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How to get yourself a raise

You work like crazy and earn too little and that's not just your opinion - everyone at work agrees – except of course the boss. How do you get him/her to believe you are indispensable for the firm?

Here's your guide to getting the pay raise you deserve:

First you need to prepare

1. Higher pay or better recognition - what do you want the most?
Are you really sure it's a higher salary that you want and not just an acknowledgment or better working conditions? It's good to know before you sit down with the boss. Think of what might be realistic for you. Large raises are not so common. However, you can improve your quality of life that might give you better working conditions (perhaps you can work at home one day a week, quit earlier on Fridays or something else).

2. Find out what others earn
Find out what others earn doing the same job as you do, so you know which bargaining power you have and can use it against your boss.

3. Find out the ”financial health” of your employer
If your employer has money problems, it's obviously not the right time to ask for a raise. Find out the facts by looking at the financial statements and other information proving the truth of the situation.

4. Why should you get a raise?
Have you asked yourself why you deserve a higher salary? The answer can never be that you just need or want more money. Think of this as simply selling your time. Make a list of the things you have accomplished for the company. Start with the most recent ones and work your way backwards. Also make a list of relevant skills - things you can provide the company with that makes you successful in your job.

5. Think of a specific sum
Decide exactly what you want in terms of money and be prepared to come up with some hard backing facts that support your cause.

6. Decide what to do if you don't get the rise you want
Before you walk over to see the boss and ask for a raise, you need to think about what to do if he/she says no, or maybe gives you a raise that is less than you thought. Will you accept the offer or are you prepared to wait and ask again a little later? Your answer may depend on what the boss says. For instance, perhaps he/she says no because you have performed poorly lately. If so you need to ask yourself whether the criticism is justified. If not, then perhaps it's time to look for another job somewhere else where they will appreciate you more? However, if the criticism is justified, it's time to think about what to do about it. If there are other reasons, you need to talk to the manager and find out when he/she expects the situation to change so that you know when you can bring up the issue again.

7. Make an appointment
It's important that you don't talk about money with people in the elevator or via e-mail. You need to show that this is important to you and that's why you need to book a meeting. If your industry has typical slow periods with less work, it obviously makes sense not to talk salary when the business is on a backburner.

8. Hone your arguments
Rehearse what you'll say to someone who gets to play your boss and really showing their worst side, making nasty little counter-arguments to every argument you have. Don't forget that this is like any important presentation anywhere. You would never make an unprepared pitch for a client, would you?

The meeting:

Don't overdo it
You should meet with your boss to discuss your salary, not making power point presentations on wage trends in your industry or in the developed world over the last thirty years. Keep it simple. Present your arguments clearly and don't forget that any pay increases can't be based on just your “10 years of loyalty to the firm” or anything like that. It should be based on your current performance and on the market's needs for your skill sets and knowledge.

Why should you get a raise?
Build your argument by bringing a list of what you have accomplished that have surpassed the company's expectations. For example, perhaps you've sold for more than the budget required. If that's the case, make sure you tell your boss! If you have had additional and/or more advanced tasks, use them as arguments. If you are head of a department - show details about the initiative you have taken and the problems your department has solved. Show how you have boosted the morale in your group and what it means for the company and profitability.

If the boss says no
If your boss says that he/she can't give you a raise right now, ask what you need to do to be the one who gets the first pay raise next. Remember, there is a difference between an employee who does what is expected of him/her and one that does much more than what can be expected. Salary increases will mainly hit the last category.

Threats don't always work as you want
If you use an offer from another employer as a weapon in the discussion, be prepared to fail. This will expose to your employer that you're looking for other jobs and alarm bells will start ringing. Future educations plans, fun assignments etc. will suddenly disappear right in front of your eyes. Employers never thrive in hostage situations and he/she will remember your mistakes. If you want to start looking for a new job it's much better to do it quietly if you think it's worth changing employers to get a higher salary. If you threaten to quit, your boss will know that you are on the move and he/she will treat you differently.

Some mistakes to avoid
• Avoid talking about salary when the boss is stressed out or in the middle of other important things.

• Don't act like you're absolutely entitled to a raise when you don't have any concrete reason for such an argument.

• Don't tell him/her why you need more money. It's not relevant what you want to buy or do with a raise. The only thing that is relevant is your value to the company.

• Don't get emotional. Leave your anger from being overlooked in the promotion discussions again outside the boss's door. Weeping and gnashing of teeth is not a useful tool in wage negotiations.

• Don't say you should have the same pay as some colleague. Many companies keep salaries secret and to tell the boss that you should have the same pay as a certain colleague, will only expose him/her to discomfort. It may also be irrelevant. Your workmate may have another education or experience than you.

• Don't talk about your current salary as a problem. Introduce yourself instead as a solution. Don't be afraid to give specific examples of what challenges you found solutions to. The more examples, the better.

Special tricks to use
• If you are valuable to your company, it's unlikely that your boss says flatly no, but if he/she still does, the game isn't over quite yet. Your next move is simply to ask: “What do I need to do to get the pay rise I want? ”If the manager is still not in the loop, then you're giving him/her important information that maybe it's time for you to move on.

• Don't tell the boss that you hope he/she will say yes. Instead, invite the boss to say no. Tell him/her that it's okay for you to have your request denied and that you want him/her to know that. This means that the boss can relax while you, at the same time, remove any tension lurking in the room.

• Don't try to impress the boss. Let him/her get to feel relaxed with you so that he/she won't become defensive.

• Don't ask any questions that can be answered by a simple “yes” or “no”. Make sure that your employer tells you what the situation is like by always asking questions that begin with “who”, “what”, “when”, “where”, “how” and “why”.

• Stop thinking about money. Your purpose here is to satisfy your employer's needs and goals. Any decisions you make during the meeting should be focused on helping your employer to see that it makes perfect sense for the company to raise your salary.

• Don't forget that the easiest way to get a guaranteed pay raise is if you and your position really makes money to the company, or if your job involves helping the person making the money for the company.

Make sure to be prepared for salary discussions next time. Make sure to have all the facts on the table. Work on the arguments and practice with a good friend who plays a grumpy boss - then you have your best chances to get a salary raise. Why not attend a few job interviews first to find out your true value, other than what your employer thinks you're worth in terms of money.

About the author

Stefan Ekberg has worked in marketing for small business for 20 years and has written around 30 books on how small business owners can market themselves with limited resources. . In 2012 Stefan was nominated as Entrepreneur of the Year in Stockholm.

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