How to Negotiate Your Salary

by Scott Sery on November 28, 2012

In order to provide for ourselves and our families we all have to work.  Some people have the luxury of working for themselves, but many work for someone else.  For those who work for someone, or for a corporation, they are not stuck with the wage provided.  They can not only work on the side to earn more, but negotiating your salary can be relatively simple.

As our working careers progress, there should be raises that are just automatic.  The cost of living continues to increase, so the value of our work naturally should keep up.  But as you gain more experience and get better at what you do, you become more of an asset to the company.   While it is easy for you to see how much work you put in and how you feel you should be paid more, sometimes those who have the decision to give you the pay raise are not paying as close attention.  Even if they do see that you are doing a great job, they are not likely to hand out a raise unless you speak up.

There is a right way and a wrong way to negotiate your salary.  Blindly going in to your boss and stating that you have been working for the company for X years, or stating that you have worked hard lately will likely result in “thank you for your dedication.”  Instead you need to do some homework before the meeting.

Throughout your career you should be keeping track of the work you do.  Even more importantly, you should be keeping track of how you have helped the company increase their bottom line.  The more quantifiable your accomplishments are, the easier it is to show that you are an asset to the company.  While making a list of how you have increased sales, ramped up production, or increased productivity, make sure to keep a log of all the things you do throughout the workday that your boss may not realize.  Now that you have proof of how you are valuable, search out the average pay for similar positions (you can use the salary guide to do this, or search for job listings in your area).  Armed with this information you can schedule a meeting with your boss to tactfully explain how much value you add to the company.  Then you can request that your salary come into line with the average for those in your position.  If you provide a good argument, you should be able to get close to what you are asking for.  But be prepared with a backup plan.  It does not hurt to have applied to other companies and even have an offer waiting that you can use in your negotiations.

Most people try to get raises based on the fact that longer service means more pay.  They forget that pay is often based on merit, and if you just show up every single day and do not contribute, you should be lucky that you even have a job.  But if you have helped the company and added value to the company, you have a genuine reason to ask for a raise.  Keep in mind that your boss might say no, and you should keep other options open.  Most of all, be confident, and read Ramit’s blog for more negotiating strategies.

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Scott Sery

Scott Sery is a native to Billings, Montana. Within an hour in nearly any direction he can be found fishing, hunting, backpacking, caving, and rock or ice climbing. With an extensive knowledge of the finance and insurance world, Scott loves to write personal finance articles. When not talking money, he enjoys passing on his knowledge of the back country, or how to live sustainably. You can learn more about Scott on his website Sery Content Development
  • The boy hasn’t received a raise for several years, although he is a huge resource and shouldering the majority of burden at his small engineering company. I think I will have to direct him to this article! It never hurts to apply to other lateral positions if you feel a company isn’t valuing your contributions enough, but I definitely agree to first negotiate a more suitable salary before exercising your walking papers.

  • So many people are afraid to ask for a raise or to negotiate for that matter, why? They need to know what their strengths and what they have to offer for the company. I agree that we should document our successes and strengths and achieved goals etc. With this knowledge one would better be prepared to negotiate. It’s helped me in my previous career. Great post. Mr.CBB

  • Mhm very true. You’ve got to make sure you keep track of all the things you do and your accomplishments before asking for a raise to help you case. Very important.

  • FrugalPortland

    This is even scary to read — why am I so scared of this? It’s time!

  • This is a very timely article. I just submitted my yearly self-eval and I’m sure my manager will be scheduling our annual review sometime in the next couple weeks. I am still debating what to do about asking for a raise and how much I should push it.

  • Jason @ WorkSaveLive

    This is perfect as my brother and I were just talking about he should go about asking for a raise. I’ll be sure to pass this along to him!

  • Joe Cassandra

    Great advice Scott, definitely have stories to tell of how you increased productivity. It doesn’t hurt to keep some testimonials of your work from your bosses after you finish something (e-mails).

    It’s definitely sad that you would think the longer you are somewhere the more you should be paid, as it’s usually the opposite. Employers realize that in this economy, employees are scared/lazy to look for other opportunities so they can lowball you ever time. Take control of that and let them know of your value, and as you say Scott, show them that others will value you as well!

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  • Until now, I’ve never worked for a company where raises are dependent on performance. At my last workplace, even though we were not part of a union, many polices were union-like due to the presence of unions in other areas of the companies. As a result, raises were very much pre-determined, with perhaps a few thousand in leeway. Now, I’m working in industry, so definitely looking forward to discussing a raise at my next review.

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