I always create a test Zoom for myself before important meetings so I can assess and rearrange as necessary, and Singletary does the same. Turn on the camera and see how your background looks—is there too much headroom? Does it look like something’s coming out of your head? You don’t want anything distracting your supervisor when trying to ask for a raise or promotion.
Create a system with your housemates before key calls.
Obviously, virtual meetings can sometimes be difficult with small kids—we’ve all seen the viral proof—or any type of housemate, but Singletary suggests putting a system into place to use during important remote events. “Create a rule to use before you have a power conversation tell the other people in the house, ‘Listen, I’m going to be on this conversation for X amount of time. I need you guys to be quiet [and] not knock on the door.’” By sorting that out ahead of time, you remove a potential distraction and can talk to your supervisor from a position of power.
Look the part…from the waist up.
By now we all know the rules of dressing for Zoom, and they usually include sweatpants on the bottom, professional shirt on top. If you want to put on real pants, wonderful. But no matter how casual your company’s vibe, take some extra care in dressing for a big conversation. You still have all those work shirts hanging up in your closet right? Grab one. Singletary suggests paying close attention to your hair and makeup as well, so you present yourself in the most professional light.
Seek out your mentors.
“If you’re going to be asking for a raise or a new position, I’d suggest talking it out,” Singletary says. “I think everybody, no matter where they are in their career, needs a workplace mentor—or a couple different mentors.” In her case, Singletary says, she’s been fortunate to have people at work she can bounce ideas off of and ask for advice on the best way to approach getting what you deserve. Singletary recalls an instance during which she went to one of her own mentors—a man—after she thought she’d had a particularly good year and asked him, straight up, how to get more money.
He told her, simply, that men come in and ask for whatever they want with no guilt and she should do the same. “He said, ‘Don’t ever feel like you shouldn’t ask for what you want.’ And ever since that conversation, that’s what I do.” And if she’s not positive she’ll get it? “I still ask.”
Although you can’t pop into a mentor’s office or ask them to coffee, it’s worth setting up a separate chat with a colleague you know is in your corner before you approach your boss. It’ll not only boost your confidence, but they can serve as a sounding board if you need to practice your pitch.
Let your boss know the agenda.
Learning how to ask for a raise over Zoom includes some additional meeting prep work. Planning your talking points is a given, but a method Singletary relies on is sharing at the top of the meeting that you do have talking points, and your boss can expect to hear them. “I create a little agenda for myself with what I want to go over. And at the beginning of the meeting, I pull out my little agenda and I say, ‘These are the things I’d like to discuss.’ I’m telling you, 99% of the time, [managers] are like, ‘Whoa. She means business.’”
Realize the equalizing power of remote work.
One thing that comes up in my chat with Singletary is how, even if it doesn’t feel this way, remote work can be an asset when asking for a raise. In person, your manager’s presence alone can be intimidating, but with a barrier, like a computer, we’re all on the same level. “They’re not sitting behind their big desk or in a big conference room,” she says. “They’re looking at a camera, you’re looking at a camera. So to me, I actually think it equalizes things.”
Even if the answer is no, end on a strong note.
When an in-person meeting wraps up, there’s usually a physical indication from which to take cues—someone stands up, a handshake is offered, an assistant pops in to remind your boss another meeting is starting. Over Zoom, ending a meeting can be awkward—hitting a button can feel abrupt, especially if your pitch for more money is respectfully rejected. How can you leave the call without seeming angry and with your dignity still intact?