Ask for a Raise or Change Jobs?

Mid-level employees with two years or more of experience have never been in a better position to ask for a raise.

The percentage of the U.S. labor force that is working is at the highest in decades, companies are looking for workers, there is a real shortage of trained personnel and head-hunters are having a field day enticing executives from one company to another. In the meantime, specialized IT technology is advancing so rapidly that those trained in the particular skills that are vital to a company’s operations often have a unique understanding of the details of business operation that are not easily transferred to a new worker.

A cubicle or home-office worker who has been with a company for two years or more, received bonus pay for his work, is accepting responsibility for his own projects or is supervising others is now in an ideal position to ask for more money. This is because of the increasingly high costs in time, money and training needed to hire an equally functional replacement. The mid-level employee is now faced with living on his current salary, which may be just scraping by on, taking a second job, starting up something on the side or going to work for another company.

Today’s economy is hot, but many are warning of an economic slowdown or perhaps even a recession later this year or next. Such a slowdown will have immediate impact on the construction industry, retail sales (already under serious pressure), manufacturing and the hospitality industry. The exact timing of this next negative economic event and its duration are unknown. Such a slowdown will result in large-scale layoffs in most aspects of the economy.

Based on what is known from the present economy and the unknowable future, now is the opportune time for mid-level workers to ask for more money for what they do. They may have to worry about their jobs if everything goes sour, but at least they will have received more money to establish a cushion in the meantime.

Do I Deserve a Raise?

You may want a raise, but do you deserve it?

A. Have you been with the company for two years or more?
B. Have you received favorable job evaluations?
C. Do you get to work on time and meet your appointments at work?
D. Have you been assigned other responsibilities in addition to your job?
E. Have you received any bonuses or awards for your work?
F. Do you supervise other workers?
G. Have you been given independent projects?

If you can answer yes to the majority of these questions, you can make a reasonable case that you should be paid more for what you do. In your letter asking for a raise you should document these events with time and date. The person who will be approving your request may know nothing about you, your history or what you have done. He will likely only have your letter requesting a raise and your supervisor’s recommendations.

Needs and Desires

This category can sound like whining. The salary you are getting might not be meeting, or just meeting the threshold of income you need to support your family in many high-costs living areas. Because of the escalating cost of in-city housing, many have been facing long commutes for years, and this situation is not getting any better. Faced with hours of commuting time, any employees’ productivity is negatively impacted besides adding a daily personal risk of having an accident on the way to work. More pay might allow you to relocate closer to your work. If so, this merits mention in your request.

If more money is needed to help pay for your children’s education, that is understandable as might be the need to defray some of the health care costs for your parents. These are understandable family issues, but as they are not directly work related might be mentioned verbally, but not in your letter requesting a raise. If you bring these up to your human resources department, be prepared to document them.

You might have a personal goal related to more training or education. So far as this is related to your working environment and enhances your value to the company this reason might also be included. Items that would likely not receive much sympathy are things like redecorating your home, buying a third car, getting a boat, etc. You may want these things and feel that you have earned them, but these are not your company’s responsibility.

Work-related needs are generally acceptable, desires are not.

The Ask

Asking your boss for a raise is not easy. First you likely feel that you are somewhat in his debt because he offered you a job in the first place. It might seem ungrateful that you are now asking him for more money. Before you ask, you must convince yourself that you have earned it and have a defensible right to make such a request. If you checked off everything in the “Do I Deserve a Raise” section, you have that right.

Implied in the asking is some action on your part. Are you going to seek other employment if you do not get the money you need? Have you received an offer from another company? If so, be prepared to produce it.

What you might hear from your boss is, “If I knew you were unhappy with your pay, I could have done something about it, but you never asked. ” This might very well be true. Before you automatically convince yourself that asking for a raise will be rejected, really DO IT. More than a few people have left companies only to regret it. Give the company you are with a reasonable chance to meet your request.

How Much to Ask For

If you have checked off items A-G and accomplished them well, a $20,000 annual salary increase would not be out of line if you live in a large metro area. If you did only some of these, a proportionally smaller increase would be appropriate. What Human Resources would likely do is offer half now and progressive increases or some other benefits or perks. So, you might be faced with the option of taking half of what your wanted or leaving the company.

Job Change Costs and Risks

Say you have a job offer and it pays more money, but how does it rank up with where you are now and the added costs of relocating, a longer commute, etc.

A. Relocation costs
B. Benefit gains and losses
C. Vacation time
D. Perks
E. Health Insurance
F. Professional Training (Marketable skill enhancement.)
G. Sociology of the Work Environment

Each of these considerations need to be evaluated to determine if it is better to take the other job at higher pay or keep the one you have at salary that does not immediately come up to your request, but still has growth potential.

The unknowable risk is that after leaving your old job, the economy could change and as a last hire, you would be among the first to be fired from your new job. It would not benefit you very much if your higher-paying job only lasted a few weeks or months. It is also not likely that the company you left would take you back as an employee, as they would have by that time already have someone else in that position and hold something of a grudge and costs of finding your replacement.

As for a raise NOW, or forever wish you had. If you do not get your request, it is on record and something may come of it later. Do not leave your job until you have another one in hand.

Starting Your Own Thing

In my new book, Create Your Own Job Security, I advocate that you start your own company while you are still working for someone else. This company can be selected from among an almost unlimited number of options to accomplish whatever financial goals that you might have, be done exactly where you are and utilize the resources that you already own. It might be a better option for you to stay in the situation that you are in and develop an independent, additional source of income to meet your needs than take the risks of leaving your present job and taking or searching for another with an unknown future. If most of the aspects of your job are favorable and you can independently develop something on the side that you also like to do this is a plus-plus situation for you psychologically as well as in the cash flow department.

Ask for your raise. Then carefully consider ALL of your options. If you want to find out more about my book go to:

Author's Bio: 

Wm. Hovey Smith is a registered Professional Geologist in Georgia. He is also a member of several writers’ organizations including the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA), the Outdoor Writers Association of America (OWAA) and the Georgia Outdoor Writers Association (GOWA). He is the author of 18 books with his most recent title being “Create Your Own Job Security: Plan to Start Your Own Business at Midlife.” He has been a radio host and does public speaking on work and environmental topics with appearances in the U.S., Europe and China. He is an active blogger and the producer of over 725 YouTube videos on outdoor and business topics.