Can the Strong Job Market Help You Get a Raise?

By Daniel B. Kline

A green sign that says "salary increase just ahead" in front of blue skies.

1. Just ask

It sounds silly, but if you don’t speak up, your boss likely will assume that everything is great. Don’t just set up a meeting and ask for more money. Arrange an appointment and lay out a case for yourself.

List your accomplishments and why you should be paid more. It’s fine to mention that wages have gone up across your industry, but that should only be a small piece of your argument.

2. Don’t take no for an answer

If your boss tells you he or she believes your work doesn’t merit a raise, don’t let that stand. Ask for specific areas for improvement and for regular progress meetings.

In the case where you’re told “there’s no money in the budget,” ask for a promised raise to be worked into the next budget. If your boss agrees, try to get a specific amount negotiated or the promise of a meeting before budget season.

3. Gauge your worth

Look for a job with the idea that your preference would be to stay, but that you’re willing to leave. You may surprise yourself and find a much better situation. It’s also possible you’ll get a better offer that you can bring back to your current employer.

This isn’t a well to go to often, and it’s not one to undertake without considering the consequences. If you use this tactic, you may find that your employer doesn’t want you at a higher price — or that nobody is willing to pay you one.

4. Leave

In my first job, I went from a low-level part-time assistant to managing editor of a magazine in one move. As you might imagine, I was paid way less than the previous managing editor. Even though I received nice raises on a percentage basis, I still made much less than other comparable editors.

Since my boss wasn’t going to give me a $20,000 raise, my only real option was to leave. When I did, I got somewhere near market value because to the new company, I wasn’t a young kid who got a big job he may not have deserved. I was an experienced editor with a lot to offer.

Be your own advocate

It’s important to understand your worth and take an active role in managing your career. That doesn’t mean you have to job hop or eke out every nickel possible. Instead, find a company that values you and pays you a fair wage so that you can be professionally satisfied.