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Do you ever wish you could make more money? Of course you do. One recent study by Payscale, which surveyed 30,000 salaried workers in the United States, showed that only 8 percent of employees were satisfied with their pay — yet only 43 percent of participants asked for a raise or tried specifically to get one. The problem is even worse among millennials. Only 37 percent of millennials have ever asked for a raise.
People long for higher salaries and more benefits, but they get stuck because they don’t take practical actions to earn those increases. They believe it would take too much effort, or feel uncomfortable asking for a raise, or believe that they simply aren’t worth the extra money. But in reality, leveling up your salary is easier than you think.
Here are five simple tips that can help you increase your salary:
1. Learn what you’re really worth.
Before you ask for a raise, enter a salary negotiation, or even decide whether you’re paid “enough,” you need to do the research. You may suspect you should be making more money, but without objective evidence backing your claims, your bosses won’t have much reason to pay you more money. There are many online resources dedicated to gathering and providing data about salaries throughout the world, including Glassdoor, Salary, and job hunting sites like Indeed, so spend a few hours examining what people like you in places like yours make per year.
Related: How to Talk Pay and Negotiate a Better Salary
You should also consider talking to your coworkers about what they make. The National Labor Relations Act protects your right to discuss your salary with other employees. You might find out you make substantially more– or less — than your counterparts.
2. Know how to negotiate.
Many professionals are intimidated to negotiate, but the value of negotiation is enormous. Failing to negotiate a salary early in your career could have a lifetime cost of between $500,000 and $1 million in lost income. The basic principles are easy to learn. Make sure you ask for more than you think you can get (but not too much more), arm yourself with facts, be prepared to stand your ground, and don’t be afraid to face rejection. You can practice your negotiation skills with smaller, less significant events, like negotiating a price at a flea market or negotiating chores with your kids.
3. Note achievements and tie them to value.
Simply noting what people in similar positions make probably won’t be enough to earn you the raise you want. Instead, it’s more effective to note special achievements you’ve had, and tie them to a specific value for the company. For example, instead of arguing that you’ve been a “good salesperson” for the past several years, point out that you’ve secured the company $100,000 in additional revenue this year, and have also started an initiative that improved sales productivity by 10 percent. The more specific you are, and the closer you can get to monetary benefits for the company, the better.
Related: Fixing the Pay Gap Starts With Your Salary Negotiation Skills
4. Focus on skills, education and certifications.
You can also increase your worth — and therefore your salary — by improving your skills, education and certifications. As a simple example, the median salary for someone with a bachelor’s degree is $69,260, while the median salary for someone with a doctoral or professional degree is $98,940. You may also be able to learn new skills or apply for new certifications within your business. It might cost you some extra time and money, but your new value as a worker will be more than worth it.
5. Master the art of timing.
When asking for a raise, try to work on your sense of timing. Don’t ask for a raise immediately after the company gets some bad news, or when you know money is tight, or even when your boss appears to be in a bad mood. Instead, wait until you’ve accomplished something especially significant, or wait until the end of the year, after a glowing performance review. Make sure you ask your boss in person, when they have plenty of time to hear your request and no special circumstances that could interfere with your chances of getting it.
What not to do.
In addition to following the preceding tips, there are some important things to avoid at all costs:
Don’t express a personal need. The average 1-3 percent bump most workers get every year is called a “cost of living raise,” but managers don’t really give raises because they want to help you afford your cost of living; it’s a way to remain competitive in a market where all costs and compensation is rising. Don’t ask for a raise by reasoning that you need the money, even if you’re genuinely struggling. You aren’t likely to get it.
Avoid ultimatums. There isn’t much data out there to demonstrate the effectiveness of ultimatums in salary negotiations, but common advice from managers cautions you to avoid them. If you tell your boss you want a raise or you’re going to quit, they just might call your bluff.
Related: Millennials Are Breaking the One Big Salary Taboo — and It’s Changing How Companies Operate
Don’t compare yourself with coworkers. It’s helpful to talk to your coworkers about what they’re currently making, but don’t use that information as direct ammunition. Complaining that “Jeff makes more than you do,” isn’t as persuasive as demonstrating why you’ve earned the right to a higher salary.
If these strategies aren’t working for you, don’t worry, there are plenty of other options. You could pick up a side hustle and make an extra line of revenue, or even consider changing careers if you’re truly not making what you’re worth. Your salary is dependent on your actions and your resolve, so if you’re truly committed to making more money, you’ll invariably find a way.