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Published: Jan 02, 2019 5 min read
Illustration by Ryan Snook for Money

If you’re wondering how to ask for a raise this year, here’s some blessed news: Statistically, you’ve never been more valuable.

The job market is spectacular, with unemployment at its lowest rate in nearly 50 years. Worker retention has also plummeted—voluntary quits rose more than 50% between 2012 and 2017, according to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics—and hiring managers are scrambling to hang on to top talent.

Which is to say that your boss probably wants you—nay, needs—to keep you around, and might just fatten your paycheck for your troubles.

Sure, it takes some gumption to ask for a raise — even in the best of times. So with that in mind, we asked some career experts how to comfortably navigate that conversation that conversation in the year ahead.

Think of the following as a script for earning what you’re worth; print it out and stuff it in your desk drawer for when you need a little motivation.

To Get a Raise, Start the Conversation ASAP

Snagging a better salary is less about proving your worth in one sit-down conversation and more about setting clear goals and sticking to them.

Rather than wait for your annual review to discuss compensation, schedule a planning session with your boss at the beginning of the year. Together, map out what needs to happen over the next several months to get the higher pay you’ve been eyeing.

“Your best bet is not to ask for a raise but to ask for a future raise,” says leadership coach Todd Dewett. “Use a nine- or 12-month plan, and be very clear about the new skills, deliverables, and level of performance required of you to earn it.”

Know Your Worth and Negotiate a Higher Salary

Research what other people in your role are making, especially those with your skill set, experience, and level of education. Use online tools like PayScale, LinkedIn Salary, and Glassdoor’s Know Your Worth tool, and ask friends in your industry for the ranges they’ve come across.

Once you’ve gathered all your information, come up with a realistic pay increase. The average salary is expected to rise 3.1% in 2019, according to research from Aon Hewitt. Unless you’re lobbying for a major promotion, around 5% is a realistic bump.

“Asking for something feasible, based on previous years increases that you learn about from others, is essential,” says Judith Panagakos, a career counselor at Early Stage Careers.

Raise Your Profile to Ensure You Get a Raise

Most people are good at their jobs. To distinguish yourself from everybody else, you need to be indispensable.

“We’ve all heard the advice ‘dress for the part you want,’ but it’s just as important to behave beyond the pay grade you want,” says Rebecca Horan, a brand strategist and career consultant. “When you walk into that meeting to request a raise, the goal is to have them be surprised—and maybe even horrified—when reminded how little you are making.”

There are lots of different ways to raise your profile. Taking initiative beyond your role, mentoring others, and being endlessly reliable are all good bets.

“Don’t just be good, look to ‘own’ something or be the point person on a mission that’s critical or high exposure,” says career coach Eli Howayeck.

What to Say When Asking for a Raise

When it comes to the actual conversation, you'll need to provide metrics-driven examples of your accomplishments.

Val Streif, senior content manager of the mock-interview platform Pramp, suggests arranging these into a “highlights reel,” a short presentation, or even just a sheet of paper noting your successes. Be selective: Recent wins, especially if they saved or made money for your company, are key.

Follow Up and Ask for a Raise Later

As you lay out your case, discuss the problems facing your department and how your work will help your boss solve them.

“Talk about where you see yourself contributing and developing in the coming year, based on the goals of the department and firm,” says Panagakos.

If you’re asking for an immediate pay increase (as opposed to the “future raise” in Step 1), you might not get the answer you’re looking for right away. So be prepared to follow up.