Successful professionals share the thing that helped them land a raise

Your salary: it’s one of the most difficult conversations to have — especially for women — but one that holds the most value in your career. Literally. It isn’t only the mere act of “asking” for more zeros on your paycheck, but articulating your worth and having the confidence to stand by your reasoning. Though the process surrounding reviews and finances varies by industry and company, there are various ways to reap the “yes” you’re looking for — and have earned. How do you walk in and out of the meeting confident and happy? The advice on financial increases is plenty, but often the source of wisdom to tap into is from those who have the “been-there, earned-that” money.

Here are the stories of successful professionals who managed to get a raise, and then some:

Research, research, research

When it came time for the annual performance evaluation at her company, senior graphic designer Lena-Marie Sabin knew she had homework to complete before sitting down with her employer. With a salary of $50,000 at the time in New York City, she was convinced it was far below the market rate of not only the island, but the nation. And, with the amount of output she was delivering, she also knew she deserved far more than she was bringing home. She was right — on both accounts.

So she did her research thoroughly and came prepared to state her case with numbers, examples, and more. It’s the advice she’d give anyone nervous about the conversation: “Find where you match up in the industry and present a strong, thought-out, fact based argument,” she shared. Sabin proved successful in her quest, earning a 40 percent increase and putting her to an annual income of $70,000.

Let your merit standalone

Before becoming a freelance political strategist and communications consultant, Catherine* was working in-house for a communications firm for several years, sans salary increase. At $70K AUD, she felt she hit a mid-level plateau for the industry, and wanted to make the best case she could for a raise. But getting there was tricky, since though in theory, her company ‘believed’ in regular reviews and performance feedback, they never happened. She tried to schedule meetings and they’d inevitably get cancelled in a hyper-busy environment. So, she tried a more informal approach to see if she could make moves, by casually ducking into her CEO’s office for a chat.

With this plan in mind, she turned to the advice of a trusted mentor who gave her surprising advice: let merit standalone. While Catherine was prepared to come with facts and figures to convince her employer to give her a raise, her mentor advised a different approach: “Do you think your male colleagues are going into your boss’s office with that kind of maths? Do you really think they talk about historic Australian inflation rates? No. If you are excellent at your job and your work speaks for itself then that’s all you need to say. If they want to keep you or want to work out another form of compensation package, then they will.”

Instead of arriving with a powerpoint, Catherine attended the meeting prepared to illustrate her own worth with confidence.

“I began the conversation talking about my work generally and asking if there was any feedback for me or ways to improve, and then I broached the raise conversation by saying that based on the conversation I would like a raise to reflect the quality of work I had been putting out,” she explained. After some discussion, she was given a $10K increase, and as her mentor put it — it was as simple as that.

Convince your company why they need you

Due to some shifts in the company, cost accounting manager Brett Mueller was wearing the hats of several gigs other than his own. His boss at the time recognized the need to restructure, and eventually, they were able to secure a new headcount under Mueller. He was in charge of the hiring process, including writing the job description, and made sure to include many responsibilities he was originally hired to do.

This, of course, led to questions about what he would do when they found their new employee, resulting in a new title—and with his bargaining, a pay increase from $123K to $135K. How’d he do it? Mueller said it wasn’t about “showing his value” but convincing her manager he was the best option for the job at hand, even with a compensation increase.

“What would they do if you left? Are there a gaggle of new college grads out there who could learn your role pretty quickly, or would it take a months-long search and tens of thousands of dollars in headhunter fees to find a suitable replacement? Would they lose clients without you? Is your boss/team the type that is happy to roll up their sleeves and cover your responsibilities, or is the thought of working nights/weekends terrifying to them? Quantify these factors as much as possible,” he continues. “That way you’ll have an idea how much you can ask for and still remain their best alternative.”