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Asking for a Raise

"Asking for a Raise 

By Sheryl Nance-Nash 

It's that time of year, you're reflecting (big time!), on everything in your life. You're making your list, checking it twice, and you feel like change must happen in the New Year. With the hot job market, moving on and making more might just be at the top of the list. Unless of course, you could get your employer to reward you with a hefty salary boost. 

For most people, asking for a raise is one of life's more nerve-racking experiences - even if you deserve it. While few would argue that this is indeed still very much an employee's market, don't let bravado get the better or you. "If you're going to ask for a raise have your ducks in order. Despite the job market, asking for a raise is still to be done gingerly," says David Theobald, president of NETSHARE, Inc., an executive recruiting firm in Novato, California (www.netshare.com).Here's how to make the right moves so you get more money, more money, more money. 

Prepare for Battle 

It's all about strategy. Long before you schedule an appointment with the boss to talk money, get your facts straight. You'll need to be confident about your worth and value. However, if you want to have more than just your opinion, back it up. "Have the data, a list of accomplishments, projects done on time, that generated revenue, for example. It's to your advantage if you can also show that you worked successfully with other departments, and if you have customers blowing your horn, so much the better," says Deborah Knox, a consultant and co-author with Sandra Betzel of Lifeworktransitions.com: Putting Your Spirit Online (Butterworth, $19.95), (www.lifeworktransitions.com). 

Such material should be handy if you've been keeping an accomplishment diary as suggested by Tom Welch, who bills himself as America's career coach and is author of Work Happy Live Happy: New Solutions for Career Satisfaction (Career Dimensions Institute, $14.95), (www.workhappy.com). 

Be in the ballpark 

You can't just throw out numbers. Bone up on industry standards. Check out Salary.com's salary wizard, CareerZeekers.com or any other of the many such tools on the web. "You don't want to ask for the top of the pay range for your position, because not only do you leave yourself no room to grow, it could result in you eventually losing your job," says Theobald. "Your boss may not show it outwardly, but if the boss feels you're overpaid, that will cause resentment. You raise the expectation bar, and it may be so high that you can't reach it. You could end up with a no-win situation," he adds. Shoot for a little above the mid-point. 

Look over past reviews 

What's been the skinny on you all along? Does history support that you are indeed a rising star? Figure out too, advises Erisa Ojimba, compensation consultant with Salary.com, how much you really want, "Does it matter to you if they agree to put you under an incentive plan, that if you meet certain objectives you'll be rewarded, or do you want an increase to your salary base?" she asks. It's probably not a bad idea either to come up with an increase range, say 3-10 percent. Give your boss a little flexibility. Ask yourself why you're asking for raise. "Are you merely overworked, is it that you think your peers are making more?" get to the heart of the matter says Ojimba. 

Proceed with Caution

You've got it all sorted out in your head, and preferably on paper too. Now it's time to schedule the meeting. Timing is everything. You have an inkling when the annual review is, but don't wait. Often, by then, explains Terry Rush-Mamenko, a corporate coach in Warminster, Pennsylvania (www.coachingrush.com), compensation's been decided and it's harder to make changes to what's already somewhat set in stone. Beat them to the punch. Seek out your boss a few months before the annual review. Better yet, approach your boss when you're at the top of your game. "A good time is just after you've completed an assignment or project that has delighted everyone, or you've increased sales, lowered costs - done something of tremendous value," points out Theobald. 

Avoid the Big Flubs 

A few words of advice about when the big day arrives. Be clear about how much you enjoy working at your company. The last thing you want to do is to threaten to leave, that is not the way to win friends and influence people. 

With all your documentation, you'll be more than able to present why you're worthy of more dough. Stick to the facts. You don't want to get into how much others are making, that you need more cash for your ever-growing family, or any reasons like those. Be specific. "Don't sell features like the fact that you are there everyday, on time, but focus on benefits, how you make your boss' job easier, how you add value to the company," says Welch. 

Don't assume either that just because the market's good that the tide lifts all boats. "For star performers this is the time to strike. However, for those who are mediocre, who don't really deserve a raise, asking could backfire. You don't want your boss to say, thanks for the warning and go clean out your desk," says Rush-Marmenko. 

Realize too, that asking for a raise can be far less intimidating if you have a relationship with your boss. "Build a relationship all along. Even if you have to squeeze in five minutes here and there, make it your business to do it. Let your boss know what you're doing, what you're accomplishing. Email is okay, but personal contact is best," says Lynn Berger, a career and personal coach in New York City, (www.lynnberger.com). 

Don't stop with the boss though 

"Build relationships with people throughout the organization, let others know what you're doing, see where you can help them," suggests Welch. A cheering squad can't hurt. "A person who is hard-working, puts in 10 hours a day, but stays in the background thinking their work will be recognized could wind up disappointed. You have to be out front," he adds. 

There's no reason to feel the same way you do about approaching the dentist's chair at root canal time, as you do when asking for a raise, says Welch, especially when you're deserving. He adds, "With the economy and all the concerns about retention, you're more likely to get what you want. Just ask.""

<Note from JobFairy.com: Usually, you get crappy raises of no more than 5% when you stay at the same company. Generally, it's between 2 - 3% - and worst of all, you have to jump through all these hoops about performance!!! Fuhgeddaboutit. I get my raise every couple of years - through another company! There's no law that says you can't have someone else fund your raise and come through with your promotion. Your raises then are in the 15 - 25% range - much more acceptable than the alternative of staying put! Plus, you're probably jumping ship to newer technologies, all of which can become resume fodder towards the next raise.>

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