We’ve all heard the rally cry of empowerment: “Know your worth, and ask for it!”

Your fist pounds the table and money rains from the sky, right?


We’re wrongly led to believe that showing up and hitting our marks over time will get us a raise. If that doesn’t work, we just meekly point out our past successes to our boss, and hope for the best. If that doesn’t work, we can start making demands, backed up by negotiation tactics, backed up by… nothing.

Next stop: resentment.

Let me encourage you to start playing a different game. A game that guarantees you a raise.

Most likely, you’re not going to bluff your way into a ridiculous raise. Glassdoor be damned: what you’re “worth” is precisely what someone’s willing to pay you. So if your job pays you X and you have no other offers, you’re currently being paid your worth.

To raise your salary, raise your worth.

There are four steps to guaranteeing yourself a raise:

Set expectations.

Attach an outcome.

Exceed expectations.

Have a backup.

Here’s a step by step breakdown.


The first thing to understand is that getting a raise is not about you going up against your employer to get something that they don’t want to give you. Either there’s upward mobility in your role, or there’s not.

This is about you creating a partnership with your boss, wherein both of you are clear on exactly what your path to a raise looks like.

There’s a set of objectives for your current role. There’s another hidden set of bonus objectives that would unlock your raise.

In other words, your raise comes when you start doing the job above the job you currently have. Proactively.

Call a meeting with your boss:

“I’ve been in this role X years earning X salary. As we discussed from day one, I’m adamant about growth and increasing my value to this company. Six months from now, I need to be at X salary… ideally here at this company, because I love it here. What would you need to see from me in that six months, in order to get that salary approved?”

(No personal circumstances are to be referenced in this discussion. Nobody cares that your rent just went up. They care about your contributions and results, so make it about that.)

Let (or help) your boss create a six-month plan defined by a list of objectives.

Simultaneous to this, sneak a peek at step #4 below, and start collecting concrete proof that you are worth the number you’re asking for. Chances are, you’re going to need it.


Once this list of objectives is created, re-confirm that the salary attached to it is aligned with your number.

Depending upon the size of the company, your boss will likely need to consult their boss, and a few layers upward, and over to HR. Have empathy for the your boss while they navigate this red tape, but also politely convey that you’re quite serious about your number, and the timeline.

Pay careful attention to how your superior(s) respond to this conversation. If answers come slowly and vaguely, you have two options: agree with them that perhaps your position is not one of upward mobility, or, skip straight to step 4.

Put a 1:1 on the calendar with your boss, six months from now.


Now it’s time to perform. It’s simple: do everything on the list, plus more.

Record it in writing (military style bullets, no novels), and email it to your boss weekly. Invite their critiques, smile, adjust, and keep crushing.

Whatever the “extras” were, highlight them in a different color. The agreement was the agreement, and you exceeded it.

Do not neglect the role of people skills and likability during this phase. If you crush your objectives but alienate your peers, you’re not getting a raise. Add undeniable value AND add to the culture.


You have now created an immaculate roadmap to your raise, agreed upon by your boss, backed up by a paper trail of your performance, delivered to their inbox weekly. You’re feeling pretty bulletproof.

Not so fast.

At this stage, your boss can deliver the raise as agreed, or (and this is common) they may point to some unforeseen reasons why they’re now powerless to keep their commitment. Plans change, organizations restructure, budgets shift.

Stay cool. You’ve prepared for this, by building out a set of options. Bring into play some real life examples of your value, which you have gathered over the last six months, by getting out into the world and having conversations with companies who need people like you.

A novel could be written about the process of establishing your value, but in summary: The best negotiating tool you have is your other options.

You have leverage, now use it… politely. Any guilt you might have felt about presenting this leverage can be dismissed, because you just spent six months improving your organization, while giving them the chance to retain you.

If they now force you to move on, do it with class.

"The more easily and happily you can walk away from a negotiation, the better your capacity to affect its outcome." - Roger Fisher and William Ury, Getting to Yes