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How To Negotiate a Pay Rise as a Graduate

Matthew Williams

Asking for a pay rise is never easy at any stage of your career. It's especially difficult for graduates.  After graduation, landing your first job in your chosen career can feel like a big relief. With a lot of competition for each role, graduates are more often than not simply glad to have a job.

It can feel a little uncomfortable, then, to go about asking for a pay rise. But, with the cost of living rising rapidly, inflation woes, and more, sometimes even graduates need to be paid more for their time.

If you're a graduate and you need a pay rise, follow our advice below to give yourself the best chance of securing a better wage.

Do your research first

There's no point asking for a pay rise if your company can't afford it or if you're already receiving more than experienced colleagues.

It's important, then, to do a bit of research first. If you work for a big company, check out their latest earnings reports and see how the company as a whole is doing. If you work for a smaller company,  have a look at job boards and see if they're currently hiring. Hiring could indicate the company is doing well and you could successfully negotiate a pay rise.

If your company is actively letting people go, it could be unwise to expect more pay. During times of economic uncertainty and recession, companies look for ways to save money, not spend more.

Assess whether you think now is a good time to ask for a wage increase against the company's current standing before proceeding.

Inflation and colleague rate

Most people can expect pay rises of around 1-3%. Graduates tend to see steeper pay rises as they move into roles with more responsibility. Before requesting a pay rise, other factors should also be considered.

In times of high inflation, there is a general expectation for employers to keep wages in line with it. If your salary only increases by 2% but inflation is sitting at 5%, you have effectively taken a 3% pay cut. It is reasonable to request a pay rise to at least match inflation, then.

Another factor to consider is the average salary of your colleagues. If you get on with your co-workers and feel comfortable having a frank conversation about your salary, this can be a good way to gauge a pay rise. If your co-worker has been with the company for a number of years and is earning a similar wage to your, a pay rise might be harder to obtain.

It may be the case, however, that they have not requested a pay rise or they do not possess the same skills as you. If you find out you are being paid considerably less to do a similar role, you should bear this in mind when speaking to your manager.

Increase your value

To give themselves the best chance of a pay rise, graduates should take stock of their qualifications, achievements, and responsibilities.

If possible, go back and look at the original job description for your current role. Make a list of extra roles and responsibilities you've since taken on and how this has benefitted the company. This could be in terms of efficiencies, profits, goal-meeting and even morale.

Look at job websites and salaries for roles that describe your current responsibilities. Weigh this up against your own salary and consider if you’re being paid enough for your duties.

To secure pay rises in the future, you should also remember to always keep learning. Wage stagnation is often a result of not upskilling and not maintaining your value as an employee. Taking extra courses and learning new roles can make you not just a valuable employee to your current company but also give you a great career edge, making you a lot more valuable.

Ultimatums are risky

While it might seem a good approach, giving your manager an ultimatum is often considered unprofessional.

Working for any company involves a certain amount of flexibility. With tight budgets, red tape, and other colleague expectations to consider, threatening to leave if you don't have your salary demands met is often unreasonable.

Ultimatums can often come across as an aggressive approach to landing a pay rise too. Employers can interpret such a demand as a sign you are not the type of person who can negotiate and perhaps lacks the awareness of other factors involved.

Follow procedure

If you hope to land managerial roles yourself in the future, it can be better to work with your employer instead. This involves following your workplace procedure for requesting pay rises.

Schedule time with your manager to discuss your request via email or in person if possible. They will appreciate you being professional in your approach and it will give them time to prepare their response. Nobody likes being caught unawares, even experienced managers. Instead, a formal meeting gives both you and your manager time to discuss the request in detail.

You should also observe whether your company has a graduate pay rise structure already in place. Some companies will have precise pay rise structuring for graduates and by signing a contract you have agreed to this. Expecting a manager to override this could be considered special treatment.


While graduates can expect decent pay rises within the first couple of years of their careers, it's important to keep expectations reasonable.

Despite this, you should value your skills and your time and be prepared to fight your case. If the request is denied, consider your employer's feedback. If it is fair, take steps to secure a pay rise in the future. If you consider it unfair, it could be a sign you should look for new opportunities elsewhere.

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