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I cannot recall a time when I felt confident asking for raise and actually got it. Even after shifting into roles with greater responsibilities, I’ve watched my pay stagnate. All the while, I’ve seen ostensibly less qualified men rocket up the corporate ladder, collecting financial rewards along the way. And like so many women, even those who how to ask for a raise, I’ve been inclined to think, “Maybe I’m just not doing enough.”
A quick survey of my female colleagues, however, suggests it’s definitely not just me.
The Daily Dot spoke with Danielle Harlan, founder and CEO of the Center for Advancing Leadership and Human Potential, about her top tips, tricks, and advice when it comes to asking for a raise and getting the recognition you deserve.
How to ask for a raise
Why does it often feel difficult to even think about asking for a raise? It has more to do with the gender pay gap than you’d think. According to a three-year study released April 10—Equal Pay Day—found that the gender pay gap actually widened for young women between 2015 and 2017, when women earned 81 cents on a man’s dollar and 79 cents, respectively. Things get worse for women of color. Black women, for example, make 63 cents on the male dollar. Latina women make about 54 cents on the white man’s dollar. Indeed, regardless of gender, people of color tend to make less than their white colleagues.
A lot of this, according to Harlan, comes down to systemic discrimination. Women, in particular, face a number of frustrating barriers. They need to be perceived as likable to move forward, but likable women are often viewed as less competent. “We have a lot of emotion wrapped up in this conversation because it feels like it’s an assessment of our worth,” Harlan says.
“I think we’re more successful if, instead of looking at it as this mysterious process that spits out some winners and some losers, we can think about the concrete steps and really remain cool, calm, and collected during those conversations,” Harlan says.
In my experience, the raise-and-promotion cycle does often feel like a frustrating crapshoot designed to favor white, cisgender men. I have long wondered what kind of sorcery they are capable of that I am not. According to Harlan, there’s a protocol that boosts your potential for success, even before day one. Here are some of the top tips to consider when asking for a raise.
1) Start looking for a mentor
Harlan recommends looking around for a more senior, experienced person either in your industry or your company who can help you get the lay of the land. “That doesn’t mean you necessarily find those people immediately, but it’s really helpful if you have a mentor who can walk you through what compensation should look like and what responsibility should look like at various stages,” she explains. “If they know the company or the field well, they can give an especially tailored response.”
Further, available research suggests that having a mentor helps women in particular advance to higher leadership roles. So as you begin your career, also begin looking for a mentor. And if you began your career without doing that, consider launching that search now.
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2) Do your research
Even before you accept a job, Harlan says, leverage tools like Glassdoor to gauge the rate for the position in your region. Ask yourself what someone with your background and level of experience could make in this role. “Be realistic, but be ambitious,” Harlan says. In short, stay within your industry rate but ask for what your skill set demands.
Additionally, having some knowledge of what a colleague in the same position makes will help to make your request seem less personal. “You’re not saying, ‘Pay me more because I want to make more money,'” Harlan says. “It’s not about you, it’s about fair market rates. Across the different sectors, leaders and managers and supervisors really respond well to people who’ve done their research.”
Set a progress meeting when you start
When you first begin your new job, book a one-on-one meeting with your supervisor and/or whoever dictates promotions. This is a good time to ask what you can do to optimize your performance in the role. Other points of discussion could include asking how you might have the biggest impact, how to contribute as much as possible, the most important ways to develop and grow, and, finally, how to advance along the compensation structure.
Harlan recommends asking questions like,“What are your expectations for me?” and “What does success look like in this role, and what does it mean to advance?” Set a timeline for the action items they give you. That way, you can check in with yourself in six months or one year and make an evidence-based case for yourself. You’ll be able to say, “We talked about these three things, and I have accomplished them. I’m thinking now would be an appropriate time to talk about advancement opportunities or additional compensation.”
Again, these requests sound less self-serving and more logical. After discussing how you helped the company and really killed it in your role, it will feel much easier to talk about what’s next. Especially when it’s rooted in an agenda you and your boss laid out together.
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Rehearse the conversation beforehand—out loud
Although Harlan admits that “it sounds like a nerdy thing,” rehearsing the conversation you think you’ll have beforehand is a great way to prepare and calm your nerves. Have the conversation out loud, in front of a mirror, at least three times. Enlist your non-judgmental best friend, partner, or roommate. Bonus points if this person has listened to enough of your work-related moaning that they have a good understanding of your office culture. Ask for feedback.
“The more you rehearse that, the more you’re going to realize what parts of that conversation are going to be stumbling blocks for you or where you might have less confidence,” Harlan says. “As you rehearse, you will build that confidence so when you go in, it doesn’t feel like this situation where it’s you up against the boss and you’re nervously trying to get more money for no reason.”
You have a clearly delineated argument backed by research and your demonstrated successes.
Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.
Claire Lampen is a lifestyle reporter who covers sex, gender, and reproductive rights. Formerly a Fulbright fellow, she has published work with Vogue, Gizmodo, Refinery29, Teen Vogue, the BBC, Vice, Marie Claire, and more.