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Don’t Ever Just Wait For a Raise

man sitting at desk surrounded by clocksman sitting at desk surrounded by clocks

The Leadership Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question, “How do you ask for a raise?” is written by Randi Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Zuckerberg Media, host of “Dot Complicated” on SiriusXM, and editor-in-chief of

If I’d answered the question of how to ask for a raise before I started my own business, I would’ve said, “Don’t.”

When I was working for other people, I had that sort of competitive battleground, fear-based thinking that permeates so much of our workforce culture. Especially in New York City, where the creative jobs are scarce and the talent pool is strong, I had adopted a salary-based karmic ideology. It’s the same backward theory that Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella espoused at a 2014 conference, when he said “good karma” and “having faith in the system” will give women the right raises over time.

Though Nadella has since retracted his remarks, they reflect the hesitant attitude adopted by both genders when asking for a raise. While asking for a raise can be a nerve-wracking experience, attitudes of fear and shame have absolutely no place in the business world. You have to start perceiving your happiness and satisfaction in your job as your own entrepreneurial endeavor. Being your own boss doesn’t just mean running your own company. It means taking control of what happens to you at work. And that starts with asking for a raise.

I’m not saying you should abruptly and rudely demand a pay increase. Like any other work negotiation—from providing data for clients to deciding what to order for lunch—discussions are most productive when they’re friendly, gracious, and direct. Never beat around the bush when you’re asking for a raise. Don’t wait until after a meeting to “casually” bring it up. Schedule a time to meet with your boss with one goal in mind: broaching the pay raise. Make sure you come to that meeting armed with a list of your previous accomplishments and any new responsibilities you’ve taken on in the past year. Give examples of your value to the company as well as instances of your enthusiasm. Be as specific as possible.


Make sure to do your research. Check to see what the median salary is for those with the same job title on career community sites like Glassdoor and PayScale. Research the salary market for a company of your size, your skill level, and your living area to give you a target number. This will help determine how much you want to ask for when negotiating.

While reading about pay scales online can give you a good idea of the ballpark you’re in, don’t just rely on the Internet. I recommend also asking friends and family (but never coworkers). Financial advisor Nicole Lapin says most women would rather reveal their weight than their salary to friends, an attitude that only further locks you in the workforce shame cycle.

Be diligent and prepared to sell yourself the same way you did when you first applied for the job. And don’t get stuck in thinking that the only way to get a raise is to increase your salary. Your paycheck isn’t the only part of a good compensation program. See if your company offers equity stock options, increased benefits, more paid vacation days, or the ability to work remotely a few days a month. All you have to do is ask.