Now might be the perfect time to ask for that raise. Why? The U.S. economy beat Wall Street expectations and added 235,000 jobs last month. This means there’s now more supply in the job market, so workers are in higher demand, helping wages grow 2.8% in February compared to one year ago.
The right preparation goes a long way toward getting that “yes” from your boss. First, note any recent changes in staffing that could be tied to the broader trend of job growth. Has there been more hiring lately? Or open roles that they haven’t been able to fill easily? Think about how to position the value you bring to the team in relation to the bigger picture of hiring at your company. If you’ve been taking on more work lately, picking up slack from unfilled roles, or stepped up on additional projects or challenges, now is the time to get credit.
Gather Your Evidence
Start by compiling your evidence about why you deserve a raise, and quantify it if at all possible. If you work in sales, this should be easy. But if you’re in a support function or a role that’s not numbers-driven, get creative in how you think about value. What kind of value have you created — or saved — for your team? Take for example a communications person who has executed a campaign around a new employee wellness program. She has created value by spreading knowledge that led to increased participation in the program, which ultimately saves the company money on healthcare costs.
Look back through your emails for any compliments, thanks or praise you’ve received recently, and make a mental note of the details so you can mention them in conversation if it comes up. I have a “compliments” label in my email so it’s easy to keep track when someone writes something nice to me. (It’s also nice to re-read at if you have a bad day.)
Do The Right Research
Your evidence should include plenty of information about your own performance, of course, but do take the time to research trends in your industry. Your research may start online, but you should also go further to include conversations with actual humans. I strongly encourage you to speak with at least three people. Not sure who to ask? Look for those who would know what’s reasonable. That could mean someone who’s doing a similar job to you at another company, but it could also be someone who’s recently been promoted from your level, or someone who hires people at your level.
Women in particular should reach out to men as part of their research, since men generally make more than women. If the idea of talking about money makes you uncomfortable, try saying something like this: “I’m doing research because I’m preparing to ask for a raise, and I think you have some knowledge that could help me. The ballpark I’m working with now is X, and I’m planning to ask for a raise of Y%. Does that sound reasonable to you?” It’s worth having the conversation for two reasons: one, saying your request out loud to multiple people is great practice for when you have the conversation with your manager; and two, getting perspective and information from others in your industry will give you the knowledge and confidence to ask for that raise knowing your request is reasonable and fair within your market.
Ask For It
Once you’ve presented your evidence and shared your research, there’s nothing left to do but ask. Practice saying your ask out loud, and ideally, with a friend who can give you feedback. The only thing worse than flubbing your words at a critical moment is not saying anything in the first place. No idea how to approach it? Try this simple, straightforward approach: “I would like a raise of X%.” Seriously, say it out loud. Get used to hearing those words come out of your mouth. I like the phrase “I would like,” particularly for women, because it sounds less aggressive than alternatives like “I want,” or “I deserve,” and it’s not as limp as being unprepared and grasping-for-words: “I was wondering... do you think... maybe... I could…?”
(By the way, “I would like” works at home, too. “I would like you to take out the trash.” “I would like you to clean your junk out of the refrigerator.” I’m sure you can come up with other scenarios!)
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.