How to Ask for a Raise

by Julie McNeney on Apr 01, 2005

Discover key strategies for seeking and getting the raise you want.

Read any major publication and you will see that times are tough: The dollar is not doing so well, businesses are becoming more cautious about hiring new staff, and many employers are trying to figure out how to eliminate positions of well- established employees, because they cost the companies so much.

What does this actually have to do with you and the fitness industry? Everything if you want to ask for a raise. Even if you have knees and abs of steel, they are likely to become sheer mush at the thought of asking your employer for more money.

The following strategies will help you determine your value to your fitness organization and help you decide how to ask for a raise so that it will end in a pay increase.

Know Your Value

Reflection is a key element when approaching your employer to ask for a raise. The term justification is sure to arise in your meeting, so taking the time to reflect on your accomplishments and challenges over the past year will help you create a game plan.

When considering how to ask for a raise, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are my classes getting bigger?
  • Are my students telling me how great my classes are?
  • Do I have a waiting list for personal training clients?
  • Did I further my education and value to the company?
  • Have I achieved the goals that I set at my last performance review?
  • Have I attended continuing education events that have broadened my knowledge and skill base?
  • Have I filled in for colleagues when they were on vacation or sick? Have I helped train new staff members?
  • Did I volunteer my time in the community by leading warm-ups at fun runs or giving educational presentations for community groups?

If you can’t come up with a list of reasons for your raise, you may wish to ask trusted colleagues or family members what they think you have achieved over the past year. If they, too, have trouble, you might want to reconsider requesting an increase.

Know Your Industry

To ensure you’re not caught off-guard when you ask for a raise, make sure you prepare well. The following steps will help you:

Establish what the various industry wages are in your area. Remember that wages in New York have little to do with wages in Boise, Idaho, so look for examples that reflect your situation. To help you create your value profile, check with more than one information source. Possible sources include the IDEA Fitness Industry Salary Survey 2004 (see July– August 2005 IDEA Fitness Journal), www. or www.healthcarejobs .com. You can also search for “fitness instructors’ salary survey” or “personal trainers’ salary survey” on the Internet to get a broader perspective on what the industry pays.

To determine wages closer to home, network with local colleagues. You can also network the next time you are at a national conference. Be prepared to share what you are being paid.

Know Your Company’s Policies

Wrong place, wrong time. That’s how many people who ask for a raise feel when their requests are rejected. You can avoid being turned down if you know your company’s policy on raises. Consider if there’s a best time to ask for an increase—for example, after the January rush, when the organization is flush with money, as opposed to December or the summer, when business might be slower.

If you do not know your company’s policy, use your first meeting with upper management to learn the policies and procedures for pay raises. Make sure you are absolutely clear on what is expected of you to receive an increase.

Know the Economic Climate

When researching pay rates, you might also want to do some research on the fitness industry overall. Is it seeing record profits? Are more people joining fitness facilities? More specifically, are more people joining your club? Are you part of the reason why? You must also take into account the national and local economies. Are you in the midst of a recession or an economic boom? These factors all play a part in your request for more money.

If you teach, you need to know if you have more people attending your classes. If you do not keep a class attendance log, start today. Record whether you have seen a dramatic increase or decrease in business in the past 3 months. For example, do you have a waiting list for personal training clients? As a professional, it is your responsibility to know the numbers and to make the case for your raise.

Know the Meeting

When the meeting time finally arrives, make sure you are prepared for the expected and the unexpected. Preparing to ask for a raise is like preparing for a chess match. It’s all about knowing your opponent and being able to implement a winning strategy. Failing to prepare is like going into a class or a training session, “winging it” and hoping for the best.

To prepare, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you know your supervisor’s management style?
  • Is he or she the type who will

1. get to the point right away, expecting you to be fully prepared, or

2. want to meet over lunch, socialize and have fun before you get to the point?

This knowledge is critical and can make or break how the meeting will go.

Right-to-the-Point Manager. Use these tips for success:

  • Prepare your information in a professional, easily accessible manner. You may even want to give your manager a written copy of the key points.
  • Role-play the meeting beforehand with someone you trust.
  • Take a list of questions to engage your manager, and work on your listening skills so you can really pay attention to what he or she is saying.
  • Be on time and radiate confidence.

Socializing Type of Manager. Use these tips for success:

  • Develop a meeting agenda and give it to your manager in advance. Make sure you take a copy to the meeting as well, to ensure you stay on track.
  • Be prepared. Have everything written down.
  • Be on time.
  • Keep to the point. You don’t want to discover that your time is up and you did not have a chance to talk about your raise.
  • Prepare written information about your value to the company and the goals you have achieved in the past year. Have this ready to give your manager if he or she wants to “think” about your request or read over your points.

If the meeting isn’t going as well as you’d like, you might also want to ask your manager what he or she feels your contributions have been over the past year.

If You Can’t Get a Raise

If your request is declined, be gracious and professional:

  • Thank your manager for meeting with you.
  • Do not get angry with the manager. Be careful, because even a change in body language can change the mood of the meeting from good to bad.
  • Ask when you might be able to set up another meeting to discuss a wage increase. If the manager does not want to set up a meeting, ask permission to follow up in 6 months.
  • Ask if you can be compensated in other ways—for instance, by receiving funds to attend a workshop or getting a complimentary membership for an additional family member.

overcoming objections

Once you have established your strategy, you will also want to consider the objections that might arise. Here are some possibilities and ways to counter them.

Manager: “There is no money in the budget for raises at this time.”

Your Response: “Thank you for your honesty. Would it be possible to stagger the raise over time, or is it appropriate that I set another meeting with you in 2 months?”

Manager: “I am swamped right now and do not have time to deal with this.”

Your Response: “I can appreciate how busy you are, so could we set a meeting at a time that would be better for you?”

Manager: “Didn’t we give you a raise last year?”

Your Response: “Yes, you did, but in the last few months I have made significant contributions to the company that I feel warrant your consideration for a raise.”

Fitness Journal, Volume 2, Issue 4

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© 2005 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.

About the Author

Julie McNeney

Julie McNeney IDEA Author/Presenter

Julie Milner is the chief operating officer for the International Council on Active Aging, the 2002 National Mall Peepre Award Winner, the 1999 IDEA Program Director of the Year and a New Balance Sponsored Athlete. She was vice president of marketing at The Fitness Group in Vancouver, British Columbia, for 23 years.