The U.S. unemployment rate is at a 10-year low. In fact, we're at or very near the level known to economists as "full employment."
If you have a job, good news! It is a great time to ask for more money.
Wages are a negotiation. You are an asset to your employer, and it would cost money to replace you. Yet many people fear starting that conversation. There are no guarantees in any salary negotiation, but you probably will not get more money if you don't ask for it.
Here are the six situations where you have the best standing to plead your case for a salary bump. Note: the answer to "Why should I get a raise?" is never "I need more money to make ends meet."
Your budgeting issues are your problem, not your employer's. You need to make the case based on your worth as an employee.
You are switching jobs
Whether it's within your company or with a new company, starting a new job with a new title is the best time to make a significant salary hop. To do this, though, you'll probably need to counter the initial offer. Go into it armed with information on comparable jobs, such as from Payscale or Glassdoor.
You should also feel free to ask your professional contacts what they are making at similar companies or in similar positions.
You have another job offer
Short of actually jumping ship, getting a real offer from another company gives you strong leverage to ask for a raise. So return recruiters' phone calls and send in those applications.
The only caveat is that you must be prepared to take the other job if your employer says no to the raise.
You have made the company a significant amount of money
Making a strong case for a better salary entails quantifying your value to the company. Whether that's in units sold, new business brought in, awards or press mentions, document how you have been associated with the company's success.
You can demonstrate achievement and results commensurate with a higher level of compensation
You may have been hired at one level, but ambitious people grow, learn and take on more responsibility over time. Other times, especially with recent economic upheaval, companies let people go and others take on their work.
If you can document how you are doing the work of someone a few levels above you, you have a strong case to make for a raise.
You have reason to believe you are being underpaid due to your gender or ethnicity
This is a major topic of conversation right now. The UK has instituted a new rule that any company with more than 250 employees must disclose its gender wage gap. For most, it is in the double digits. Many of these companies have employees in the United States as well, so the bright light of scrutiny will be felt on this side of the Atlantic as well.
In addition, statistics here in the U.S. consistently demonstrate that people of color are paid less than their white counterparts for similar work.
Don't get mad, get even! If you are a woman or member of a minority group, try to find out what a white man in a similar position to yours is making, and ask for at least that much.
You are asking at the right time, in the right way
If you're not switching jobs, or coming to the boss with a job offer, the next best time to ask for a raise is during your performance or annual review. Again, it's a good idea to set forth your case in writing, with information about your stellar performance, quantified as well as you can; plus information about the salary range. Finish your memo with a specific ask.
A 2013 study at the Columbia Business Review found that asking for a number like $64,700 was more effective than asking for $60,000. The specific number provided an "anchoring" effect and seemed to put across the idea that more work and research had gone into it.