Credit: Lionsgate

While every employee would love nothing more than to work for a company that automatically doles out substantial and routine pay increases, that workplace fantasy is unlikely to happen. Instead, workers are left to negotiate their salaries, most often when they’re hired and during work performance reviews, which can definitely get pretty awkward and uncomfortable (particularly if you’re a woman asking for a raise).

If life were truly fair, you’d sit down for a face-to-face with the boss to go over all the many ways you’ve been absolutely kicking ass at work, share a few laughs, exchange handshakes, and walk away with a larger paycheck to show for your efforts.

But the reality is there’s an art to asking your job to pay you more.

For raise-seekers looking to increase the odds of success, here are 6 things you should definitely bring up in your work review.

1Your achievements.

Remember all those times you exceeded expectations on the job? Well, there’s no better time to bring them up than during the performance.

Don’t forget to mention all the times you went above and beyond — whether you signed up for overtime every time it was offered, helped your team play catch up on a massive assignment, or took on those tasks that nobody wanted to do — make your boss aware of these instances in which you were a rock star and received positive feedback. Just be careful to do it in a way that doesn’t come off as boasting, but instead emphasizes the manner in which your stellar contributions benefited the company.

Because all of your amazing accomplishments may be difficult to commit to memory, create a log and continue to track them in between reviews so they’ll be easy to recall when it counts.

2The last time you got a raise.

First off, if this is your first time negotiating a raise, congrats for doing what strikes fear in the hearts of many employees. However, if you’ve been down this road before, feel free to mention the last pay increase you received with careful attention to your language.

Instead of mentioning cost of living increases or griping about how you were overlooked in the past, make the conversation more about gratitude and acknowledging previous raises.

According to Business Insider, centering the conversation around yourself is definitely a huge negotiating mistake you don’t want to make:

Make sure your statements convey the importance of the company instead of complaints that basically sound like “Gimme more money, please!”

3How your skill levels have evolved.

Instead of checking your email or engaging in water cooler talk, you’ve used your downtime at work wisely by completing several company-sponsored training courses or shadowing a manager or colleague to expand your professional skill set.

When it comes to asking for a raise, Diana Faison of leadership development firm Flynn Heath Holt Leadership tells Harvard Business Review, “You want to be able to demonstrate how you add value and how you’ve made a difference to the company.”

4Your market value.

What do you expect to be paid? Find out in advance by researching the industry salary average for your position either online or through the help of a professional recruiter. This allows you to have a figure in mind when you discuss a potential pay raise during the review. Instead of allowing the company decide on the amount, take an active role in your career path by doing the legwork for the raise that you’re requesting.

5What you plan to do after you get a raise.

If you’re excelling at work before the raise conversation takes place, obviously the higher ups will expect your commitment to strengthen in the form of increased output. In order to keep things balanced, let your boss know how you plan to continue exceeding expectations, which proves why you deserve the raise in the first place.

6A date to revisit the topic.

Sometimes the response to a pay increase request isn’t a flat-out “no,” but more of a “we’ll see about it.” In the event that you ask for a raise and get turned down, use that to your advantage by asking about other benefits like an extra paid vacation day, a work-from-home arrangement, or some other perk that will tide you over until the next opportunity to negotiate salary arises.

In the end, keep in mind that this is a negotiation, and a positive outcome isn’t necessarily guaranteed. You may or may not receive the answer you sought, but in either case, you’ll have the experience to go into the next round of negotiations with courage and confidence.