Jason Azocar February 08 15 min read

How to Successfully Ask for an Off-Cycle Raise

Talking to your manager or leadership about a raise can be nerve-racking business. But so can starting a new role elsewhere if you’re peeking at other job postings or getting reached out to from other organizations simply for a hike in pay. It’s important to productively express your value and ask for a raise if you feel it’s justified vs. waiting until you’re burnt out. Here’s how to discover if you’re ready for this conversation, and how to prepare accordingly.

First, Understand Merit Increase Cycles 

Many organizations handle this process differently, and measure merit increases with varying formulas. Most organizations will offer up to a 3% merit increase of an employee’s base salary each year depending on manager and self evaluations, as well as company performance. Due to this common process, many employees have become conditioned to bank on a raise each year. 

However, with the past few years being extremely challenging on businesses and our economy, those merit increases weren’t a given for many. So if you’re feeling like you’re bordering on burn out, delivering value, and have been holding out for a better outcome during performance review periods, now may be the time to advocate for yourself. But first, let’s be sure you’re prepared to have a successful conversation before squeezing in a flippant, overly-confident, or nerve-racked request for a raise. 

 

Flip Your Perspective

The best exercise besides preparing your talking points is to first understand the perspective of your manager, leadership, and the business. You may very well be fully deserving of a raise, but it’s important to reflect on what the business has been through, what’s the financial success of the business, what sort of processes and red tape your manager may need to jump through to advocate for your raise, etc. 

We’re not saying don’t ask just because it may be a funky time of year for revenue, or because your boss is incredibly busy. This is just a great exercise to prepare your headspace before having a discussion so that you are ready for any sort of response. You may very well hear, “We’re having a tough quarter, which can compound in the coming quarters so we need to keep costs lean and increase sales,” or “I will absolutely take your request and my recommendations to Leadership and HR, however, do note my budget is set for the year, so it will be a discussion and a process.” The more prepared you are not  to hear a, “YES of course, immediately,” the more you can calibrate your reaction with the course of the conversation.

Also, you’ll want to be sure that you objectively analyze if your request for more money is justified vs. emotional before you ask others to go to bat for you. How has your performance been? Your attitude? Your contribution? What has the feedback been in your 1:1s lately? How do you compare to market rates?

 

Tenure Doesn’t Always Equal Value

Just one more disclaimer to ensure we’re providing you with checks and balances before we dive into preparations. If you’re only equating deserving a raise to tenure at the moment, you’re not ready to have this discussion. Your time contribution to the organization is incredibly important, but time simply doing the job you were hired for doesn’t always inherently equal deserving of a raise, especially if it’s an off-cycle request. Time spent contributing to the culture, impacting revenue and results, etc. does. Really reflect on the perception of your work and the value you bring to the organization as a whole, bring metrics, find examples. Tenure can absolutely be a talking point, but having more talking points about your impact will strengthen your argument. Still feeling emphatic about your deservingness? Great - we know you’re a rockstar! 

Now, let’s take that confidence into your prep phase.

 

Preparing Your Talking Points 

You get one shot to nail this conversation, so preparing well is incredibly important. Beyond amping yourself up to have this chat, and practicing anecdotes in the mirror, consider the following tips:

  1. Reflect on Your Request - What kind of raise are you requesting? Using the proper lingo will showcase your business acumen, and frame the conversation so your manager can get on the same page quickly. Anytime you’re asking for a raise outside of performance evaluation timeframes, you’re asking for an off-cycle salary increase. Now, are you needing a market adjustment based on your skills, standard of living, and what other organizations are paying? Are you desiring a merit or performance-based raise due to exceptional contributions? Both? This will help you prepare you to collect the proper information and talking points.

  2. Do Some Market Analysis - Justifiable requests that are backed by data are less refutable, so be sure to take time to research what your role is worth in the market. You can utilize tools such as Salary.com or Payscale.com, but be sure you’re being realistic and comparing apples to apples when pulling your data. During your research, make sure to utilize proper filters such as your location (so that cost of living is encompassed), company size, privately held or public organizations, proper years of experience, most common title for the position, and more. It’s important to not only ask for commensurate compensation, but to be fair to your organization that you’re comparing wages to that of companies of their size and structure. The more realistic your comparative data, the less likely they’re to argue its merit. You don't want to hear, "apples and oranges..." anywhere in this conversation.

    Once you’ve found a justifiable range, come up with a round number of what you’re looking to receive. Consider the amount and percentage increase, keeping in mind that 3%-10% is a considerable jump during average economic circumstances, and performance review cycles. Don’t lead in with your number, just have it in mind if you are directly asked.

