Asking for the First Raise in My Career
December 11, 2016 10:53 AM   Subscribe

When is the best time of year to ask for a raise and how can I leverage timing and/or a turndown?

The mom and pop retail store I've worked at for 4 years gave me a raise two years ago and now I feel it's time I ask for a raise. I've never asked for a raise before and I'm 29.

We receive our Christmas bonuses this weekend, so I felt best to wait until after bonuses before asking for a raise.

What I'm not sure of:

* Format - do you ask verbally in a one-in-one meeting or with a letter?
* Timing - should I wait until the new year or some other time to ask for a raise?
* Target - should I ask for a higher raise then they might offer me? I would love to have a $2/hour raise, but it's possible they will only do a $1.00-1.50/hour increase.
* Prep - should I prepare a "gameplan for 2017" for the special projects I will be spearheading in the coming year? Two owners (a husband and wife) will be making the decision about the raise and they have different knowledge about all the projects I've personally completed in the last year. Should I provide a rundown of all the noteworthy projects I've completed since my last raise?

If I don't receive the desired raise, is it appropriate to leverage a simple cost-saving project that would increase cashflow at the business by $2,000-6,000 per year?
posted by mtphoto to Work & Money (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
do you ask verbally in a one-in-one meeting or with a letter?

Verbally in a one-on-one meeting. From my experience, most business people perceive written negotiation as being somewhat impersonal and/or lacking confidence. I don't view it as impersonal, but from my experience, people that aren't able to discuss money are generally willing to settle for less of it.

should I wait until the new year or some other time to ask for a raise?

At a larger company I would say to do this right now, but at a mom & pop retail shop I would think the risk of them viewing you as ungracious is too high. Although I don't think employers should ever view themselves as providing a gift to their employees, the reality is that many do so anyway. I would suggest mid-January as a fairly arbitrary date.

should I ask for a higher raise then they might offer me?

You should realize that a compensation negotiation is fundamentally a discussion of your BATNA - best alternative to a negotiated agreement. What do you think you could get if you went to a competing store? You should ask for that. Note, this has noting to do with either what you want or what you think they will offer. If you want a $2/hr raise, but no competitor would offer that, it'd be irrational for them to offer you that. Similarly, if a competitor would pay you $4/hr more, there's no reason for you to ask for less than that.

I view overstating your target in negotiation as a somewhat crude exercise indicating that you haven't done your research. It is much more powerful to simply say, "I think I could get an offer at XYZMart for $xyz/hr more; I'd like you to match that for my compensation to stay competitive." If the answer is no, simply say "okay, thanks for your time" and start looking for a new job.

should I prepare a "gameplan for 2017" for the special projects I will be spearheading in the coming year?

Yes, you should do this regardless of a raise.

Should I provide a rundown of all the noteworthy projects I've completed since my last raise?

Yes, you should do this as evidence of your value. However, here's the critical part - you must be able to distill those projects into a 15 second pitch. No more. Most employers (generally correctly) perceive employees that talk too much in negotiation as being nervous. Nervous employees are generally willing to settle for lower compensation.

Also, as an aside, I would ensure that you emphasize business impact (ie, money) rather than the effort you put into the projects.

If I don't receive the desired raise, is it appropriate to leverage a simple cost-saving project that would increase cashflow at the business by $2,000-6,000 per year?

What do you mean "leverage [..] a project"?

I will note that a $2/hr raise for a full time employee with a (fairly low) 50% overhead rate constitutes a $6.2K/year cost to the company, so that project might not be as impactful as you think it is.
posted by saeculorum at 11:26 AM on December 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


@saeculorum I really appreciate all the advice since this is a big new step for. Similar stores pay their employees less than what we earn at our store, but my job requires a higher skill level and all of our staff has many more years of experience than the retail employees working at the local chain stores. We are in a micropolitan area in Montana and almost all of our competitors are chains that pay their employees wages not far above minimum wage.

Should clarify a little bit...
I'm a P/T employee and I work about 25 hours a week. However, I perform a few duties that only one other paid employee does at the store and I have some working knowledge of our inventory management systems that no other employee has yet. Our store is open six days a week and I'm also one of only two employees that does the daily sales close outs (managers would do this at other stores). I do the closing four out of six days they are open.
posted by mtphoto at 11:44 AM on December 11, 2016


There's a cash flow project I brought to the owners' attention this week that would increase their cash flow $2,000-6,000 per year (simply by switching some credit accounts) and that would likely cover the cost of giving me a raise.
posted by mtphoto at 11:47 AM on December 11, 2016


Format: in person is better.

Timing: best time is whenever business is doing best. If this is a small retail business, the owners may be preparing for the slow season that comes after the holidays. If you can, find a time when the business is brisk.

Target: depends on what kind of people you're asking. If this is a small shop, you know the owners personally, and you've had a straightforward relationship, you might consider asking for exactly what you want (not padding). If this is a larger company and/or haggling is the norm there, then consider a higher opening request. As saeculorum explains, it is very important for you to be aware of your actual value to the company and the market rate for your type of job.

Prep: It is very important for you to state why you want the raise you do. Explain what you've done to deserve it and/or what that specific amount will mean to you. Definitely show the noteworthy things you've done since your last raise. If you can, also explain the cost-saving and revenue-producing things that you want to work on in the next year. Think of it from the owners' point of view: how can you make it worth it for them to pay you more and not lose you? As saeculorum says, be brief and to-the-point.

If you're turned down: I'm not sure what you mean by "leveraging a cost-saving project." You should mention your cost-saving idea right up front when explaining your request for the raise. I'd suggest, if you're turned down, trying to set a specific time at which you'll talk about a possible raise again. "I understand that you aren't able to give me a raise at this time, but it's important to me to have the raise for [reasons] so that I can continue to grow here. Can we set a time to look at my request again in [three or six] months?" And then, after that discussion, even if they say yes to your request to look at the raise again soon -- start applying for other jobs. Can't hurt, might help.
posted by ourobouros at 12:27 PM on December 11, 2016


Past experience has indicated that I need to make it obvious that I answer questions based on the world as it is rather than than world as it should be. This answer is not intended as a prescriptive judgement on how the world should be.

my job requires a higher skill level and all of our staff has many more years of experience than the retail employees working at the local chain stores

Years of experience is more or less irrelevant from the perspective of compensation. Unless you can convert that actual business value, you don't have a compelling argument for doing the same thing for years being any more valuable than a less experienced person doing that thing. Similarly, skill level does not translate to business value unless you can show that hiring someone with the same skill level is not possible on the market for the amount of money you're being paid.

You are not really answering the question that your employer will be asking themselves. They will be faced with the question, "do I need to pay mtphoto $2/hr more or can I hire someone else for the same amount of money?" You need to preemptively answer the question for them and give evidence that the raise you're asking for is necessary. This means you need to have a notion of what other companies are doing. Would you be a manager at a competing business (and hence, be paid more), or would you end up as a minimum wage worker? The answer to that question will guide how you approach the raise discussion.

switching some credit accounts [...] would likely cover the cost of giving me a raise.

I guess I'm not sure how this is leverage. Your employer could just as well say, "I can't offer you a raise, but switch those credit accounts anyway as part of your job." Your leverage as an employee at compensation discussions is your ability to leave the company. There isn't really anything else that matters from the employers' perspective.
posted by saeculorum at 2:10 PM on December 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


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