It’s December, and that means your year-end performance review is probably right around the corner. Take this opportunity to ask for something that’s valuable to you. That could mean a raise, of course, but I also encourage you to think bigger picture about your career goals for the next one to two years. Are you fulfilled in your role, or hungry for a new challenge? Perhaps you’re hoping for that next promotion, or seeking a transfer to a new division. Maybe you’re ready to switch companies. Wherever you are, think about what experience, opportunity or resource will set you up well for your next success.
The first step in asking for a raise — or flex time, budget, different responsibilities, new training opportunities or anything else that is valuable to your career growth — is to make the case that you deserve it. Gather your evidence. Start by setting aside some time to go back through your notes and notable emails from the year. This will refresh your memory and make it easier to speak to your accomplishments. When someone emails me a compliment, I add it to a feedback folder so I can easily find it again later. (It’s also a nice ego boost to look back through if you’ve had a bad day!) Be sure to highlight the successes you had as part of your team, since women tend to get less credit for teamwork. Don’t let this happen to you.
Evidence also needs to include research and benchmarking. Start by checking out salary and workplace comparison websites online. If you’re a LinkedIn Premium member, you can take advantage of their new salary benchmark tool. I also like Comparably for the tech industry, Fairygodboss (whose founder is a Women@Forbes contributor) for salary, bonus and workplace info by and for women, and InHerSight for data-driven insights about company culture and policies.
But to make a really compelling case — a case that it’s easy for your counterpart to say yes to — you need to go further. Good research must include speaking to actual humans about their experiences so that you can compare against your own. I realize this may make you uncomfortable, or that your company may discourage you from talking about salaries with your coworkers. It’s worth it. You’ll go into your negotiation with much more confidence and it will make it easier for you advocate for yourself. If you're drawing a blank when it comes to asking someone about their salary, take a straightforward approach : "I'm doing research because I'm preparing for my upcoming performance review. Would you be willing to share your ballpark salary with me?" Your request isn't coming from a place of curiosity or nosiness, you're asking for someone's help.
Not sure how to put it all together? Try something like this, and be sure to tailor it to your personal situation: “According to my research, similar positions in our industry pay about X. But I didn’t just take the salary guides I found online as gospel. I went further and spoke with some folks in similar roles, so I know my request is in line with the current marketplace.”
Use your review as an opportunity to cash in on your hard work all year long. Build your case, shore up your confidence, get in there and ask for it.
This post originally appeared in Women@Forbes, where Alexandra Dickinson is a contributor. She writes about how to use a negotiation mindset to achieve your goals.