How To Succeed In Your First Negotiation For A Raise

One of the most stressful parts of working at a new company besides dealing with clients, surviving office politics, and the occasional happy hour is figuring out to negotiate your first raise. Negotiating a raise can seem so daunting at times that the stress gained from just thinking about asking for a meeting can stop you from taking your chances. Know that with enough preparation and practice, you can ensure your success when you ask for your first or next raise!

Finding the right timing

Keep in mind that every team is different. Some companies only allow for raises to be considered after a six month period, others require a minimum of a year. Although there are extenuating circumstances, you want to familiarize yourself with the process that senior management and HR conduct when giving raises to employees.

Before asking for your raise, the first question that you have to ask yourself before making your attempt is, “Do I deserve the raise?” Often times the opinion we have of our work can be a tad bit inflated and we want to make sure that we walk into the negotiation prepared with a detailed list of your contributions to the team and ultimately to your clients. You want to make sure that the work you’ve contributed so far has helped you to stand out from the average performance that your team would expect.

One way to start your self-assessment is to review any notes you’ve obtained from recent performance reviews. If no performance review has been conducted, ask your teammates for individual meetings where you can discuss your current contributions to the team and also ask for feedback on how you could improve moving forward. Feedback will be a big theme throughout this process, both in preparation for the meeting and after. Another approach to doing a self-assessment is to take a log of all of the comments you’ve received from your clients. On average, how positive has the feedback you’ve received been? Making sure you are honestly scrutinizing yourself as much as possible can help prepare you for push-back you may get from senior managers who may not agree with you during your negotiations. Create a list of perceived strengths and weaknesses, so you can help prepare yourself if you decide to move forward with asking for a salary increase.

Setting up the meeting

Once you have confirmed that you do in fact deserve the raise, the next step is to ask for a meeting. The easiest way to schedule the meeting is to send an email to any senior manager that you believe will be involved. I suggest trying to include one sponsor who can help advocate for you to attend the meeting. The more people who can vouch for your contributions, the higher your chances of success. You want to give a time period but, have senior management decide the exact date and time. Don’t be too pushy, at the end of the day this meeting will take away from the day-to-day work, and you want to make it easy for all parties involved when it comes to scheduling the meeting.

What to say during the meeting

The very first thing you want to do after greetings have been exchanged is thank all of the people who are attending the meeting. This meeting is ultimately for you, and you want to show gratitude to everyone taking the time to negotiate and hear what you have to say.

As you give your pitch keeping this in mind will help you: make sure that you tie everything you state about your contributions back to business goals. Whether or not you have a long list of contributions doesn’t matter, if all you talk about is yourself, you will lose. Also, don’t tell your senior management that you are better than your other teammates that have your same position. Doing this highlights the fact that you may be too self-centered to see how you fit into the bigger vision of the company and could lead management to worry about issues bigger than you just asking for a raise.

You want to highlight what you are doing beyond the scope of work and how all of that ties back to the clients that you serve. Bring anecdotal evidence to the table. Any positive feedback that you’ve received from clients should be highlighted to show that you are focusing on them and not only yourself. You may also want your sponsor (if you have one attending) to interject from time to time to make sure the meeting isn’t being dominated solely by you.

Lastly, you want to ask for feedback from the senior member on the other side of the negotiation. This shows them that although you are adamant about getting your raise, you are also aware that there may be certain things that you have overlooked and you want those things to come to light so you can improve.

As far as how you should approach the exact dollar amount, I would ask other coworkers who have gotten a raise how much they received (by percentage because coworkers aren’t always comfortable disclosing how much they make). If you do have a solid range that you would like and is the norm, ask for it first. Make it clear that you are aware of how much you deserve upfront before feedback is provided.

Handling the win or loss after the meeting

After the meeting, send an email thanking everyone who attended. In most cases, senior management will reconvene in another meeting without you to discuss salary terms. I suggest waiting at least five business days before inquiring on whether or not you got the raise if they don’t get back to you. If you do get it, awesome! If you don’t, here’s what you can do to better your chances the next time around.

The most important thing to do when taking the loss is to take it with grace. Your attitude towards your work or teammates shouldn’t change. If you do indeed deserve the raise, you will get it. Not getting it during your first attempt just provides more room to improve yourself and possibly ask for a bigger raise when senior management does find it appropriate (you would have had more time interacting with customers and contributing more to the team’s mission). If you take the right approach, senior management will notice that this loss didn’t affect your performance and that you are a team player.

Finally, go back to your list of what your perceived strengths and weaknesses were when you assessed whether or not you deserved the raise. Was there anything you missed that was presented in the feedback you received during the meeting? If so, you at least gained knowledge on how you can further excel in your career.

Know that you won’t always succeed in every business negotiation you have. Whether it’s asking for a raise or getting a new client or promotion, it’s important to take what you can from the experience. If you can gain valuable insight on how to improve for the next opportunity, you can keep moving forward. And a raise may not always be about money. It could be about exposure to something to generate experience, getting training paid for, new opportunities, etc.

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