Asking for a raise is awkward. But it doesn't have to be.
As an emerging leader in the arts, have you ever felt stagnant in your job? Are you struggling with feeling undercompensated? Love what you do and where you work but don’t feel able to ask for the raise that you deserve? These are common challenges facing many emerging leaders in the arts. They lead to burnout, young professionals leaving the arts altogether, or perpetuate the high turnover rates that many small and mid-sized arts organizations experience.
A 2015 article in The Atlantic cites a study conducted by Payscale which surveyed 30,000 workers about their experience asking for a raise: “Forty-three percent had asked for [a raise], but only 44 percent of those who asked got the amount they wanted, with 25 percent not getting a raise at all.” Even though asking for a raise is uncomfortable and intimidating, it’s an important and necessary communication skill to cultivate.
So how to prepare and ask for that raise?
Take a thoughtful look back at the goals you achieved over the previous year. It’s easier to identify external accomplishments such as the number of projects you completed successfully or the amount of money you earned for the company. But internal accomplishments are equally important and sometimes more compelling.
What do I mean by internal accomplishments? These are professional accomplishments that may not be overtly obvious to those around you at work. When articulated effectively, they can paint a compelling narrative about your job performance and help you successfully advocate for yourself. For example, say you mastered a new skill and you are accomplishing the same amount of work in half the time. Yet your boss, consumed by other responsibilities, hasn’t noticed or acknowledged your increased productivity. Your performance review is the perfect time to compellingly communicate this new accomplishment!
Once you have your list of accomplishments, pick one and break down the steps you took to achieve it—build the story of your accomplishment. How did you identify the skill you lacked? What did you do to learn this new skill? How are you currently putting the skill into practice? What positive impact is this new skill having on your work? Craft a succinct narrative of the journey you took learning this new skill. Then illustrate why it is increasing your value as an employee. Be sure to use tangible outcomes: “Since mastering the new software, the project that used to take me 4 hours to complete I now finish in 90 minutes.”
Hone Your Story.
Once you’ve got a story you feel good about, it’s time to practice it aloud. Enlist a friend or your bathroom mirror. This step is key. It’s easy to silently practice what you plan to say while you’re in the shower. Simulating ahead of time what it will be like sitting across from your boss with your adrenaline pumping is integral to your success.
The final step is polishing your delivery. Maintain eye contact, focus your energy on a part of your body to calm nerves (I like using my feet), dial down verbal and physical ticks that will undermine you and your story. Do this with every accomplishment you want to share.
Finally, it’s time to leverage the sense of pride that illustrating your accomplishments has conjured: “Given my significant recent accomplishments, I feel I deserve a ten percent salary increase.” You may feel uncomfortable at first, but the more you practice this crucial business communication skill, the better you will be come at confidently and unapologetically requesting the raise you deserve!