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by Vault Careers | March 31, 2009

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No matter how badly we may want (or feel we deserve) a raise, most of us are hesitant when it comes to asking for one. But face it, we're in a tight job market. Follow the lead of recent college grads, untouched by the fear of recession, and empowered by the information available on the Internet. Review your contribution to your company, determine your worth and get yourself a raise.

Build your case

1. Review your job description. Have you taken on new responsibilities since your last raise (or since you were hired)? Has your productivity increased over time? Are you doing work that people in positions above you usually do? Keep a record of the projects you work on, and any special achievements. You might even write yourself a weekly memo to help you keep track of what you accomplish. When you look back on these notes, you'll be able to quantify your achievements and have plenty of examples to refer to. Your boss doesn't care about your rent increase or your loan payments - show how your efforts have benefited the company, and prove that you deserve a raise.

2. Determine your market worth. There are tons of salary surveys published on the Internet. Compare your compensation with that of others in your industry and position. Try the Bureau of Labor Statistics (http://www.bls.gov) or Job Star's profession-specific salary surveys (http://jobsmart.org/tools/salary/sal-prof.htm). Or pose an anonymous question on a message board, like those at Vault.com.

3. Consider your worth to the company. Would you be hard to replace? Review what you, your team, or your department contributes to your company. Is it something that could be easily outsourced? If your company were to downsize, would your team survive the cuts?

4. How do you feel about your job and your company? If you have issues with the benefits, the hours, your boss, and your prospects for the future, you might review whether you really want a raise or a new job altogether. But if your only complaint is the salary, think about other things you would accept if your boss won't offer you more money.

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Negotiation tips

1. Timing is everything. Once you've decided to ask for a raise, set up a meeting with your boss at a time that is convenient for her. If you can, try to arrange it for a time that she'll be most receptive. For example, if you know she has stressful meetings every Tuesday, schedule it for another day. Let her know what you plan to talk about so she'll be mentally prepared for the meeting.

2. Put together a written proposal, enumerating your contributions to the company, and how you've improved over time. Point to as many bottom-line achievements as you can. If you have brought in new clients, developed new ideas, or streamlined a process, point it out. Refer to your skills, talents and market value (along with the sources of your information), and give your employer a range - realizing that she will probably veer towards the low end.

3. Be reasonable and professional. Check your ego at the door, and try not to tie your self-image to your salary. Even if you're completely dissatisfied by your employer's offer, don't threaten to quit or start sending out resumes. It's a small world - don't earn yourself a bad reputation, and don't burn any bridges.

4. Be patient. Don't expect an answer immediately. And remember the larger the company, the longer it will take. In the meantime, keep up the good work. Remind your boss why you deserve a raise.

5. Be prepared to compromise. If your boss agrees to give you an increase that you don't find acceptable, look for a compromise. Would you give up some cash for stock options, fully paid health insurance, or the opportunity to work more reasonable hours?

If, after all the negotiations, you're still dissatisfied, start looking for a new job. If your employer doesn't recognize your talents, someone else probably will. In this tight job market, you're likely to get a raise even if you make a lateral move.

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Filed Under: Salary & Benefits

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