Employees often ask, when is the absolute best time to ask for a raise? It’s an interesting question, because sometimes finding the "best" time to do something can be backed by research and science.
Most fitness professionals say the best time to drink a protein shake is within 30 minutes of a workout to help speed recovery. Modern automatic transmissions are programmed to shift gears in your car at the optimal time to provide a smooth, powerful ride and fuel efficiency. Planning a Fall wedding? You could go through historic weather data to find the day with the least chance of rain.
Unfortunately, finding the perfect time to ask for a raise or promotion is more art than science, but mid November might be a good place start. Here’s why.
First off is budgets. For companies on a calendar fiscal year (January through December), many are now planning out their budgets for 2013. During this time your manager will be predicting spending for marketing, advertising, inventory, and yes, payroll. They’re busy looking at what they overspent and underspent in various categories this past year, and are moving numbers around to make everything balance out. Asking for a raise may give them time to allocate more funds to salaries.
Next is taking into account what happens in the final 2 months of the year. Of course it varies by industry, but in most cases there is one final push to end the year strong for 4th quarter business after the Thanksgiving holiday and into the first 2 weeks of December. Once you hit that third week, when office parties are in full swing and holiday/new years plans are being made, schedules get chaotic and the phrase “You know what, let’s wait until we get back in January to discuss that” starts coming up on a regular basis.
In looking at the economy, no one would say that everything is great. However, consumer confidence in the US improved again in October 2012, and is at its highest since March of 2008. And while the unemployment rate was still high at 7.9% in October, that is down from 9.5% and 8.9% in October of 2010 and 2011, respectively.
A survey by consulting firm Mercer was nearly unanimous, as 98% of the 1,500 mid-sized and large companies they spoke with said they plan to increase salaries in 2013. On average, the planned raises were 2.9%. Here are two key things to note.
First, that is higher than the 2.1% - 2.7% predicted over the past four years, so that’s a good sign. Second, companies plan to reward top performers an average of 4.5%.
Many people would argue that even a 5% raise isn’t going to be life changing, and that’s understandable. However, an optimistic employee can read into that and interpret it that companies value their rock star workers 50% more than the average worker bee.
Knowing that, it’s up to you to prove that your efforts go above and beyond what is expected. Now is the time to go back through your accomplishments for the year and create a highlight reel of your contributions in 2012. Put together a portfolio that shows:
How you made the company money
How you saved the company money
How you brought in new business
Business skills that you do better than anyone else
Leadership and management accomplishments
How should you approach the discussion? A good way to start is to frame the conversation around goals. First, make sure to put yourself in the shoes of the company and make it about them. Talk to your manager about the goals of the business and where they see things heading. Next, prove that you take your career path seriously by reviewing your personal and professional goals and what you hoped to accomplish this past year (including what worked and what didn’t), and what you’re planning for 2013. Then, show how they align with each other.
View the end of the year as a healthy recap and assessment of your career, no matter what your situation is. Do you love your job? Think about what the next steps are and what can make it even better.
Are there skills you’ve been wanting to update? Many colleges offer courses starting off the year, so do the research now and sign up for a class on social media marketing, digital video editing, or effective leadership so that you’ll have something to look forward to after the break.
And if you don’t enjoy your work, what are you going to do about it? Perhaps you can transfer to a new department to get a fresh take on another side of the business that has interested you. If you meet with your boss and it confirms your fears that you won’t be getting a raise any time soon or you’re not excited about your future, then you can start planning your exit strategy. That could involve updating your resume and starting to interview in January, or starting a side business that you can eventually transition into.
A scientific algorithm or a story on the web is never going to be able to tell you the absolute perfect time to ask for a raise. So no matter when you’re reading this, the question you have to ask yourself is, is that time right now?
Want a raise? Start by checking out Salary.com's free Salary Wizard to find out how much you're worth!
Jim Hopkinson is an author, writer, and speaker living in New York City. His focus is on career development for the new economy, showing how new media, technology and branding are changing how people look at their career and lifestyle. Read more...