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Pay Rise
February 16, 2015
Sam Wasson

It pays to ask: The smart way to ask for a pay rise

Asking for a pay rise is never an easy conversation, but armed with the right knowledge, the process needn’t be so bad. Here’s what we recommend you do – and don’t do – to help you on your way.

What to do:

Understand your industry.

It pays to know how your industry is currently performing. At the moment, some fields are doing better than others, and these industries are where pay increases are most likely to be found.

For example, in 2014 oil and gas workers in Australia earned an average of AUD$168,718, with 72% of employers saying they felt that they had to improve conditions for their employees in order to attract and retain talented individuals[1]. Conversely, reports[2] show that areas including retail and the media are being adversely affected by the digital revolution.

Understand your geography.

While things are looking good for employees in NSW, cuts to the public service mean that the economic outlook and jobs market in the ACT isn’t looking as good[3].

The condition of your state or territory can have an impact on your pay-rise prospects.

Understand your company.

How is your organisation doing? If its stocks are on the way down, it is probably not advisable to be making requests for more money. Conversely, if the company has posted record profits and is doing well, the timing is more likely right for the asking.

Know how much to ask for.

In 2014, 64% of employers intended to offer pay increases of less than 3%, while just 1% planned to give rises of over 10% [4]. Therefore, making a realistic request is more likely to reap the results you want.

Salary guides can be a great way to work out the average pay rate for your job and industry. Check out our salary calculator to understand more about your average market rate.

Demonstrate your value.

Document the contributions you make to your workplace. Ensure that you have specific data and statistics to support your case for a wage increase as it pays to be able to prove your worth to your superiors.

You should also be thinking about your future contributions: what do you plan to offer in the coming year? Where do you see yourself adding most value? Is there more you intend to do or projects you want to get involved with?

Also be aware that 58%  [4] of employers believe that skills shortages are going to negatively affect their companies. Up-skilling and gaining new qualifications can be a great way to demonstrate your value to the company.

Have time on your side.

Most company budgets are determined around the beginning of the financial year, so it makes sense to ask for a pay rise at this time. It is, however, wise to lay the groundwork earlier in the year.

If you cannot wait until then, make your appeal on the back of delivering an important project, winning a significant client, or providing outstanding customer service. Employers can be more inclined to consider your request if you have just done something great for the company.

What not to do:

Make unreasonable demands or deliver ultimatums.

Placing your boss in a position where they cannot possibly provide you with what you ask for is not only impractical, but can also be bad form and demonstrates poor judgement. Likewise, threatening to walk if your requests aren’t met is a foolish move and can reflect badly on you professionally.

Avoid the established process.

All companies have standard appraisal and review procedures. While it can be tempting to jump the gun, organisations have these processes for a reason. Be sure to go through the appropriate channels to get what you want or potentially risk claims of inequitable treatment.

Use the wrong language.

When making your request, be respectful but proactive. Saying things like ‘If I don’t get a pay rise…’ or ‘I know X makes more than I do’ is unlikely to help your cause. Similarly, you want to sell yourself by showing what you have delivered, but you don’t want to beg. Phrases such as ‘I really need this’ do not inspire confidence in your abilities or make a pay rise seem justified. Being prepared and having your information together will help you avoid saying the wrong thing in the moment.

Be afraid to ask.

Your boss isn’t a mind reader, but they are busy. So if you want something, you will usually need to ask for it. In an interview with Forbes[5]Ask a Manager author, Alison Green said that automatic annual pay increases are a thing of the past: “Now you have to ask for more money.”

In her book, Women Dont Ask Linda Babcock reveals that women are far less likely to negotiate their pay than men and as a result stand to earn significantly less over the course of their career. If it is warranted, you shouldn’t be afraid to ask.

Ask too soon.

While it is important to explicitly request pay increases, it isn’t advisable to do so in your first year with a particular company. This is generally considered poor form because employers will be expecting a staff member to prove their worth before looking to raise their salary.

Give up.

If your request is initially refused, don’t see that as the end of the story. Katie Donovan[6] recommends that if at first you don’t succeed, don’t be discouraged. Instead, find out why a rise isn’t currently possible and what you can do to obtain one in future. Discuss with your manager a plan to get you to a salary increase and agree on measurable outcomes together.

Whilst a pay rise is not guaranteed, approaching the conversation in a professional manner through following these recommended steps can set you up for success.

Ever considered education or training to help kick start your career? Jump on the phone to one of our Career Advisors: 1800 I AM READY.


[1] Hays Recruitment

[2] Deloitte

[3] The Kelly Services 2014 Salary Guide

[4] Hays Salary Guide

Asking for a pay rise is never an easy conversation, but armed with the right knowledge, the process needn’t be so bad. Here’s what we recommend you do – and don’t do – to help you on your way.