A first timer’s guide to asking for a pay rise

Boss better have my money.

When you land your first job, certain aspects about the working world seem, well, weird.

You immediately spend more time with your colleagues than with people you actually like. You’re forced to bond over things like coffee, the football and mutual disdain for your bosses. Your go-to greeting turns from friendly kiss to awkward wave, except for out-of-hours social events where no one is quite sure whether a kiss on the cheek is appropriate (does anyone actually know the answer here?).

And then there’s the fact that, despite all your career ambitions and passions and goals, you’re really, only, probably at work for one thing: money.

Fight me all you will, but you wouldn’t be turning up from 9 to 5, five days a week, if there wasn’t some financial incentive involved. So why does it feel so hard to ask for more?

I’ve tried, and failed, to answer that. But I can tell you that much like other, more intimate, things in life, the first time is always the most awkward.

So if you’re dreaming of those extra dollar dollar bills, here’s where to start.

Know that it’s expected of you

Before your first time, the whole concept of asking for a pay rise can seem a little off. Essentially, you’re asking your boss to give you more money for the same job, right?

Wrong. So wrong.

No my innocent, inexperienced friend, asking for a pay rise isn’t just about asking for more money. It’s about showing your boss that you’re committed to the company. It says that you want to continue delivering your best and that you value your contribution to the business.

If you don’t quite believe me, turn the tables. If one of your staff had never asked you for a pay rise, it would raise a couple of eyebrows. You may wonder if they really care about their job and question whether they’re giving their best.

So yep. Your boss is expecting to discuss the dough with you, sooner or later. Now we’ve got that out of the way, let’s discuss timing.


Timing is a biggie when it comes to asking for a pay rise, mostly because people tend to put it off. A good rule of thumb is to request a salary review after a year, but honestly, it depends on so much.

Some companies prefer to operate around the financial calendar, with budgets often set for the following year around May. If your company conducts regular performance reviews, there may be scope for the conversation to happen sooner. Similarly, if you were hired with little experience and you’ve consistently blown your KPIs out of the water, maybe the six-month mark is appropriate.

Give yourself a deadline

I get it. The ol’ pay rise request falls pretty high up on the ‘uncomfortable conversation’ scale, somewhere between break-ups and asking your Nanna to put a bra on.  This means it is one conversation that’s pretty easy to chicken out of.  Crucial here is this:

Don’t give yourself the option.

Instead, lock yourself in by sending your boss a meeting request for some time this week. Schedule a time, send the calendar invite and boom. Your next pay should hopefully be a good one.

Request a performance review too

If you’ve not played the pay rise game before, take note. Your true intentions must often be thinly veiled under the guise of a ‘performance review’.

It does depend on the company, but generally, any request for a salary review should be preceded by a request for a performance review. Note, this is a good thing. If you’ve done your job well, it gives you further ammo when asking for the $$$$$$.

Alternatively, if you receive negative feedback, it can also help you frame new, clear KPIs to accompany your salary increase. What a perfect way to ensure these improvement areas are efficiently addressed, dontcha think, boss?

Prepare for battle

You know the feeling of rehearsing a fake argument in the shower and winning? Well, this is the same thing. Except this time, you’re making a list of all the reasons why you deserve a pay rise.  Also, you’re not naked.

Write down what KPIs you’ve beat, what opportunities you’ve brought to the company, what your department has contributed to business operations, what achievements you’ve reached, what positive feedback you’ve received and what skills you’ve refined since your pay was first set.

Also consider any extra work you’ve taken on. Have more responsibilities been added to your role? Are you managing extra people?

Finally, you want to show that you’re the very best person to be doing your job. The strength of the talent market can have an impact here, so consider how hard you would be to replace. Hopefully, very.

Set your proposed figure

Again, this can be a messy operation, as there is no exact formula to working out how much money you should be paid.

A good starting point is to have a look at job websites like Seek, to see what similar roles are paying. Then, consider how you’ve improved in both experience and skills since your pay was first set.

Rule one of negotiation is to start high, but you want to be able to justify that high figure, lest your bosses think you’re taking the piss. It’s important that you can defend your proposed figure as fair and just, while also being prepared to accept a lower rate. Remember, the idea here is to obtain a win/win outcome.

Have a plan B

Look, it is sad but possible that your request may be refused. So be ready with a Plan B.

If your company isn’t able to offer you a salary increase for financial reasons, it may be worth coming prepared with a few ideas of how else they might benefit you. Perhaps introducing commissions or bonuses? Flexible working hours? The option to work from home? A parking spot?

Also use this opportunity to request a second pay review within three months.

Because really, you’d probably be waiting that long if you’d chickened out anyway.

Illustration by Twylamae

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