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How to ask for the moon


The summer after graduating with my undergraduate degree, I returned to a small law firm as a summer associate. As a freshly minted graduate, I felt emboldened. Coursing through me was an energy and a new sense of entitlement—I had my first degree, in light of which, I wanted a pay raise. The first week back on the job I brazenly marched into the managing partner’s office to demand my just desserts. Before I had an opportunity to produce sound, the managing partner, with an almost prescient air, responded to the question I had not yet asked and congratulated me on my pay raise. Naturally, this discussion could have gone quite differently. In fact, the process of requesting “extras” from your boss—a pay raise, additional benefits, or virtually any perk not already awarded to you by virtue of your position—can be anxiety-ridden, if not thoroughly gut-wrenching. What if the boss says no? What if they respond poorly to my request? Can requesting more be interpreted as biting the hand that feeds?

Emily Glazer of The Wall Street Journal recently asked this very question, wondering what the best approach might be for young professionals “asking for extras,” such as “corporate credit cards, smartphones, laptops, and even classes or conferences”—of course, to this list I might add “a raise.” According to Glazer, career experts suggest that the “best approach…is to avoid making it personal; focus on why your use of a product or service benefits your company.” That is, construct a pitch—a well-formulated argument which not only justifies your request, but whose conclusions are so indubitably airtight that your supervisor, even if the funds are not currently avaiable, cannot help but see the merits of the request. In this vein, Glazer recommends using a cost-benefit analysis as a means of supporting a request, including “how one product will help you more than another—even if it’s more pricey.”

For young or even seasoned professionals asking for a raise, rather than a gadget or new cutting-edge piece of software, this may mean quantifying their value to the company. For example, explaining how they contribute to the bottomline through a sound quantitive argument which demonstrates how their performance has impacted the overall financial performance of their company. Just remember that while the goal may be to get a manager to say “yes,” how a request is framed, and not necessarily the request itself, could severely impact their response.