Money might talk, but only if you do.

Asking for a raise is one of the most awkward and intimidating conversations you can have. Most people don’t like talking about money to begin with, especially not with their bosses! Learning how to ask for a raise might be the last thing you want to do, but if you feel underpaid, read on.

The trick to asking for and getting a raise is all about timing and preparedness. Before you go storming into your boss’ office demanding a bump, cool down and read this first — you just might change your mind.

Timing is everything.

Your timing has to be impeccable, there’s no question about it. Data gathered by LinkedIn shows that the best time to ask for a raise is just before the start of January, June, or July, around the time of your company’s year-end, before budgets are allocated. The correct timing also refers to other variables, such as when revenues are high, objectives are met, and your own performance is noteworthy. Be reasonable. If the company is tanking, should you be asking for a reward?

Prepare to back it up.

If you’re scanning this article looking for the the one piece of advice you can’t skimp on, it’s this: Be prepared. Preparedness sets you apart. Be ready to justify your worth in terms your boss values (hint: bottom line and key strategic imperatives). You’ll need to showcase your merit with real life examples that underscore why what you do matters. You’ll want to paint the picture that you and your contributions are essential. Be sure to know your market value and have a clear understanding of what your job is worth on the job market. There are plenty of online surveys to help, but use caution. Many online surveys, especially those associated with staffing agencies, bump up salary ranges by at least 10 percent. Check out PayScale or Salary.com for information on current salary ranges.

Be clear on your “why.”

Being clear on your purpose and motivation will steer you away from disaster. Think about this: Why do you really want a raise? It’s really easy to get caught up in the comparison ring. You hear so-and-so makes X per year. You read an online salary report that screamed how underpaid you are. Your coworkers are talking about salaries in the lunchroom. E-a-s-y. Now, slow down. This is where your preparedness comes into play. You do not — I repeat — you do not want to ask for a raise out of emotion. Will more money solve your problems? A higher salary won’t make an insufferable job suddenly great. A raise won’t make your boss appreciate you. Know the why.

Accept the risk.

If you’ve plotted out the perfect timing and you’ve thought everything through, here’s one more thing to consider. Whether it’s the right thing to do or not, your boss may take issue with you asking for more money. Because we’re dealing with fickle, dynamic humans who have their own beliefs, values, and hang-ups about money, realize that your boss may bring personal baggage into your salary discussions. Again, it might not be right, but it’s real. Going back to understanding your personal motivations, you need to be comfortable with the fact that your boss may interpret your motivations differently than you do and pass judgment. If your boss feels cornered to give in, he or she might say yes today but hold it against you in the future. Accept the risk that the discussion may open you up to more risk than before. If you feel that you truly have done your research and you deserve it, then ask away. Don’t let someone else’s hang-ups hold you back.

The alternative.

You don’t have to ask for a raise. You don’t have to make more money. Perhaps this is the unpopular answer, but it’s a realistic, intrinsic solution. Shift your energy to adding value and doing your best work. If the company just isn’t doing well enough to warrant salary increases or if you did your research and you can’t justify asking, then decide to be happy with what you’ve got or start the search for a new opportunity. If the company offers exciting work, a fun culture, and opportunities to contribute and learn, then seize the day! You could even shift the conversation with your boss from “I want more money” to “I want more responsibility” and see what opens up for you when you focus on something else.

Salary discussions trigger deep feelings within all of us about worth, quality of life, and overall success. Don’t let it be a nagging comparison. Shifting your perspective to a growth mindset where you focus on learning and contributing will direct positive experiences your way. The money will come if you put love into your work.

Click on the following link for more salary negotiation advice.

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