Students and clients of mine often ask about how to ask for a raise. They want to know the words to use, when to ask and how much to ask for. Perhaps you are mystified, too.

The answer to all this is much simpler than you imagine.

Raises are no longer about longevity. There are no more automatic raises. Simply showing up and doing your job isn’t even enough to provide you with the security of a job.

The end of endless raises didn’t happen with the Great Recession we are just emerging from. It happened nearly three decades ago, on or about the time of the dot com/bomb. So it’s probably been true since before you were born. Your parents probably didn’t get a gold watch and pension for life. Maybe your grandparents didn’t either.

What does get you a raise? Not effort. No. In business, unlike in T-ball, you don’t get a prize for trying really hard. This is the toughest concept to convey to most employees. If effort were all that it took, then your employer would pay his or her rent with effort, the utility bills, and your salary. Effort does not make money.

Results? That’s more on target. The specific type of result matters the most. Are you making money for your employer? Are you saving money for your employer? Are you being resourceful and conservative when it comes to using assets? Are you bringing in business at any level?

Does your social media performance look like it inures to your employer’s benefit? Are you pinteresting, g-plusing, tweeting, FBing, blogging, reviewing, posting or doing anything to draw attention – in a good way – to your company?

At this point in your career, you have enough of a network: friends, family members, athletic leagues, clubs, and the like. Have you accessed any of them for anything substantive?

Client attraction, retention and control is a clear winner when it comes to asking for a raise. If you are bringing in more than enough to cover your salary, overhead, expenses, and mistakes (yes, mistakes you make that cost your employer money and time): then! Have you saved the company money under the same terms and conditions: then!

Then, you sum up what you’ve done and make a case – just make an appointment beforehand. Let your boss know you want to discuss your salary and employment terms.

I have run a lot of companies. I have had a lot of employees. I have never said no to anyone who makes the company money, that is profit above and beyond what it costs to run it (plus what we need to put away for rainy days when business is hard or the economy is faltering). I have never met a business owner or professional manager who says no under those conditions.

Until you’re delivering more than effort, until you have proven value: don’t ask and don’t tell your boss that you’re ready to have that conversation.

I know it’s not what you want to hear. But it is the truth about business. If you were the employer, you wouldn’t have it any other way.


Nance Rosen is the author of Speak Up! & Succeed. She speaks to business audiences around the world and is a resource for press, including print, broadcast and online journalists and bloggers covering social media and careers. Read more at NanceRosenBlog. Twitter name: nancerosen