Want a Raise This Year? Here's What You Need to Do Now
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Finally, a Budget You’ll Actually Want to FollowCompanies are planning to bump pay by 3 percent on average. But that doesn’t mean we need to settle for average.

In general, employers have been moving away from awarding flat salary increases to the whole team and singling out top performers instead. Scoring a big bump isn’t just about standing out from the crowd, though. Timing and preparation can make the difference in how much you get, and when. Here’s how to nail it.

1. Exceed expectations and quantify your achievements.

If you’re going to ask for a raise later, make sure you’re clear on what your manager expects from you now. (If you aren’t, schedule a discussion ASAP.) Then figure out how to exceed them, and keep a running list throughout the year of all those awesome (and quantifiable) accomplishments.

If you signed a huge client, note how much revenue that adds to the bottom line. If you wrote a popular article, record the traffic and make the connection to how that boosts overall brand awareness. Frame each win in a way that matters to the higher-ups and the larger company goals.

2. Time it right.

By the time the holidays and your annual review roll around, it’s too late to broach the subject of a raise. Budgets—and your salary—are already locked in. At many companies, bonus structures and raises for the next year are decided in Q4, so make the formal request in or before September, when your boss still has time to go to bat for you. After all, you’ve already laid the groundwork.

Just be mindful of the overall state of business. If sales are down that quarter, say, so are your chances of securing a raise.

3. Know your worth.

Comparing yourself to others generally isn’t a good idea. We’re unique snowflakes, and all that. But knowing your market value is a necessity when asking for a raise. Check sites like Salary.com and Payscale.com to see what other people in your position and area earn.

If you’re underpaid, use this information as backup when asking for more. It may seem counterintuitive, but it’s in a company’s best interest to pay fairly so it doesn’t lose strong employees to better-paying rivals. It’s expensive to replace an employee, and it takes time to retrain and get the team back up to speed.

4. Name your price.

Once you know the going rates, you have your target salary. While the standard principles of negotiation would suggest starting with an inflated figure with the expectation of landing somewhere in the middle, sometimes it pays to shoot straight.

If the typical pay for your job is $75,000, say, and you make $55,000, ask for $75,000. Yes, it’s a big jump, but if you can prove you deserve it, that’s all that matters. If your boss says they can only offer $65,000 this year, ask what you can do to get to $75,000 by next year.

5. Don’t be discouraged by “no.”

Of course, your boss could give you a straight-up “no.” If it’s just a matter of money, try negotiating for other meaningful perks like more vacation time and flexible hours. Or ask about getting a bonus tied to performance targets in lieu of the salary bump, which can be tougher to secure.

If you absolutely, positively can’t work out a deal that makes you happy, you can always move on. Update your resume, rev up your social networks—online and off—and seek out better opportunities. At the least, all your prep work will help you when you’re interviewing—and negotiating your next salary.

This article was updated in January 2017.

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