Wages have been slowly climbing in the private sector–-the latest U.S. jobs data found average hourly earnings increased only 1.7 percent over the past year—but that's not likely due to workers asking for more money.
Only 43 percent of the 31,000 respondents in a survey released last week by PayScale.com said they've asked for a raise. Another recent survey by Salary.com found 55 percent of employees didn't ask for more money during the last 12 months—and 23 percent have never asked.
Salary negotiations can be difficult. Many people don't ask for a raise or negotiate a salary offer because it makes them uncomfortable, they're nervous or they don't want to seem too pushy. (Nearly 3 in 10 respondents to the PayScale.com survey said they haven't asked for a raise in their current field because they're "uncomfortable" doing so.)
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Yet the Salary.com survey found more than half of employers fully expect current and prospective employees to negotiate for more money. And according to Payscale.com, it usually pays off to ask. The online salary and benefits information company found that the higher your annual salary, the more likely you are to receive a raise—if you ask for it.
Before you do, take these three steps.
Build your case
Gather data to show why you deserve a raise. "If you are an above-average performer who is significantly contributing to the bottom line, this gives you a strong case for getting a raise," said career expert Caroline Ceniza-Levine, co-founder of SixFigureStart. "It's not enough that you want the raise or even that you think you deserve it."
Use your performance review to provide support. Also, point out specific examples and successful milestones that show you've gone above and beyond your daily responsibilities. Document the ways that you helped your company achieve its goals and highlight the pivotal roles you have played.
Research the market
One of the best bargaining tools in negotiating a raise is to know how much the market pays. You may know how much you want, but you also have to find out how much you are able to ask for. Use websites like Glassdoor.com, PayScale.com and Salary.com to help compare salaries for various positions in different locations.
Also, talk to several people in the field, said Ceniza-Levine, and ask them if the salary estimates you have found are accurate and consistent with specific companies you are targeting. Once you know how much the position pays, you can tailor your request to your unique responsibilities.
Rehearse your pitch
Once you've built your case and gathered market data, make sure you present the information concisely and persuasively. Practice making the request with a coach, mentor or someone who can give you a sense of what to expect before the meeting. "Don't let the first time you are asking for a raise be in the actual meeting with your boss," Ceniza-Levine said.
And don't be too disappointed if the "Big Ask" doesn't' result in a "Big Get" the first time around. If you get shot down, use it as an opportunity to start planning—and building your case—for your next request.