Can I ask for a raise yet? How to ask for a raise

Four tips on how—and when—to request your salary increase.

Can I ask for a raise yet? How to ask for a raise

If you stayed employed during the recent recession, there's a good chance you didn't get a raise. You probably felt scared asking for one. You may even have taken a pay cut. And you've probably been told—or you've at least told yourself—that you should be grateful to have a job at all.

But now that the recession is behind us, a question arises: When is it safe to ask for a raise?

The answer is that you may be able to ask right now—as long as you do your homework first and make your request in a professional way.

"You might be told no," says Marianne Adoradio, a career counselor in Silicon Valley. But even if you don't get an immediate raise, asking—appropriately—might still be beneficial. "You're displaying professionalism, assertiveness and initiative. It shows that you won't be taken advantage of when times change."

Adoradio and other experts offer these four tips for deciding how and when to ask for an increase in pay:

Arm yourself with facts

You need to know how your company and industry are doing: Is your company meeting its financial goals? What is the current market rate for someone doing your job?

Unofficial information, such as whether anyone in the company has been getting raises, can also be helpful if you're able to find out discreetly.

Finally, it's important to know "where you stand in the eyes of your manager and the management team," Adoradio says. If you're considered indispensible, you'll have a stronger case.

Choose the right time

As you gather your information about the company's performance, you may realize that it's not the best time to ask for a pay increase.

"I wouldn't do it if they're still cutting things left and right," says Kathy Ullrich, an executive recruiter.

Asking for a raise while the company is in the middle of layoffs, for example, could send a signal that "you're not tuned in to the business," says Leslie G. Griffen, a Missouri-based HR consultant and career coach.

Phrase your request carefully

Adoradio suggests presenting a two-part request that highlights both your knowledge of the company's situation and your contributions—for instance: "I realize that the economic situation of the company is improving. Our department has been working extra hard, and my last performance review was exceptional. I'm wondering if I could have a 5 percent pay increase."

If you have market data for your job position to back up your request, Ullrich suggests phrasing your request something like this: "I know that I joined the company during a softening economy. I was hoping that we could use this next year to get me closer to the norm."

Have a backup plan

If a raise isn't possible now, lay the groundwork for the future. Ask for feedback on your work so you know where to improve.

Griffen suggests saying something like, "I'm disappointed that it looks like increases are not going to be in place this year, but I would like some feedback on my value to the organization."

Adoradio recommends also asking your manager about the company goals that need to be met before management will start considering raises.

And if no raise is in sight, or you've been given the runaround, it's time to fire up a job search and get paid what you deserve.