May 24

How to ask for pay raise after probation


I passed my probation in May 2020, amidst COVID. That afternoon, as we sat over Zoom, I was fearful she would sack me.

My director pointed out some things I could improve.

Was this when she was going to tell me that she wasn’t going to pass me?

It wasn’t.

She gave me a chance to improve.

4 months, later, I asked for a payrise in September 2020.

Asking for a payrise can make you feel like you’re constantly under the microscope
Asking for a payrise can make you feel like you’re constantly under the microscope

I still remember the day in September 2020, when I typed that email requesting for a payrise to my boss, almost as if it were yesterday.

I was shivering.

I was scared. But I wanted more.

Drafting it out in a Word document, I wrote,

Dear XYZ,

Thank you for passing my probation.

Over the past few months, I believe I’ve added to the team in two key ways.

Firstly, I opened partnerships with the likes of DBS, MINDS, and AMKFSC.

In addition, I’ve also improved your digital capabilities by piloting the Digital Enhancements Team.

Seeing these improvements, I hope that I can have a 9% increase in salary.

My director immediately called me.

When I asked, and got the payrise

She told me,

Here, we often increase salaries by 2.5 to 5%, not by 9%.

I’m willing to increase it by 2.5%.

You might have passed your probation with flying colors, and you now want more. Give yourself a pat on the back. You’ve done well.

Being willing to ask can be one of the toughest things to do, especially when you think you’re just doing your job.

When I asked one of my colleagues how she asked for a payrise, she told me,

Actually, in my 11 years here, I’ve never asked for a payrise.

That was what made me see that before you ask for anything, you need to first believe in the value you bring.

If you don’t see your own value, no one will see it

Sometimes, it can be hard asking for a payrise because of your own self-limiting beliefs.

You might tell yourself,

Ah, anyone can do this.

To that I say,

But not everyone will take action.

The difference is not the ‘can’, but the ‘can, and will take action’.

Or you might say,

This isn’t deserving of a payrise.

You should then go to a comparison site like Glassdoor to see what your peers in a different company, but the same industry are getting.

If you’re afraid of asking for more, just ask for what others are asking for.

How do you overcome this self-limiting belief?

Ask yourself what you’re afraid of

You might feel like you’re working more and more, for no extra money.
You might feel like you’re working more and more, for no extra money.

Firstly, ask yourself what you’re afraid of. What’s the worst that could happen? When I first thought about asking for more, I was afraid of:

  1. Not being liked
  2. My boss sacking me

But then when I thought more about it, the worst that could happen was them saying no.

You could live with that.

What is your ideal salary?

More importantly, I think it’s vital that you ask yourself how much your ideal salary is.

When I was in my fulltime job, I realised that it would take an approximate 47 years on that salary before I would retire comfortably.

I didn’t want that. And the key to that, was asking for more.

Keep your track record

If you’ve done anything notable, keep track.

It’s not just about ignoring what you do at your job, and trying to do extra things so that you can be seen as the outperformer.

In fact, I would encourage you to do your job well, first.

Doing a great job is key

In my first fulltime job, I was always complaining.

Why doesn’t my boss seem to recognise all the things I do?

When I was issued with my Performance Improvement Plan, my boss said,

John, maybe sometimes instead of doing extra, you should just try to follow the job description first.

Sometimes, just do the basics and don’t talk too much
Sometimes, just do the basics and don’t talk too much

That was when I finally saw how important it was to do the basics first, before trying to do extra.

Doing the basics well means:

  1. Reading your job description
  2. Knowing what each task looks like
  3. Knowing when you need to submit each task
  4. Knowing how outperformance on that task looks like

If you don’t know, ask.

Dissociate hard work from money

In school, we were taught this equation,

Work = money.

Yet if you look at the cleaning assistant at your workplace, no one can say he does less work than the CEO.

But he earns less.

Recognising what the driver of value for your role is, whatever you’re doing, is essential for you to finally show your boss the value you bring.

Not all work is made equal. For example, if you were a front-end developer,

  1. knowing how to make the site laser fast,
  2. Making the site user-friendly

is going to be far more important than you trying to custom code a new interface.

It’s the value you leave behind, not just the value you bring

Why are you so afraid of asking for more?
Why are you so afraid of asking for more?

When I was studying in the U.K., my speaking coach asked me how much I thought I was worth.


He shook his head.


By now, I was afraid. Surely this was stretching it? How could I be worth £100, just for opening my mouth?


He declared.

If as a result of what you say, everyone is able to be 10% more productive, don’t you think you’re worth more than the sandwiches they ordered for the company?

My speaking coach then added,

Its not the value you bring, but the value you leave behind.

Really, it’s not just how much value you provide upfront.

But if as a result of what you do, you create systems that allow the company to continuously bring value, you would have won.


Don’t discount yourself

Recently, I met my friend. I was sharing about how I was afraid of asking for more money. He shared this analogy.

You know how there are hawkers who make noodles by hand?

They always have long queues, and aren’t able to serve those queues.

People leave.

And they are still working Monday to Sunday, 7 days a week, 10 hours a day.


Because they want to. Part of them is scared that if they raised their prices, everyone would suddenly leave. And they would have no more jobs.

Are you scared of being worth that much? You might discount yourself, so that you don’t have to live up to the responsibility of delivering more, at a greater value.

Don’t keep yourself stuck. Up your game.



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