life: how to ask for a pay rise

In a bid to add a little more real life into my corner of the internet, today I wanted to talk about a subject I’ve not discussed before.

I haven’t discussed it for a number of reasons – it’s not really my area, it’s not a passion or interest of mine, it’s something I like to try to keep separate. But in all honesty, it’s real life and as this here is a lifestyle blog, I’d say it’s relevant.

Going by the demographic of my readers ala Google Analytics, I’d say we’ve all pretty much got one. A job, that is. And I’d wager a fair amount of us are employed rather than making our dollar solo. I’ve dabbled in both, but having spent two years self employed, I’ve been back in full time work now for coming up to the three years.

During that time, I’ve almost doubled my salary, in the same job. In the public sector, I hasten to add. And actually, I think it’s okay to give myself a pat on the back for that, because that is no mean feat. We all know the economic struggles the public sector are facing due to government cuts and working hard for little financial reward is tough. I thought today I’d chat a bit about how I’ve tackled those conversations at work, that have allowed me to progress the way I have within my role – because before I did it, I was equally as bemused (read: terrified) at how you actually ask for a pay rise. So what would I recommend?

Show your worth…first!

This one is so important, especially within the public sector, where money is tight and actions need to be (seriously) justified to the powers that be. It hurts and it can be like wading through treacle, but show how valuable you are…first! Before you even think about having that chat, go above and beyond. Be indispensable, be vital and really push to work at the level above you. Not only does that give you just cause to bring the topic up, it gives you solid evidence to back up your request. Going in and asking for more money before you’ve proved yourself won’t ever work – so make sure your employer knows just how crucial, committed and determined you are upfront.

Get your wording right

This was the bit that really got me when I had to prepare myself for the chat. I didn’t know what exact words I was going to say, and quite honestly, I freestyled. It’s incredibly daunting when you’re face to face with your boss, and I think the key is to remember: everyone works to make money. That’s why we’re all there. Having done this more than once over the last few years, I’d say I’ve definitely improved my technique and knowing the kinds of sentences that will be met with the best response is key. Try something like:

I feel I’m currently working significantly above my pay grade. Is there any scope to look into that?

Or…

Is there an opportunity for a salary review at any point, as I feel I’ve been working above and beyond my remit over the last few months.

No employer in their right mind would misinterpret that as asking for your money to go down – but it’s a subtle way to suggest that you are unhappy with your current salary and how it fits against your responsibilities. It isn’t asking directly for more cash – it’s putting the ball in their court, to work with you to (hopefully) achieve an outcome you’re both happy with.

Be prepared to create a proposal

If your line manager agrees there could be some scope for a pay review, don’t expect it to fall in your lap. It goes back to showing your worth, and on a few occasions I’ve been asked to create proposals for more senior decision makers about what it is I have, and can bring to the table. Demonstrating your skills on paper gives them something tangible and evidence based to tick off their policies and processes. It can be a long journey but it’s worth it. I’ve even been asked to propose a new role that I have been appointed into, and aside from creating my own job description and title, it’s given me a great platform to negotiate money too.


Your relationship with your line manger will of course play a large part in the process, and of course, the financial state of the company you work for. It’s vital to remember that pay increases are about reflecting your responsibilities and being rewarded correctly, and not directly about more cash in your pocket. Talk to your boss like a human being, be honest and open, and prepared to work!

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