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How To Negotiate a Raise

Posted on: August 17th, 2010 by Michael Trust

Even in bad times, and especially in good, people often wonder about how to approach their boss' for a salary increase. It can be nerve wracking, fraught with anxiety, and if not granted, certainly have some level of peril. There are ways to ask and things to consider. This post is not an exclusive list by any means; however, it may help you to think about what to do (and what not to do).

  • This is a conversation, not a demand. You and your boss should be having a conversation about all of the factors that lead you to believe that you have earned a raise. Notice the word "earned": raises aren't an entitlement; they are earned through  hard work, results, and outstanding performance.   If you are covered by a union contract, you may be entitled to periodic raises, and those raises may or may not be tied to performance; if not, then the organization may look at other things instead – like promotions – if they can't use performance for pay increases.
  • Have you gone above and beyond and put in your time on the job? Many younger workers feel as though one accomplishment warrants a raise; and, in fact, it may. But, not typically.  Time on the job, consistent results, and dedication (this doesn't imply that you can't have a life) to the job are huge contributing factors. And, budgets, of course. But, there's almost always money for top performers.
  • In the old days, having a child, getting married, etc. were all good reasons to ask for a raise, provided your work merited one. While these types of factors can still earn sympathy points, and it doesn't hurt to use them, in today's world, bottom line results are likely to drive this conversation more than anything else.  If you  have a boss who does care about the personal lives of his or her employees, and is thrilled that you're getting married or having a child, all the better. But don't count on it.
  • Ask for an increase in line with the objective value of the work that you perform. This is actually very easy in most cases to determine.  You can visit any  number of free (and paid) salary sites on the web and get an idea of what the dollar value of your role is.  This value has nothing to do with your value as a person; it's just the value that the market will bear. If you ask for a raise without any empirical data and justification, you will not look good, and this of course is not the objective.  There's no harm in asking for slightly more than you actually want – this is all about negotiation – but have your floor number in mind and stick to it – in other words, you won't go any lower than that. Be prepared, though, if you can't get there – what does that mean for you?

Thinking about and implementing these tips may help you get the raise that you want. Use them well.

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Question: I've been out of work for a while. Do I take a job offer if the pay is awful?

Answer: Yes, taking a job, sometimes any job particularly if you have not worked in a while is good not only for your paycheck but for your mental health as you search for the job you really want. There is no shame in accepting work for honest pay. You are in transition and you need to remind yourself of that and not feel bad if the job you have now or are considering isn't willing to pay you what you are worth. There will be a job out there that will and you need to use all of your resources available including interim work to realize your goals. Taking a low paying job in the meantime may bruise your ego but it won't kill your pride or your wallet.