April 4 is Equal Pay Day, the day in 2017 women need to work until to earn as much as their male counterparts earned in 2016. You deserve better, but first there are some things every woman should know before asking for a raise. Since women typically earn about $500,000 less over their lifetime than men, asking for more money might seem like a no brainer. However, not everyone is invested in fairly compensating women for doing the same job as men.
I heard Gloria Steinem speak last year, and she said that when she first began fighting for women's rights she naively thought that if she simply pointed out the inequality to men, things would change. It was a sharp learning curve for Steinem, because as it turns out the system was set up this way intentionally to reward men for taking care of families, and encourage women to stay home.
Women are typically paid 22 percent less than men in almost every field, even when they have the same, or in many cases more, education and experience. While you might know you deserve better, fighting for what you're worth can be intimidating. You're not alone.
A recent survey revealed that more than 60 percent of millennial women aren't sure how to ask for a raise. Additionally, 63 percent felt uncomfortable negotiating, 58 percent were afraid of losing their job or offer if they countered, 56 percent didn’t know how much money to ask for, and 51 percent didn’t even know that they should be negotiating. As Sallie Krawcheck, the co-founder and CEO of online investment platform Ellevest, tells Bustle, women need to recognize their accomplishments at work and make sure others know it too in order to guarantee a raise or promotion. "Be excellent, and make sure people know it," Krawcheck says. "The number one mistake women make at work is we think it’s school, so we think if we’re doing a great job, that that’s enough, but you have to make sure people are aware of it."
Here are a few things you should know before asking for a raise:
1. Research Is Important
Talking about money can be uncomfortable, but if you go into a negotiation unprepared you risk not getting what you want. Before you go into a job interview, or approach your boss for a raise, research median salaries for your job, experience, and responsibilities. Note that median salaries often differ in each state so what you can demand in New York might not be realistic in Ohio. "You need to know how much to ask for," Krawcheck tells Bustle. "Go to Get Raised, and PayScale, depending on what industry you’re in you can look at Hired or Comparably… figure out how much money you’re supposed to be making."
Additionally, ensure you know exactly what your boss is expecting of your role, and figure it out early: "The other thing is, I always advise people to quantify as much as you can. Months before, [ask], 'Hey boss, what does success look like in my job to you? And if you can, what are the numbers around it?'" Krawcheck says.
2. Presenting Your Accomplishments Matters
You might be under the impression that your boss is aware of everything you've accomplished, but this is rarely the case. And, even if your boss does know how valuable you are to the team, if they have to make a case for your raise to their boss, they're going to need documentation about why you deserve it. "Say, 'Look, I wanna tell you, I’m really pleased with this, this, this, this, and this this year,'" Krawcheck tells Bustle. "In order to maintain your credibility, it can’t all be positive — [say things like] 'I could have done better on this,' or 'next year, I’m gonna work on such and such because I think I’ve got the opportunity to get better here.' There’s research that shows if you tell people you’re perfect, they will look for your imperfection. But if you actually tell people you’re imperfect, they’ll stop looking."
If you're nervous about promoting yourself and your accomplishments, Krawcheck also has advice for that: "Just do it. The way I did it, because I flush and blush so much — even today — I bought a turtleneck and I practiced it," she says. "If you really cannot bear to do that, [or] if the culture of your company tells you they won’t like that — and that’s true of some companies — then praise other people. 'I was so proud of my team this year for doing X, Y, Z.' What you’re doing is, you’re complimenting yourself, of course, but you’re talking about other people."
3. Timing Is Everything
When you ask for a raise matters. Does your company do annual performance reviews? Don't wait until then. Present your case to your boss a few months before the review so they can advocate for your pay increase pre-review. Has your job description changed? If it has, it's perfectly reasonable to ask for more money. "Get him or her in the habit of negotiating with you, so it’s not weird, and you get him or her in the habit of saying yes to you as well when he or she finally says yes to something," Krawcheck says.
Additionally, she notes that if your boss says no to the raise, have a list of other asks prepared that you'll then move forward with. For instance, if you work for a startup, or a company that recently downsized, asking for a raise might not be realistic, but you might be able to negotiate other perks like working from home a few days a week, a extra vacation time. "Have a list of 20 other asks, most of which should turn into money later. If your boss is like, 'No, we don’t have any money in the budget for a raise,' say, 'How about a coding class, or a marketing seminar, or a big symposium that can help you, or an executive MBA, or have a stint in London for three months?' Don’t walk out of there without a yes. If the boss says no to all 20, you’re gonna need to find another job, because you’ve just been given a real message."
4. A Confident & Positive Attitude Goes A Long Way
Confidence is contagious. If you feel good about yourself, others will feel good about you too. When asking for a raise it's important to present your accomplishments with confidence, and a positive attitude. Think of the conversation with your boss as a collaboration, and envision a positive outcome. If your boss feels good about you, they are more likely to be your advocate.
5. Complaining Won't Get You What You Want
No one wants to hear complaints, especially not your boss. I had a boss whose motto was "bring me solutions, not problems." Going into a salary negotiation with a list of complaints is unlikely to get you what you want. While there might be problems that need to be addressed, this is not the time to air those grievances. Instead of presenting problems, give your boss a list of solutions to demonstrate the value you add to the team.
"Get on the same page early. What does success look like for me? What does success [look like] for the department? For the company? The worst thing you can do is just go in blind and ask for a raise. You have to lay the groundwork for it," Krawcheck says. "I promise you if you go in cold and ask for a raise, you might get one, but you’re not gonna get as good of a one as if you laid that groundwork early. It’s preparation and timing."
6. You Can Leverage Another Job Offer — But Only Once
Perhaps you're being courted by a competitor who's presenting you with a generous offer. You can leverage that job offer for a raise for your current position. "Never use it as a negotiation tactic if you’re not prepared to leave. It’s gonna be one good enough where you’re ready to make a move... do it very rarely. My rule has been do that once, totally fine, and we’ll have that conversation and discuss what the options are and I’ll try to convince you to stay — do that a second time, I help you pack your bags," Krawcheck explains.
The key, she says, is being prepared to take the other offer if your boss isn't willing to work with you. "If you’re going to do it, make damn sure it’s a job you’ll leave for. Because if the boss says, 'Hey, that sounds like a great offer, you should take it,' you can’t say, 'No, I was just kidding.' You’ve lost all credibility. Be ready to play it through."
7. Have A Bottom Line
Before going into salary negotiations, know your bottom line. What will you do if your boss says no? Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, you might not get what you ask for. How important is the actual money to you? Consider if you would be willing to negotiate other perks instead, like additional vacation time, or a better title.
If the answer is "no for now," ask your boss what steps you need to take to be eligible for a raise in the future. If you truly love your job, it might be worth re-evaluating the situation in a few months.
Whatever you decide, know (barring any curve balls from your boss) how you will respond to each scenario before you go into the meeting. You can also practice with a friend to help you feel more prepared.
While asking for a raise can be difficult, it does get easier. After all, the goal is progress, not perfection. You've got this — and as Krawcheck says, "just do it."