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How to give yourself the best chance of a pay rise

6 June 2020

By: Nicole Pedersen-McKinnon

If it feels like it’s been an eternity since your last pay rise, you’re not alone. For the first time in a long time, our wages are increasing more slowly than the prices of the goods and services we buy with them. That means you’re essentially going backwards.

It also means it’s time to get a because-I-personally-deserve-it pay rise. The fact is that the longer you are in a job, the more invisible – and inadequately paid – you can become.

And even in this challenging wages environment it is possible to (successfully) ask for a pay rise…without hurting your career or cred.

Step 1: Prepare your case

The first vital step to upping your income is to get your ducks in a row, by which I mean amass evidence you deserve the extra dollars.

Hunt down those dreaded key performance indicators, if you have them, and give yourself an objective evaluation. Make a neat little matrix of how you have performed against each one, preferably with concrete examples. (If you’ve never been told such things as key performance indicators, have a crack at writing them yourself.)

Next think bottom line – the company’s not yours. Have you directly contributed and can you prove it? Think along the lines of revenue against targets, sales figures, customer feedback…anything an employer would truly care about.

Finally, research what people in similar positions in other companies are paid – is your salary comparable? Forget how much you may know people in your own company are paid – use this to strengthen your resolve (not your resentment) but you’ll only look sour if you mention it.

It’s worth filing away whether the Government has forecast annual wages growth in the Federal Budget.

Step 2: Plan your approach

First of all, the ambush never works. Same deal with the ultimatum. Your boss will just feel cornered and put out… and be looking from their own point of view rather than yours.

So make an appointment (I’m assuming you are not up for a scheduled review, or you don’t have them at all).

Then settle in for a chat. It probably sounds strange, but start by asking your boss about the issues affecting them – you know, pertinent challenges and successes. Some empathy, if not solutions, could go a long way to establishing ‘corporate compatibility’ and that you are a company player.

If there’s then an opportunity to throw in how you make your boss’s life easier, even better. The idea is to work up to detailing how you’ve made the company more money, knocked your KPIs out of the park… and finally asking for a salary that reflects that.

Through the whole thing you should be clear, calm and compelling.

Step 3: Be ready for a knock-back

Very seldom will this work on the spot – they won’t be approved for it – or even directly after that first meeting. But it may well work at some stage afterwards.

So if you’re refused, don’t get discouraged and start immediately looking for a new job (although you might be able to stay at your initial job and use another job offer as leverage to improve your package).

What you mean to do with this strategy is plant the seed and water it with your wonderful work. Hopefully it – and your salary – will subsequently grow large!


Nicole Pedersen-McKinnon is an independent money commentator and financial educator across newspapers, online and on television, and in high schools around Australia. Twitter: @NicolePedMcK


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Information is intended to be of a general nature only and any advice has been prepared without taking into account any person's particular objectives, financial situation or needs. You should make your own enquiries, consider whether advice is appropriate for you and read the relevant Product Disclosure Statement or Product Information Document before making any decisions about whether to acquire a product.