Didn’t Get the Raise You Wanted? What to do Next

If your performance review season came and went without a raise, here's what you need to do.

portrait of Meg Embry
by Meg Embry

Published on March 21, 2022

Edited by Giselle M. Cancio
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Didn’t Get the Raise You Wanted? What to do Next


Has your annual review come and gone without the pay raise you were hoping for? That's a huge bummer. But it's also an opportunity to make some important changes.

Here are five things to do right now if you didn't get the raise you wanted.

1. Ask for Feedback

It's important to ask for feedback about why your raise request was denied. This can feel awkward, but it's the only way to get better results in the future.

And there are a lot of reasons why your employer may decide not to give you a raise. Some of them — like pay equity policies, salary caps, pay raise schedules, or budget allowances — are out of your control.

However, that doesn't mean there's nothing more you can do.

"Even if the company doesn't have the budget for a salary increase, you can seek non-salary benefits that your manager may be more agreeable to," advises Liam Johnson, CEO of The Hitch Store. "You could ask for a one-time bonus or more vacation days in lieu of a raise."

If your raise request was denied because of performance concerns, ask for specific benchmarks you need to reach in order to be approved for a salary increase next time. Is there a skill set you're missing? A level of achievement you need to reach? Metrics you aren't hitting?

Once you have this information, map out a plan of action that will get you where you want to go.

2. Work on Self-Advocacy

It doesn't matter how well you perform if you can't demonstrate the value of your work. You have to build a compelling case that your performance is raise-worthy.

"Make a portfolio of your work so that next time, you can show up with evidence that you deserve a raise," said Dino Ha, CEO at MBX. "Include performance metrics as well as any accomplishments or examples of growth within the company."

How to Build a Portfolio:

Create a document to track your contributions and accomplishments. Update it weekly or monthly. Explain how these contributions and accomplishments satisfy whatever metrics your company uses for wage increases. Measure the impact of your work with numbers and data. If the impact can't be quantified, describe it in your own words. Use anecdotes and positive feedback you have gotten from colleagues to further illustrate your point. Keep a list of any relevant training or upskilling.

Don't wait until your next annual review to draw attention to your contributions, advised Steven McConnell, Director of Exceptional Resume Writers.

"You want top management and decision-makers to see you as deserving of a promotion or raise in the future. Declare when you've worked on something explicitly, and always be on the lookout for opportunities to have your name associated with the work you've done."

That doesn't mean you have to go around tooting your own horn all the time. Make an effort to build a network of people within your organization who will support you, advocate for you, and celebrate your successes publicly. (And be sure to do the same for them.)

3. Aim For a Promotion

Sometimes, even a strong case with lots of evidence that you deserve a raise isn't going to be enough to get you one. At many companies, the only way to get more money is to move up the ladder.

So your next move is to work towards a promotion: How can you step up? What extra responsibilities can you take on? How can you make a bigger impact and get better results?

One hiring manager told us that just being "good at your job" is rarely enough to justify a promotion. You were hired to be good at your job. If you want a promotion, you may need to think about what extra value you can bring to the table.

4. Consider Changing Jobs

But maybe a promotion isn't in the cards for you. Maybe your company can't — or won't — give you the money you want. Maybe it's time you need to leave your job for greener pastures.

If more money is your top priority, job hopping can be the quickest way to get there. According to the latest ADP Workforce Vitality Report for 2021, today's job-changers are enjoying a 6.6% increase in wage growth, compared to the national average wage growth of only 3.3%.

In the late-stage-pandemic economy, employers across many industries are competing for talent by offering better pay, better benefits, and better perks. Job-switchers in information technology, manufacturing, professional services, and finance are seeing the biggest salary gains.

So if you have an in-demand skill set, now is the time to take advantage of a job-seekers market to find a position that will pay what you're looking for.

5. Consider Changing Careers

Finally, it's worth investigating whether you've simply hit the wage ceiling in your current career. If so, it might be time to start thinking about a career change.

Venturing onto a new professional path altogether may sound scary, but you'll be in good company: since the pandemic began, 20% of Americans have changed careers. Another 50% of Americans want to, in large part because they also want to make more money.

At the same time, employers are increasingly making hires based on skills (over and above degrees), which is more good news for industrious folks who are willing to do the upskilling required to break into a more lucrative career.


Feature Image: Klaus Vedfelt / DigitalVision / Getty Images

Dissatisfied with your career? Learn how to recognize the eight signs you're ready for a career change and what steps to take. What is continuing education? Learn about continuing education courses and discover why continuing education is important for professionals. Whether you're looking for an online, in-person, or hybrid coding bootcamp, we've compiled a comprehensive list of the best bootcamps around.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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