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How to Ask for a Raise

career advice career growth how to find an interior design job how to grow an interior design career money matters professional development Sep 27, 2023
Learn how to ask for a raise in interior design

When the Equal Pay Act was passed in 1963, women earned just 59 cents for every dollar men earned for the same work. Today, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that women, on average, earn 82 cents for every man’s dollar, and though that symbolizes some progress and shows that the wage gap between men and women has slowly narrowed over the years, there’s still a clear problem.

It's easy to blame the patriarchy, and though there’s certainly something to such an argument, it isn’t representative of the whole story. Men are simply more comfortable asking for higher salaries and raises across various industries, including interior design.

Studies have shown that men negotiate at rates four times greater than women, and when women do negotiate, they ask for 30% less than their male counterparts would, on average. As a result, they also earn less overall, which often has a compounding effect on their lifetime earnings. Women who fail to negotiate for higher salaries and wages could lose upwards of half a million dollars by the age of their retirement simply because they start out earning less and continue on that lower-earning trajectory throughout their career.

Even if you think you deserve greater compensation, you might not know how to ask for a raise. Because women are often made to feel as though they’re worth less to society, there may be a deeply ingrained feeling of imposter syndrome holding you back, or you might worry that an aggressive negotiating stance will hurt your cause. You may also fear confrontation and rejection.

However, the good news in all of this is that you can overcome these fears and prepare to negotiate for a raise while giving yourself the greatest chance for success. With that being said, here are a few tips to put you on the right path toward knowing the best way to ask for a raise:

Overcome Your Fears

Many women might not consider asking for a raise, even if they think they deserve it, because of a lingering sense of fear. Generally, girls are considered polite, agreeable, accommodating, and most unfortunate of all, quiet.

When women do speak up and rightfully react to unfair situations by voicing their displeasure, they’re labeled emotional, hysterical, or accused of having PMS. In other words, their valid thoughts and feelings are almost immediately dismissed, and when you suffer from that kind of treatment throughout your entire life, it can be hard to overcome the resulting feelings of inadequacy and trepidations toward being ignored.

In truth, however, these scenarios do not only happen to women alone. Men can also develop fears of rejection and failure through their life experiences. Still, regardless of such, the question lies in knowing how to overcome these fears and feel comfortable and confident enough to ask for a raise.

Knowledge is power, after all, so the first thing you need to do is research the average pay for your position to develop a fair pay range backed by statistical data. Understanding your value and why you deserve a raise to create leverage during negotiations is important.

How you negotiate is also important when it comes to getting what you want. As the saying goes, “Well begun is half done,” which means that when you’re well-prepared, you can enter negotiations from a place of confidence, thus empowering you to ask for the raise you want and deserve.

Do Some Research

As you consider how you will ask for a raise, the starting point is typically your current salary. The basis for requesting a raise is that you have gained valuable experience during your time with an employer, but you need a clear understanding of the monetary value that experience equates to.

Average Salary Range

The best time to research salary ranges for your position is before you’re even hired; that way, you can negotiate the highest starting salary. If you haven’t yet done that sort of research, though, it’s not too late. While your current salary will have some bearing on how much of a raise you can reasonably negotiate for, knowing what others in your position earn is excellent leverage.

Websites like PayScale, Salary.com, and Indeed allow you to search for, compare, and calculate salaries. You can start by inputting your position to see what its average salary range looks like, then further explore with additional factors like location, experience, and special skills. Doing so can help you determine a suitable range and provide leverage to back up your request when you ask for a raise.

Additional Experience

Even if you completed salary research at the time of hire and negotiated for a fair starting wage, the numbers may have changed since then, depending on factors like the job market, inflation, and the overall economy.

Additionally, you’ve undoubtedly gained experience and likely acquired new skills that increase your value and the wage you can expect. If you’re seeking a promotion, a new title, and a raise, research the salary range for the position you want and factor in your current experience and skills.

Understand Your Own Value

There are several factors to consider when asking for a raise, but you may want to focus primarily on your value proposition or what you bring to the company, and that starts with your education and experience.