    For niche specialities and skill sets within HubSpot, our talent search specialty, we’ve compiled data from working with our customers and candidates as well as polling the HubSpot community in order to get a more comprehensive look at current market rates for some of the most popular career paths. Be sure to utilize our 2021 HubSpot Ecosystem Salary Guide to add to your research, especially as the demand for HubSpot talent continues to soar

  3. Build Your Case - Now that you know how to frame your request and you have a number and percentage in mind for a salary target, you will also want to build your personal case of anecdotes, and facts to back up your request. Be sure to reflect on your contributions, and document:

    • What big wins have you had lately? What data do you have to support? Be sure to think of any projects or deliverables that have impressive results; anything that can be quantified is a gold.
    • How do you contribute above and beyond not only to your role, but for the team, the organization, and if applicable, your clients?
    • How have your efforts in your role and within the organization contributed directly or indirectly to revenue? If you are in a non-revenue generating role, get creative. How are you protecting the bottom line or improving efficiencies?
    • What have you completed to continuously learn and improve? Have you collected more certifications from HubSpot Academy? Have you read X amount of self development books? Have you taken a Google, Meta or Moz certification? Have you mentored and shadowed someone in the organization? Have you attended a conference?
    • What have you done to contribute to the business? Are you bringing fresh ideas on how to improve the culture or processes? Are you involved in committees? 
    • What positive feedback have you collected from your 1:1s, from your peers and from your clients? Document instances, compliments, and stories.

Once you’ve reflected on all of the above, be sure to document all of your findings and aggregate all of your supporting evidence such as screenshots of graphs, reports, metrics and more. Don’t back down if you don’t have a reply to every question, this is just a list to help you get brainstorming. 

 

The Conversation

Yes, it’s now time for a conversation. We’ve seen some suggestions to write a letter or an email, but that’s certainly not our recommendation. This sort of request deserves the respect of a face-to-face, even if a video call, and also provides you the avenue to showcase your professionalism, talk through your case, and show conviction. A letter feels like the easy way out, a bit antiquated, and easier for your request to get swept under the rug. 

Here are some best practices that we suggest for your actual discussion:

  • Scheduling - Be sure to set a meeting with your direct people manager. Don’t try to truncate a standing 1:1 with this conversation. (Definitely don’t skip over your boss by going to their manager or HR business partner. You can loop those parties in if no follow-up occurs post-discussion.) Oftentimes your standing 1:1 agenda will encroach on your time, and the last thing you want to do is scramble during this conversation. Request a meeting or even a coffee or lunch, giving your manager the opportunity to focus solely on your request.
  • Shoot Straight - Don’t beat around the bush. Tee up the conversation succinctly and set the stage for your request. State exactly what it is you’re setting the time for, then come in with justification. Be sure to offer time for responses and questions vs. delivering a long winded monologue. You want this to be a conversation, not a soap box delivery.
  • Refrain from Emotional Deliveries & Using Entitled Language - Make sure you work on your headspace before going into the conversation - maybe try a quick session on mindfulness apps, some power poses, some positive affirmations, or listen to a song that hypes you up. Prepare yourself mentally for any course the conversation may take so you can stay even keel regardless of the reaction you receive. Chances are, if you’ve taken the checks and balances we’ve already given you seriously, you’re more than qualified to have this conversation. Come in with a calm presence, humility, stick to the facts, and breathe.

    Make sure that no matter how the conversation goes, do not use entitled, aggressive language or body language exhibiting that you’re on the defensive. You may think you deserve a raise and truly do, but remember to keep perspective of the situation, and the business. How you react is pivotal in being offered future opportunities.
  • Close with Graciousness - No matter how the conversation ends, be sure you maintain a graceful response. If you receive positive news, do not gloat. If you do not get a straight answer, understand there’s processes your manager must go through to go to bat for you. If you receive immediate news that a raise just isn’t in the cards for this budget cycle, keep your reaction positive and graceful in order to protect your personal brand. Your professional response and gumption to hold the conversation is surely to pop you to the top of your boss’s list for merit increases the next green light they get. 


Now that you’re prepared with your talking points, and how to conduct the conversation, you’re ready to advocate for yourself. Knowing your worth is critical, and if you feel like you have brought immense value to your organization, and your skill set is in demand, it’s completely worth a shot before daydreaming about that greener grass. If you’re looking for more tips to prepare, Glassdoor has a great resource to guide you through the process as well. 

Don’t forget to download our 2021 HubSpot Ecosystem Salary Guide if you’re a HubSpot Rockstar. This data will deepen your justification for a market adjustment raise since it's specific to your skill set, and not generalized across digital marketing as a whole, but the HubSpot community itself.

You’ve got this.

Download the HubSpot Ecosystem Salary Guide