How To Get A Pay Raise In A Bad Economy

Just because the economy is in the doldrums doesn’t mean you can’t ask for a pay raise. Whether or not you get it depends on more than the fact that you are simply being underpaid.

In this environment, most people are happy just to have a job and wouldn’t dream of asking for a salary increase, but career experts say that’s a mistake, especially if you are adding value to the company and aren’t getting compensated for it.  “If you are a really good employee, one your manager is going to want to hold on to, they will consider giving you a raise no matter how bad the economy is,” says Susan Heathfield, the guide to human resources for

According to career experts, while the economy and the job market has languished for the last few years, that is starting to change, putting high performing workers in the driver’s seat when it comes to asking for a raise. Indeed Nancy Kasmar, Practice Lead, Compensation & Benefits Consulting at Washington Employers, says 2013 will likely turn out to be the year of turnover, which means employers are going to have to work to keep their good employees on board.

Know Your Worth

But before you go charging into your boss’s office demanding a pay hike, you have to do your homework. In order to make a persuasive case you have to confirm you are being underpaid, even if it’s slightly less than others in your position. Beyond that, you have to do some inner soul searching to make sure you are that employee the manager doesn’t want to lose.  After all you don’t want to demand a raise if your boss is less than happy with your performance.

Your value could mean different things to different bosses, but signs that you are highly regarded include great reviews, increased responsibilities, leadership roles and even being chosen to mentor other employees. If you fall into that category, it behooves you to hold on to any emails that reflect a job well done and to keep note of the praise you get in the office. That will help you make your argument as to why you should get more money.

“Most people think about it from the perspective of I’ve been here a year, I’m supposed to get a raise every year. But it’s not true. There’s nothing that says you get a raise each year,” says Tom Gimbel, founder and chief executive of LaSalle Network, a staffing and recruiting company. He says to think of instances when you went beyond your job functions and plan to lay that part out for your boss. For instance, if you are an assistant to an executive, saying you want a raise because you manage the calendar all year isn’t enough. But if you point out you took on the role of another assistant when he or she left and not only planned the office parties, but worked them, you’ll show you’re worth more to the company.

Don’t Wait For Review Time

How you go about asking for the raise also matters. Heathfield says not to blindside your boss, but instead tell him or her you want to have a meeting to discuss your compensation. Most bosses have bosses they answer to and if you let them know you want to talk about your pay, that will give your boss a chance to discuss it with his or her manager or human resources ahead of the meeting.

What’s more, Heathfield says, is to not wait until review time. It’s better to do it when you come across information that you are being underpaid or not being paid enough for your position. It could also be prompted by going above and beyond on a project or brining in additional revenue for the company. “People ask for raises when they’ve accomplished something and when they’ve done something for the company,” says Heathfield.

Sell Yourself

Once you’ve got the meeting lined up, it’s time to prepare. That means doing your market research on salaries to ensure you are asking for a reasonable raise.  You then need to list your accomplishments or the reasons you feel you deserve the raise. For instance, if you brought in a new client, figure out how much money that’s making the company or if you completed a project, let that be known and how you went above the assignment.

Never give your boss an ultimatum or the sense you will leave the company if you don’t get what you want. Not only is it bad form, but it could backfire if the boss turns down your request and now knows your loyalty is waning. It could mean lost responsibilities and worse, you could end up being passed over for promotions or declined job training. A company isn’t going to want to invest in an employee they think is planning on jumping ship.

At the end of the day, the way to get a raise, if you deserve it and the company isn’t undergoing layoffs or other financial problems, is to make a persuasive case about your value and contributions. ”You’ve got to sell yourself. You’ve got to figure out what the buyer (your boss) is willing to pay for your skills set,” says Gimbel.