. I realize it’s time I negotiated a raise, but where do I start?

~ Underpaid in Minneapolis

If there’s an issue I see repeatedly in the professional realm, especially among women, it’s not placing a high enough value on experience and results. I’ve coached a number of clients in this area, both in negotiating raises with their employers as well as raising their own fees if self-employed, and the #1 thing you must do first is know – and own – your own value.

You need to know what you’re worth before you can confidently secure a higher income.

I suggest starting with a self-assessment, which may almost take the form of a performance review. Ask yourself questions such as:

  • What have I accomplished? Like a resume, you want to use power words here and focus on results. “Worked hard” isn’t valued as much as “Exceeded sales goals by doing X, Y, and Z.”
  • How have I contributed to our organizational culture? For example, in what committees have you actively participated? Did you start a lunch-and-learn to help your team with stress management? How about the Employee Volunteerism Day you spearheaded to support Habitat for Humanity?
  • How have I helped our stakeholders? Consider ways your clients or customers have succeeded because of working with you. Do the same for team members, vendors, supervisors, coworkers, affiliate companies, and others whom your organization exists to serve and relies upon for success.
  • In what professional development have I engaged? Coaching clients who have sought me out on their own (versus an employer-sponsored initiative) report huge gains when they share this with their employer, for instance. In addition to coaching, consider classes you’ve taken, professional association meetings and conferences you’ve attended, certifications you’re currently seeking, and so forth.

Document what you uncover (don’t rely on your memory for this conversation!). Then, prior to negotiating your raise or raising your fees, prioritize your achievements. Start with the best of the best.

An important point here: You want to demonstrate, in a way others understand, how you add value to the organization. Focus on WIIFT (What’s In It For Them), such as how you’ve helped the organization reach its goals, fulfill its mission, and serve as an awesome place to work.

Again, this starts with you clearly understanding that for yourself.

Though perhaps harsh, employers typically don’t care if you “need” a raise because of a personal issue, or if you searched and found the average in your industry higher than what you receive. “It’s not fair” has never, in my experience anyway, worked in securing a raise.

Much more goes into this to ensure success – and we’ll be covering more on the topic of money, value, and worth at Spark this fall – but this gives you your starting point. I think you’ll find that once you start documenting all that you’ve done – essentially proving your value to yourself – you’ll find it easier to prove it to others.

Have you successfully negotiated a raise or raised your fees? Please share your tips below, on our Facebook page, or via Twitter. For more information on SPARK, click here.

Dr. Christi Hegstad helps you successfully do what you love! As President of MAP Professional Development Inc., she coaches professionals to get unstuck and reach Bold Goals with clarity, confidence, and meaningful action. Learn more at and follow Dr. Christi on Facebook and Twitter.

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