Whether you’ve been with the company for one year or five, you’ve gained valuable experience. With that in mind, if you’re nervous about asking for a raise, start by reviewing your work history and writing down the experience you’ve gained, as if you were adding it to a resume.

Make light of the various projects you have completed and the knowledge and skills you gained that have since made you a more effective and efficient employee. List skills you didn’t have when you were first hired, as well, whether you’ve become proficient with new software or grown adept at managing clients or vendors.

You should also include any additional training or education you’ve received, including completed courses, certificates, or degrees. Any time and effort you put into making yourself a better employee could add to your value when you ask for a raise.

Highlight Your Contributions

Negotiating for a raise is all about proving that you have added value. No company wants to pay more for the same service, but as you gain experience, you thus have more to offer, and you deserve compensation.

Knowing when to ask for a raise is an important aspect of knowing how to ask for a raise, and a good time to approach the subject is when you’ve just delivered a major win for your company.

Whether you’ve closed a prestigious deal with a big client, completed a lucrative project, or negotiated a deal with suppliers that saves your business money, you’ll want to ride that tide of success and the gratitude your employers feel.

Before you approach your employer to request a raise, however, take the time to list your many contributions to the company in the time you’ve been there. Enumerate your accomplishments, whether they pertain to the clients you’ve brought in, the projects you’ve completed, how those projects have contributed to overall earnings or the money you’ve helped the company save, for example.

If your work has contributed to accolades like press coverage or awards for your company, note them. The more you show your inherent value to the company and what they stand to lose if you become a competitor, the greater your leverage when asking for a raise.

Know What You Want and Ask for It

Developing a value proposition is important in determining how to ask for a raise, but you also need to go in with a clear idea of what you want.

With that said, it’s fairly standard practice to request a wage increase of 10-20% above your current salary. Still, it could be more, depending on your negotiating points. You’ll want to account for certain economic factors like inflation and geographic location. In expensive cities like Los Angeles or New York City, for example, larger pay bumps may be warranted.

Next, you’ll need to consider the factors that are particular to you. Ensure you know how long you’ve been with your current company, as you can expect annual raises of about 3% each year to account for inflation. If you have not yet received a raise at the company, these facts are a good place to start.

Your experience, skills, and contributions to the company may also merit increased pay, but if you’ve completed additional education, such as a certification or degree program, you could use it to request more than the standard raise. Requesting a promotion and title change also falls outside normal pay raise limits.

Be Prepared to Negotiate

Your employer may devise many excuses to deny your request for a raise, even when provided with all of the above information. Perhaps there’s no budget for raises, you haven’t proven yourself sufficiently, or other people are in line for raises ahead of you.

That is to say that the best way to ask for a raise is by being prepared to negotiate. Your employer may not want to offer the raise you ask for, but they might be open to negotiating for some kind of pay increase. Make it clear that you’re open to compromise, but have a number in mind that you’re not willing to go below.

Don’t forget, however, that not all compensation is monetary. If the increased salary you want simply isn’t on the table, consider asking for other types of compensation, such as a benefits package (if you don’t have one), stock or equity options, or additional paid time off by way of extra vacation hours or sick leave.

You might be able to negotiate for perks like part-time remote work or even a better title without a raise that could increase your starting pay range if you move to a new company. If your employer holds firm, you may want to consider whether it’s time to seek new opportunities elsewhere altogether.

Take Steps to Increase Your Value

If you want a raise, you have to earn it. Experience gained on the job is worth something, especially if you can tout contributions that have increased profits, savings, or the visibility and prestige of your company.

However, investing in yourself through continuing education is also a great means of increasing your value. Gaining knowledge and skills through continued education is the best way to boost your value and become better at your job, and if you’re wondering when to ask for a raise, a good time is after you’ve completed a certification or degree program. When you overcome your fears, know your value, prepare to negotiate, and invest in yourself, you have the best opportunity to get the raise you deserve.

If you’re looking for information, education, and a design community that can help you advance your interior design career, Behind the Design has it all. Join our community today to learn more.

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