Even though I am risking exposing myself as being completely clueless, I want to share my story with you because I know I am not the only one who has utterly failed while asking for a raise. I want you to be more successful in getting a raise than I was, and in order to do this we will take a look back at the mistakes I made- and yes, it is plural. How do I know they were mistakes? First the obvious- even though I was aggressive in asking for a raise, I didn’t get it. Second, while researching our expansion pack on negotiations that covers how to negotiate a raise or promotion, I had a chance to tell my story to a number of professional advisors. What they told me wasn’t pretty, but they also said the mistakes were pretty common. So, here it goes. I was a researcher of many years at a biotech company. During that time the company had taken me through numerous organizational changes and equally many bosses. I was experienced in my job as a scientist, but not experienced in negotiating. I felt it was long overdue to do some changes to my position and I decided to start doing those changes where I would see them immediately and clearly – on my paycheck.

  • Mistake Number One I felt I deserved a raise since I had been with the company for many years. I did not think my loyalty or effort showed in my salary. So I told my boss, “I have been here eight years, and I think my pay is not reflecting the amount of time and effort I have given the company.” What the experts said: The number of years you have been in the company has nothing to do with it. Forget about deserve. It is what you have accomplished and the plans you have for the future in your organization that matters, not that you show up at work.
  • Mistake Number Two I knew that others in the same position earned more and I could not understand why I did not have at least the same value.  So, I told my boss, “Besides, I should be making as much as “James” and “Andrew” since we are doing the same job.” What the experts said: “James” and “Andrew” had most likely done a better job negotiating their salaries and perks, either regularly or when they were hired. It is important to remain in control of your career and negotiate frequently. Don’t just pay attention when you get fed up.
  • Mistake Number Three I had a new boss. He was making real progress with the group and seemed like a person that could make things happen. Maybe he could make a salary increase for me happen as well! What the experts said: In most cases, a new boss has far too little background on you to evaluate your position, and certainly does not want to risk making a mistake. Wait until your new boss knows you and you have worked together for about a year.
  • Mistake Number Four I decided one day that I was going to meet with my boss to discuss my salary and ask for a raise. I just found a random time that worked for both of us and didn’t bother to give him a heads-up.  After all, we were both professionals and he was getting to know me well. What the experts said: Organizations rarely alter salaries outside of their annual review process. Chose your timing wisely so it synchronizes with your organizations annual schedule.
  • Mistake Number Five This is the last one, but perhaps the most important. I didn’t present any documented accomplishments or metrics of what I had completed over the last year. I certainly didn’t show how my work had profited the company. And worse of all, I had no long-term plan on how to continue to be a value to the organization. What the expert said: Prepare. (I will repeat that: Prepare.) Do not count on your boss to have even a moderate overview of your work. You are the best one to know what you have accomplished. Show your boss documentation of what you have done. Work with your boss over time on how you can increase your value to your organization. And, start your preparation three to four months before your company’s annual review.

I am certain I am not the only one that has made these mistakes while asking for a raise. The majority of you will likely not make all five mistakes, but even if you make one the outcome will probably be the same as mine. I got a polite “Sorry – I can’t give you a raise” and I walked somewhat befuddled, and certainly disappointed, out of his office. All of these mistakes were preventable. Now that I am older and wiser (well, at least I like to think I am wiser) I also know that you don’t ask for a raise, you negotiate a raise. But, that is a different story for another time! I shared my mistakes- tell us your story (anonymously is just fine!)

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