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Every so often, and certainly at this time of year, most employees look around the job market to ‘see what’s out there’. For some it’s the motivation to change jobs; for others, it’s to compare their salary with the recruitment marketplace. We all think about our salary expectations and the good news is that in the UK, earning power is healthy.

According to the Office for National Statistics, employees in the UK receive, on average, a pay increase of 3.3%. That’s great, but what if you feel that you’ve worked extra hard, gained more experience, furthered your knowledge and are still earning less than your counterpart at another company? Then it’s probably time to face up to asking your manager the dreaded question: may I have a pay rise?

However, there is a wrong and a right way to ask for a pay rise or promotion.  It can be nerve-racking to negotiate your salary and timing can be crucial.

Corinne Mills, a career coach at Personal Career Management, says: “Lots of people complain about their salary but do nothing. If you want more money, you need to prepare a business case and approach your manager.”

Before you step near your manager, there is a list of things to do to ensure that you get the best outcome and win that pay rise or promotion.

Do your research

You may think you’re being underpaid but have you got the evidence to back it up? Firstly, find out what other companies are paying for similar jobs to yours. Talk to your HR department, a recruitment agency or look it up on a salary comparison website.

You’ll then need to justify your request for a pay rise or promotion. Get your evidence collated from goals that you have met, and exceeded, sales targets achieved, contracts that have been signed by new clients, and if your job has evolved over a period of time, not the additional work you have taken on.

Dulcie Shepherd Swanston, the author of ‘It’s Not Bloody Rocket Science’ and founder of Profitably Engaged, a business training company, says: “Work at it. The sort of qualities you need for getting a pay rise are the same sort of qualities you need for being a good employee.”

It’s all in the timing

There is a good time and a bad time when asking for a pay rise or promotion.  Choose your moment carefully. It could be when the company has completed a large project or just won a big contract.

Moreover, it’s also well worth finding out the company’s budget and finance structure.  If the company’s financial year runs from January to December, avoid asking for a pay rise in November.

If you’ve only recently joined the company or have had a pay rise/promotion within the last year, don’t ask now. Sit tight and bide your time, unless you have a very good reason for asking.

Also, make sure your role is in the correct pay grade – many companies are now starting to structure employee pay into bands, so avoid asking for a pay rise that is outside of your pay grade.

Be confident

But not cocky… Yes, you will probably be nervous but try to be confident – nobody has been fired for asking for a pay rise.  Make eye contact with your boss, avoid fidgeting, don’t speak too fast, stay focused, don’t try to fill in the inevitable silences — let your boss respond to your request — and avoid making jokes. Doing all of these things will undermine your negotiating power.

Be precise in what you’re asking for

According to research by Columbia Business School, asking for a specific salary is more successful than requesting a rounded-up figure.  Professor Malia Mason, an author of the research, said: “Using a precise number indicates that you are informed and implies you’ve done your homework.”  That said, if you ask for a specific amount, you may have to explain how you reached that exact figure.

If you’ve done your homework and are not asking for the impossible, there’s no reason at all why you shouldn’t ask for a pay rise or promotion.  Good luck!