How to ask for a raise during the pandemic

Jan 20, 2021
min read

2020 was filled with unprecedented changes, especially when it came to industries and businesses. You may have fallen victim to mass layoffs, taken on more responsibility, or committed more time to your work than ever before -- all with little to no career growth. Feeling like you need more but don’t know how to ask for more money? We’ve compiled a list of best practices when addressing the dreaded, uncomfortable compensation conversation. 

Reflect on your industry and organization.

Industry: Before you go too far down the rabbit hole when asking for a promotion, it’s important to take an honest look at your industry. Although tech companies thrived due to the shift to virtual work, industries like hospitality and tourism saw record-breaking downturns. Whichever the situation, be sensitive and transparent about the state of your company. Take a human approach to the conversation and use this opportunity to highlight how you added value to the company during these tremulous times. 

Organization: Your workplace may discuss role changes or compensation annually in a ‘regular’ year, but COVID-19 may have derailed the company’s yearly goals. Be aware of any peaks or cycles of productivity and be strategic about the timing of your request. 

Identify structural changes within your organization. 

Review structural and personnel changes within the last year to give yourself a better understanding of your organization’s current position, both financially and how it measures against competitors. Were these changes planned or were they adjustments due to an unforeseen year? 

Structural changes may be obvious, like a mass layoff or major departmental restructuring. Subtle changes could be the removal of social events or changes to the benefit plan. Look at the changes holistically to get a better sense of your company’s financial stability. 

Know your worth and advocate for it.

This is the crucial component of your conversation with management. Write a speech and practice it, as demonstrating your value to the organization will be your strongest asset in convincing your leaders that you deserve a raise. 

Consider how your responsibilities have changed since COVID-19. Create a high-level outline of the additional responsibilities you’ve taken on and demonstrate how they’ve positively impacted not only the business but your professional growth as well. Also within this speech, be sure to include tangible wins and praise you received from management. 

The data from 2020 will be outdated due to the massive economic shifts. Be prepared to do your research, but be your own advocate. If you are a woman in an underrepresented industry, like the 30% of women in the tech industry, fight harder for your value to the organization, on top of the true value that your performance demonstrates. 

Be proactive about the conversation (and follow-up).

Because many organizations are still recovering from 2020, businesses and managers may not be ready to have the “annual raise” talk. Don’t let the timing deter you, but don’t necessarily expect an immediate response. Be prepared to follow-up and lead continued discussions as more on structural changes, revenue, and annual goals become available to you and your company. 

We all saw a lot of unforeseen changes in 2020 and were forced to adapt in both our personal and professional lives. With the pandemic persisting through 2021, it’s important to prioritize your goals, and continue to advocate for yourself by researching, planning, and facilitating those tough conversations with management to land the promotion you deserve.  

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