Skip to main contentA logo with &quat;the muse&quat; in dark blue text.
Advice / Succeeding at Work / Money

4 Times You're Allowed to Ask for a Raise Before Your Annual Review (Without Getting Laughed At)

boss and employee
Johnny Grieg/Getty Images

When you start a job, you usually get the scoop on how and when your performance and your salary will be evaluated. Even though the protocol is changing in a lot of organizations, plenty of companies still subscribe to the annual review and merit increase methodology. And for a lot of people, those 12 months can seem interminable, particularly when you’re working your butt off.

If your place of work is one that follows the one-year rule, what are your options? Are you ever allowed to ask for a raise before your review? Yes. Of course you are. You may not get the salary bump you seek, but you don’t need permission to ask for one. I say if you can make the case, then you must.

Here are four situations to give it your best shot.

1. You’re Rocking Your First Six Months in A New Job

You took a new job, and you agreed to a salary review in a year. But six months in, you’re killing it! Your colleagues are telling you they’re thrilled you’re on board. Your manager is looking like a rock star for hiring you, and you’re getting every deliverable out the door with time to spare.

If you’re meeting and exceeding expectations in your first year, it can't do much harm to check in with the boss and see if that one-year raise timeline can be accelerated based on your stellar performance. But be 110% sure that you're blowing your boss away before you initiate this conversation. As Muse writer Jennifer Winter points out, “determining if you're exceeding or simply meeting expectations is harder than it may sound, and requires a lot of honest self-assessment,” but understanding the difference may save you from an awkward conversation.

2. You Just Got Recruited

If you’re getting pinged from recruiters, it’s a sign the market may be heating up and that there’s a demand for your kind of talent and expertise. Your current employer may have no idea that your skills are growing in demand and that your abilities are becoming highly coveted. This is where you show your boss that your compensation is no longer competitive based on industry standards.

I’m not talking about throwing the fact you’ve got a better offer in his face, or threatening with an ultimatum. That’s what we call poor form. Instead, do the research on sites like,, or, and bring the evidence that other companies are paying more than what you’re getting paid for work that’s similar.

Here’s how you can approach your manager on this sensitive subject without being obtuse: “Miranda, I’ve been reflecting on the contributions I’ve made this year, and how much I’ve contributed to financial analysis on the ACME and Standard projects. I helped identify specific ways to grow revenue and increase margins by over 20%. I believe these contributions, as well as a shift in what the market is paying for positions like these, merit a review of my salary.”

3. You’re A Unicorn

Perhaps you started you job thinking you were going to focus on one particular thing, like software engineering. As time went on, you realized you have a ton of other skills that are being leveraged. Your boss loves that you possess competence in both tech and soft skills. You consistently get feedback on how amazing your unique and valuable skill set is. You’re a software engineer who can do much more than generate code at a rapid pace. In fact, it turns out that you’re kind of a tech savant who can also lead the masses, helping influence and lead your co-workers to deliver the mission and vision your team projects.

You may be in a position to easily work around the annual raise if this is the case. Remind your boss how well you can handle any number of tricky situations, influence and lead others to deliver results, and in general, make his life easier. If you make a good case and steer clear of being arrogant, you’ll probably have your manager’s attention—and maybe his approval and sign-off for a salary increase!

4. You Heard Somebody Else Got An Off-Cycle Raise

Sure, raise conversations are supposed to be confidential. But when has anyone ever adhered to that rule? So you heard someone else got an off-cycle raise. That means a couple things. One, there’s funding. Maybe the company had a really good quarter, or a good year. Two, there’s manager discretion to dole it out.

Asking for a raise is always contingent upon making a case about your value proposition. So if you’ve gone the extra mile, over-delivered, and nailed every goal, it might be prudent to approach your supervisor about a bump, especially when you know off-cycle raises are going on around you. This is a perfect example of striking while the iron is hot.

You certainly don’t have to wait until a formal review to talk salary. And any time you do, bring facts, figures, and value to the conversation. Do the research and know what the market is paying. Clearly articulate your value proposition and how you’ve helped the company—and your boss—deliver the goods. I mean what’s the worst that could happen? They say no.

If all else fails and you know you’re worth more than you’re getting, the best way to get a raise may be to pursue other opportunities. Don’t be foolhardy, though, and do your research to make sure that’s the best decision for you. And always, whether you’re asking for a raise, or planning your departure, do so professionally, respectfully, and with all bridges intact.