Don't you look forward to the day when your boss or board of directors calls you in and offers you a raise?
If you want to earn more money this year, you will have to initiate the process yourself and use all your skills to pry loose a little extra.
Here are some strategic and tactical tips on how to increase your take-home pay:
Determine your worth in the marketplace
Contact the competition, clip and save relevant employment advertisements and talk to executive search firms.
You might also look for references and facts in magazine articles and compensation surveys that support your idea that you should earn more.
Be prepared for a happy surprise, especially if you have been working for the same company for several years.
There is often a large discrepancy between your present salary and what the market says people with comparable skills and experience can earn.
Consider how to become more valuable to your employer
As business fashions and thinking changes, different departments become “hot” and are deemed worthy of fatter pay cheques.
For example, today, marketing or finance might be better places to earn the big bucks than manufacturing or customer service.
If you cannot switch career tracks so quickly, you still might be able to take on additional responsibilities or even discover totally new issues and projects that will make you more valuable to the company.
Take advantage of the “cross-training” mentality that is popular today. At the highest levels, employers nearly always prefer executives who bring a broad-based perspective to their work and the company’s mission.
Feel good about asking for a raise and do not worry about getting canned
“The threat of firing you for wanting too much is nothing but a psychological bluff,” says Mr Lawrence D. Schwimmer, author of How To Ask For A Raise Without Getting Fired, now a top manager with Geneva Corporation, a San Francisco acquisitions and mergers firm.
“Even a stupid boss knows that the cost of hiring and training your replacement is much more than the raise you’re asking for,” Schwimmer adds, “so don’t weaken yourself by imagining the worst.”
Phrase your request assertively, not aggressively
Leave out any “or else” threats, no matter how emotionally satisfying.
This allows you to save face if your request is denied. You can take time to think things over, and either make plans to leave or make clear that you have decided you like your job and your company so much that you will stay and see about getting a raise later on.
Predict the outcome
Anticipate the objections, worries or problems your request might generate, and incorporate the top three or four in your initial statement.
Be careful, though, if you bring up really powerful reasons for refusing you a raise, you might be providing the opposition with unbeatable arguments.
Do not ask for a raise in general, but for a raise of a certain size. Do not allow an open-ended time limit on getting a response. Ask to be informed within two weeks.
Base your request on performance
Arguments about pay equity, reference to the many years since your last raise, pleas for compassion because you have big expenses coming up — none of these fly very well in today’s economy.
“Bring solid documentation of what you’ve done to help the company,” suggests Mr Schwimmer, “and, anticipating that you’ll refer to your performance when you ask for a raise, keep a file to document your level of performance during the most recent year or six months.”
Be assertive in your request
Do not hint or allude to what you want. Communicate honestly and directly in an appropriate manner.
“In fact,” says Mr Schwimmer, “you might want to ask for twice as much as you think you’re going to get, so you can negotiate down to an acceptable level.”
Role-play your request before you make it
Try talking about what you have done to merit a raise to yourself in a mirror or while driving alone. Having said the words many times before, you will probably ask for the increase more confidently and articulately when it counts.
Negotiate for perks and travel benefits as well
For example, get permission to attend seminars and training sessions in areas of interest that lie outside your present job description.
Or, negotiate for paid leave so you can have more frequent three-day weekends.
Experts say that three out of four times that an increase is in order, such a request is met with some concession.