Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for a Raise, Promotion or Flex Work Options

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It’s the same scenario every year: The day after Thanksgiving, I’m still reeling from a tryptophan coma, chipping away at my breakfast, as my father stands over me waving a ruled notepad. “Dana, I need your Christmas list,” he says. “Write it down on here before you leave today to go back to Brooklyn.”

It’s funny to me because a “Christmas list”, in your 30s, is really more of a 2- or 3-item list of sensical items which we’ve avoided replacing or purchasing ourselves- like a vacuum cleaner, or nicer sheets- maximizing utility while saving my folks the need to be creative.

“Can I just email it you later?” I respond. Though he’ll never be one to engage in the whole black Friday spectacle, he does enjoy getting a head start on his holiday shopping, if for no other reason than to cross it off his impending list of to-do’s.  I know how he feels.

“Fine.  As long as I have it soon – you know how hectic it gets,” he says, as he walks off sipping his coffee mug.

I much prefer giving or donating to others at the holidays, than drafting a list that essentially boils down to asking for this or that.  Because asking can be awkward, even when it’s invited.  Whether it’s a gift, or a helping hand, there’s an innate human drive to want to attain things through our own means, versus soliciting the assistance of others.

But you know what they say: “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”

The awkwardness and insecurity is amplified when it comes to asking for things at work, be it the help of a coworker, a raise or promotion, a transfer to a new department, or a certain level of compensation in a job application.

The close of the fiscal year is a particularly popular time for many of us to assess where we are in our current roles or careers, where we want to go next, and whether or not we’re on track to hit those goals – personally, professionally, and financially.  Here are a couple of scripts to help you jumpstart that all-important conversation as you look ahead in the new year.

How to ask for…

A Raise, or Increase In Responsibility

Specifics is the name of the game here – what have you done, how has it been valuable to the team/company/bottom line, and what are you looking for as adequate compensation?  If you want to be compensated more, you will need to provide concrete examples of where you’ve gone above and beyond, perhaps taken on more responsibility, and how that has positioned you as someone who’s not only indispensable, but worth more money. 

Try this:

I’ve really enjoyed being a part of X – it’s allowed me to get more involved with Y and do Z.  While it’s not an immediate part of my original job description, I would really love to continue on this path, and I’m hoping we can look at the potential to move up in that direction.

A Promotion

You can’t sit back and wait for your supervisor to present you with an opportunity for a promotion, or hope that they notice the great job you’re doing day-to-day.  Similar to asking for a raise, if you want to facilitate recognition for your work, you have to be the one to throw your hat into the ring.  Even if the person directly above you leaves and a vacancy opens up, don’t immediately assume that you’re the obvious consideration.  Instead, ask for the consideration.

Try this:

I know that Tom left the company, which is unfortunate – I enjoyed working with him. I imagine you’ll be looking to replace his role, and having worked so closely together these last few months, I’m pretty confident that I could step up into the role and take on more responsibility.  If there is an opportunity, I would love to be considered for the position.  

Flexible Work Options

While more companies are warming up to the idea of flexible work arrangements such as staggered hours, or telecommuting, others struggle with the concept of “If we let one person do it, we have to let everyone.”  So it’s important to structure your pitch around why it’s a win-win situation both for you, AND the company.  Perhaps your client accounts are largely based in another time zone, and flex hours would give you an opportunity to be more readily available to them.  You know it will benefit you – how will it benefit your employer, team, or supervisor as well?

Try this:

I know it’s not our policy to embrace telecommuting, but after some careful consideration, I feel that an arrangement that allows me to work from home twice a week would benefit all parties here.  Eliminating a two hour commute each day would allow me to work broader hours, which would better serve our clients, since their deadlines are constantly fluctuating. If the company would consider it, I would be happy to do a trial run for a month to see how it works out.

A Salary Range In the Interview

Candidates are always worried that if they ask for what they believe they’re worth, they’ll be turned down for the position. It’s a possibility, but the reality is that, if you’re their top pick, they will tell you outright that your requirements are too high and offer to negotiate in some way.  So don’t bother low-balling yourself – ask for what you know you need to feel adequately compensated, and don’t be afraid to give a range.  The bottom number should be the minimum that you’re willing to work for, and the top should be slightly higher than your ideal – the goal is to get them to land somewhere in the middle, and suggest that you’re open to negotiation without directly saying so.

Try this:

Based on what I was making in my last role, and this being a slight step up in terms of the level of responsibility, my ideal range is between $75-85K.  

Regardless of the request, one of the best ways to set yourself up for success is to go in with a specific idea of what you’re asking for.  Don’t leave it up to your employer to propose a solution – have one already in hand to pitch them on, backed up by evidence of why it’s a win both for you and them.  Remember – in many cases, your supervisor isn’t necessarily the decision maker on this, and you have to give them the right information with which to go to that person above them and make a valid argument on your behalf.

Be confident, be specific, and be direct!

Need help solidifying your idea and crafting that perfect pitch?  Let’s chat, and get you on your way to a stellar 2014!

Image Credit: Ana C. of Flickr


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Creative Guy

Hi, Does this apply to job seekers? How can you ask a potential employer if a job that I applied for is still open or that I am still being considered? In my case, I applied directly to person via their email address on the job description. I sent in my application, only to get an immediate “Vacation Responder” reply. I fear that my resume was lost with all the other emails that this person received during the course of their vacation. I sent a follow-up email 10 days later to confirm that the person had received it but I… Read more »


I think it’s perfectly fine to check in one more time, since you had direct contact with this person, particularly if they gave you the go-ahead to send them your resume. It may or may not move the situation along, but you can let them know politely that you’re checking in one last time on a potential opportunity, re-enforce your interest in and qualification for the role, and re-invite them to contact you for a follow up conversation/interview. Whether or not the position is open isn’t even important – it’s about whether or not you’re in consideration, and at that… Read more »