Asking for a raiseAsking for a raise is arguably one of the most dreaded and stressful conversations. It’s right up there with breaking up with your other half and talking about your credit score.

However, hiring in the U.S. is steadily increasing and it may be just the right time to pony up and ask for raise. Need more motivation? Negotiating your salary can lead to a significant increase in earnings over your lifetime.

When asking for a raise timing is everything
Take into consideration when raises are typically granted at your company. Is it tied to your anniversary date? The end of your fiscal year? If your employee handbook does not spell it out for you, there’s nothing wrong with asking your manager, “If I ever wanted to talk about my salary, how and when would that happen?”

That said, don’t wait until your annual review to ask for a raise. Present your case early. There’s typically an allocated budget for raises and introducing the conversation early can ensure you get a bigger slice of the pie. More on the best times to ask for a raise.

Build a solid argument around the value you deliver
When asking for a raise, you might be tempted to bring up the fact that you have not had a raise in 2 years, you have personal reasons for needing more money or you just found out a coworker earns more than you. Resist the temptation. These things have nothing to do with whether you deserve a raise or not. When asking for a raise make a solid argument that is built upon your tangible accomplishments and hard work. Keep a log of major accomplishments, new responsibilities, awards and any recognition you’ve received throughout the year and bring these to the negotiating table. Focus on things you have accomplished and leave out things you plan or promise to do. Prove yourself and then ask the raise.

Be prepared to name a figure
You do not necessarily have to ask for a specific dollar amount or percentage when you ask for a raise, but you should be prepared to answer the question. Do research prior to the meeting. Find out the average percentage increase for your industry and positions in your field. There are lots of online tools to help you.

Keeping these things in mind, here’s a great example of what asking for a raise might sound like
“I was hoping we could discuss my salary. I have taken on quite a few new responsibilities this year, such as [fill in the blank]. Now that I have been doing these things for a while and showing success, I’d like to discuss increasing my salary to a level that reflects these increased contributions.”

When it comes to asking for a raise the best thing you can do is be professional and straightforward. After you have asked for a raise, be prepared for a yes or a no answer. A no does not mean no forever. It just means no right now. Be prepared to ask what you can do to earn a raise in the future. And remember, never give an ultimatum.  It’s unprofessional and you may not like the final answer.