The Power of Asking (& Why YOU Need to Do It)


The Power of Asking (& Why YOU Need to Do It)

We talk a lot on Dames in Debt about ways to save money or smart spending, but let’s not also forget another very important piece of the no-debt puzzle: increasing your income. You can scrimp and save all you want, but at some point, you just can’t save any more. It’s unfortunate in this day and age that many of us technically considered “middle class” full-time employees can’t earn enough to live off of our 40 hour a week earnings. The answer?

You need to make more money.

Today’s post is about the quickest, easiest way to increase your earnings: asking your boss for a raise.

There’s a saying that 20% of your efforts result in 80% of the outcome.

My Salary Situation

I work at a non-profit that is notoriously stingy. Nobody here gets paid what they’re worth, but we do it because we believe in the work we do. I can honestly say this job is the closest to a dream job (in terms of job duties) that I’ve been able to swing as of yet. BUT, I’m hired only for a specific project, there’s no upward mobility, I only have a Bachelor’s degree (everyone else has at least a Master’s), and I get paid the least of all of my counterparts who have the same job (due to said Bachelor’s degree limitation). It’s really quite ridiculous when you think about it: why am I not receiving equal pay for equal work? Especially for a job that does not need a higher degree in order to perform well, but that’s another post entirely.

Seems sort of like a barrier to ever getting a pay raise, doesn’t it? The thing I’d really like to emphasize here is YOU WILL NEVER GET A RAISE IF YOU DO NOT ASK.

I once had a coworker who had worked at this business for over 10 years and only once asked for a raise. They believed bosses and managers should reward good work with good pay and help their employees rise and provide mentor-ship. That’s really lovely. And so not the way it works. For their optimistic beliefs they had stagnant wages for years. You need to look our for yourself first. That doesn’t mean you can’t help others, but you have to be in a position to help in the first place.

So back to asking. Just ask.

How to Ask for What You Want

The best time to negotiate a pay raise is when you are offered the job. This is really your one time to get the most out of your salary so do your research and ask what you’re worth. If you’re a woman, add at least $5,000 more to your number – society has raised you to ask for less than your male peers, but you’re worth it, trust me.

But, if like me, you find yourself in the situation of already having a job, your best bet is to have a frank conversation with your boss about compensation. So, prepare: do your research. Go in there with every possible reason you deserve a raise. You did xyz for projects a, b, c and you’ve taken on extra responsibilities and shown your worth by netting the company $$. If like me, your boss just agrees with you and says you deserve more, but there’s just no money, ask again. Ask what you can do to make more money. If you’re tactful, it’s okay to add in a little personal story to show why you are asking now instead of waiting for the usual performance appraisal period. You just don’t want to go in there and whine about things because that’s not the way to get anything. Don’t forget you are an adult.

The Result

And you know what happened when I asked? My boss really tried to find extra things I could do to draw money from other sources. Now on top of my somewhat technical job, I may get to do some graphic design work for some extra cash. Sure it’s not much, but I feel so much better for doing what I could to further my situation and design is something I’ve been wanting to do more of in that job anyway. I still need to find other ways to increase my income, but it is still better than nothing. And now my boss sees and appreciates my efforts that much more.

So my message to you today is this: don’t be scared. Ask.

The very least they can do is say no. Prepare yourself for this outcome and just take it as it comes. You got this.

Good Luck! And for more inspiration on the power of asking, check out Amanda Palmer’s excellent TED talk on the topic here.



  1. Good story! Asking for things can seem so trivial, but its such a powerful way to get what you want. When I was in sales, people would ask me how I managed to do so well. I would tell them: I’d be direct with the customer. If I wanted to close the deal, I’d ask them what we had to do to lock it up. If it was information I was after, I’d ask for it. Things don’t just fall in your lap. Sometimes you’ve got to be assertive to get what you’re after.

  2. I enjoyed reading about your experience! Boldness can be difficult, but in the end, getting a raise would surely be worth any momentary awkwardness suffered.

  3. I have been on both sides of this issue. And while it is an uncomfortable conversation, if you prepare and back up what you’re asking for, no matter what the outcome, you can walk out of the room knowing you did everything you could.

    Over the past few years, that really became my approach at work. You can only control what you do. Things happen. Some good and some bad. Don’t allow your fear of what might happen overcome you and prevent you from doing what you think is right.

  4. Well done! You’re the only one who always has your best interest at heart.
    Silence about salary implies agreement, so now you’re on your boss’s radar as someone willing to work hard and do a good job and who deserves more. The squeaky wheel does get the grease, and I’d bet that this issue hadn’t even crossed your boss’s mind until now.

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