How to Ask for a Raise in a Tough Economy

When the economy seems to be stalled, and many businesses are struggling to simply keep their doors open, asking for a raise can feel greedy, unfair — or even feel like a bad career move.

The truth is, though, that most businesses are interested in keeping their best employees on board and happy, and if that means adding a little extra to their paychecks, then they will find a way; however many managers won’t offer a raise “just because” or before your annual review. That means you have to advocate for yourself, and ask for what you deserve. Before you rush into your boss’ office and demand more money, keep these tips in mind. 

Do Your Research

When there is more month than money on a regular basis, it’s easy to believe that you are underpaid. Do some research before you ask for a raise. What are people in similar positions in your industry earning? Do they have the same level of experience and education? Someone with a masters degree in human resource management, for example, is probably going to earn more than someone who only holds a bachelor’s degree.

At the same time, just because the average salary for your job is a few thousand dollars per year more than what you earn doesn’t mean that you’re automatically entitled to that amount. The size and financial condition of your employer, and where you live can make a big difference. Someone working in midtown Manhattan, for example, is probably going to earn more than someone doing a similar job in rural Maine. If you determine that your salary is lower than average, though, you have one piece of the puzzle for requesting a raise.

Make a Case

First of all, you need to have a solid track record of performance before you can ask for a raise. In general, you should be in your position for at least a year before you start requesting more money.

However, simply showing up isn’t enough to warrant a salary increase. Be prepared to present solid evidence that you deserve more money. Create a document that highlights your achievements and shows how you’ve met — and exceeded — your boss’s expectations. You need to remind your boss of the value that you bring to the organization, and what she stands to lose if you take your talents elsewhere.

Ask at the Right Time

If your company has recently announced a round of cost-cutting measures, it’s not the best time to go looking for more money. Before you schedule your appointment, assess your company’s financial position. If you aren’t sure of your company’s financial position, proceed with caution; if you make a reasonable request and have the evidence to back it up, your boss is likely to understand your request even if she can’t comply.

Prepare to Negotiate

There’s always a chance that your boss will decline to give you a raise, even if the company can afford it. Instead of scurrying back to your desk embarrassed, ask your boss for a plan that will help you earn an increase. For example, she may suggest that earning a management masters degree will improve your prospects.

And if you can’t get your boss to pay you more money, see if you can negotiate other benefits in place of a bigger paycheck. If your company can’t afford to pay you more, perhaps you can work from home a few days a week or take an extra week’s vacation this year. If you are valuable to the company, your employer is likely to make concessions to keep you on board.

During times of economic uncertainty, asking for a raise might feel unwise — some would argue that you should be grateful to have a job, no matter how much it pays; however, it is not unreasonable to expect to be paid what you’re worth, and sometimes you need to ask for that.

About the Author: Career expert Julie Bernson writes about work, money and career development for a number of publications. She holds a Master’s in Human Resources and teaches undergraduate classes at her local community college.

Image provided by Stefano Valle from Flickr’s Creative Commons http://www.flickr.com/photos/switch75/6516529571/sizes/m/in/photostream/

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