Thinking about the future: how to ask for a pay rise

  • Last updated 09 Dec 2016


If you’re starting a training scheme like an apprenticeship or school leaver programme, your pay will be fixed for a certain amount of time, but in the not-so-distant future you’ll progress into a more traditional employment position. The same goes for those of you heading to university, even if it’s just part time work during your studies, or employment after you graduate, the ability to confidently (and effectively!) ask for a pay rise is something that will stand you in good stead.

Here are the main points to consider before taking the (admittedly fairly intimidating) plunge. 

Always do your research

We’d all like to be on a premier league footballer’s salary, but you definitely won’t convince your boss to give you a fantasy figure. Instead, get a sense of whether you really are undervalued within your company by asking around – find out what colleagues are paid, and look at job adverts to judge how much competitors pay similar employees.

If you have one, speak to your human resources department - they might be able to tell you how pay increases are calculated within your company, for example, lower-paid employees get priority for a raise.

Timing is key

Just apply common sense: don’t try and have the conversation during particularly busy times, or Monday mornings/Friday afternoons. Ideally use a pre-existing meeting, such as monthly progress updates or bi-annual reviews. If you can’t wait, or none of these are scheduled then simply ask for a one-to-one meeting. That way you’ll have time and privacy to properly discuss your proposal.

Make your argument clear

Use clear examples to demonstrate how you’ve gone beyond your basic job description and added value to the business: outline instances where you’ve taken initiative, improved business or supported the wider team. Remember: your goal is to convince your boss that you really are worth a higher salary.

Follow up

Put whatever is agreed or discussed into writing. If your boss says they don’t have the budget for a pay increase at the moment, or don’t think you’ve yet proven you are worth more money, then ask them to confirm when that could possibly change, or what you need to do to increase your worth. Jot it all down in an email to them, so you have it for future reference.


Whatever the outcome, make sure you are gracious and interested in hearing the answer. If the answer is no, take on board comments about what you could do differently and really make an effort to meet those expectations.

Remember to always thank your boss for the conversation, whatever the outcome. 

Read more:

Living on minimum wage

Apprenticeship wages: what to expect

Image courtesy of Fabian Blank

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