Prove Your Value: the Dos and Don’ts of Asking For a Pay Rise

While money is not the be-all and end-all when choosing a job, it’s certainly still an important factor for most people. Particularly during periods of high inflation when the cost of living rises, the amount you see in your bank account on pay day can have a very real effect on your wellbeing.

There are many reasons why people decide to seek a pay rise, such as:

  • They feel underpaid for the work they do
  • They have developed their skills/ knowledge or have taken on more responsibilities
  • They’ve been with their employer a long time but the pay is the same
  • They believe others in similar roles get paid more

The state of the market (i.e. skills shortages) can also lead to an increase in pay expectations. Candidates see employers struggling to find talent and believe they should be paid more to stay where they are. Be aware that high expectations go both ways. While you may have high expectations of your salary, what’s expected of you will almost certainly increase as your salary rises.

If you’ve taken this into account and still feel that asking for a pay rise is what you want, here are 6 do’s and don’ts to make it less intimidating…

DON’T: Go in unprepared

Your manager probably won’t respond well if you set a meeting without explanation, walk in, and say you want to be paid more. This type of off-the-cuff approach can feel like a barrage and may end with your boss getting frustrated and you leaving unsatisfied or embarrassed.

It’s also not a good idea to go in without a clue about what you will say. If your entire argument rests on non-specific statements like “because I’ve been here ages” or “I work really hard” then there’s a chance the conversation won’t end the way you had hoped.

DON’T: Benchmark against colleagues or peers

We’ve all heard stories where someone finds out that a friend or colleague is being paid more to do a similar role… followed by a dramatic confrontation with their boss demanding a pay rise.

There is usually a good reason why some people are paid more than others. They may have taken on extra work or demonstrated high value in their role. If you continually find others around you receive pay rises or are promoted while you’re overlooked, it should be a cause for self-reflection rather than resentment.

DON’T: Ask for a pay rise during the first 6 – 12 months of employment

When you first start with an organisation there’s generally an initial settling in period for the first 12 months. This gives the business a chance to get to know you and vice versa.

Demonstrating your value and what you bring to the table is very important during this period. Even if you come to believe the pay doesn’t match the workload, save the discussion for your end-of-probation or performance review and be ready to back up your claim with evidence.

Remember: you need to perform and demonstrate your ability before getting a pay rise. It doesn’t work the other way around.

DO: Reflect on your strengths and weaknesses

While some organisations do have toxic managers who put little effort into recognising their staff or supporting them for promotions, most of the time your ability to get a pay rise will come down to you.

Employers want trainable, adaptable and self-aware team members who deliver value to the business. People who receive regular pay rises and promotions are generally those who:

  • Do more than what’s expected, even if it’s just little things
  • Build relationships with and support people across the business (not just in their team)
  • Think strategically about their role and how it connects to organisational goals
  • Pre-empt people’s needs, questions or challenges
  • Articulate their knowledge very well

Reflect on your attitude at work and start recording your wins. This will help to serve as evidence when you speak with your manager who will likely need to develop a business case before they can offer you a pay rise.

DO: Know your place in the market (and your employer)

Instead of benchmarking your pay against peers or friends, research the market to find out what similar roles are paying. Go beyond surface level job descriptions, and dig deep into what’s involved in a particular job and how it is similar or different to yours.

Some organisations invest in benefits such as culture or flexibility as a trade-off for a slightly lower pay rate, so it’s important to keep this in mind when you’re trying to determine what’s “normal”.

You should also familiarise yourself with your employer’s process for pay rises. For example, the public sector has a very structured approach to salary progression for APS staff where pay rises align with performance reviews. You should be able to find the information in your employment agreement.

DO: Seek constructive feedback

Supervisors, mentors, colleagues, and even friends and family can be a great source of feedback if you constantly find yourself being overlooked for a pay rise. Ask their advice and be open to what they have to say.

Recruiters can also be a great avenue for feedback and may be easier to talk to than supervisor or peers. Candidates often ask us to help uncover roadblocks in their career – be it pay rates or promotions – and we take the time to assess the full picture including their skills, experience, attitude and current employer so we can offer specific and useful advice.

Bonus tip: Don’t assume or act hastily

There is nothing worse than feeling like you’re underpaid, looking for another role, and handing in your resignation only to find your boss had you ear-marked for a pay rise and promotion anyway.

Try not to make assumptions, and don’t act hastily – particularly if you really like the job and culture where you are.

Ask for feedback, gather evidence, and don’t be afraid to start a conversation with your manager. As the saying goes: you’ll never know until you ask!

Kristelle Gadd
Recruitment Consultant – Accounting & Finance
02 6108 4878

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