You clock in every day, do your work and don’t complain. You are golden; the boss will of course give you a decent raise next year.
Maybe pre-Great Recession that was true, but employers are getting stingy with their money nowadays. Not only are raises getting smaller – expected to be a paltry 3 percent in 2014, according to Buck Consultants – but anecdotal evidence suggests some employers are giving up on annual automatic raises altogether.
So what do you do? Although there is no way to guarantee an increase, now is the time to lay the groundwork needed to get a good-size bump in your pay during the next round of raises.
1. Create your own list of greatest hits
Start by compiling a list of your accomplishments for the year. Be precise and specific. Rather than stating that you implemented cost-saving strategies, list what those were and how much they saved. Don’t forget to include peripheral activities such as training new colleagues or mentoring interns.
Then, when you go in for your annual review, you have evidence that you are a valuable employee. It also keeps your past activities at the forefront of your mind so you can casually drop into a conversation with the boss, “Oh yeah, we did that with the Jackson case.” Those little reminders can help ensure that the boss associates you with success.
2. Be your boss’s all-star
If your greatest hits list is a little thin (just showing up doesn’t cut it), then you need to jump on the opportunity to snag some of the boss’s pet projects. At the weekly office meetings, when she asks for someone to pick up a task, you should be the first to volunteer.
Does this make you look like a brown-noser to your co-workers? Maybe. But ask yourself what is more important: getting the 5 percent raise or impressing the guy in the next cubicle? Enough said.
3. Learn new skills … and love doing it
Along those same lines, be the first to sign up for that workshop on improving interdepartmental communications or maximizing production efficiencies. They may be dull, but being enthusiastic about attending conferences and workshops helps position you as the team player who loves his job.
In addition, gaining additional certifications and training can help bolster your case that you are a valuable asset and deserving of greater compensation.
4. Participate in the potluck and go to the holiday party
The holidays are right around the corner and that means the chance for plenty of bonding time with your boss and co-workers. You may dread spending time at the office after hours, but these are prime opportunities to network with the folks who are responsible for your paycheck.
It might not seem fair, but when it comes time to pass out raises, the boss may have trouble remembering who Anti-Social Andrew is and what he’s done. Meanwhile, he’ll be able to put a face to Friendly Frieda’s name and know she has two kids and attended the regional conference last year. The result may mean more money for Frieda while Andrew is stuck with a cost-of-living adjustment.
5. Match the office culture
Likewise, be sure your persona matches the office culture. If jeans rule at your workplace, showing up in a suit and tie may be off-putting. At the same time, dressing down and calling your boss “bro” in a formal environment is probably going to backfire.
You don’t want to blend in with the masses, but you do want to look like you belong. Failing to understand and match your employer’s preferences can inadvertently make you look like a.) a loose cannon or b.) stuffy and condescending. Neither is good when it comes time to make promotion and compensation decisions.
6. Ask how you can help
Getting a merit raise can be as much about appearances as it is about performance. It is human nature to want to support people we like and to reciprocate when someone helps us.
Use this to your advantage by approaching your boss and proactively asking if there are any new projects that need to be picked up. Another approach might be to propose a new strategy based upon past successes. This option lets you subtly play up your previous accomplishments as well. Either way, you are positioning yourself as the go-getter who wants to help the company succeed.
7. Be direct
Finally, you may be tired of dropping hints and hoping for the best. If you think you are under-compensated and want to address the issue head-on, do some homework first.
Timing the “I’d like a raise” discussion can be critical, and be sure your company is on sound financial ground before you broach the subject. Then, find benchmark salary data for comparison from sources such as GlassDoor.com, Salary.com and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Make sure your list of greatest hits backs up the assertion you deserve to earn more. Finally, check your emotions at the door and keep the conversation positive – or at least neutral – even if things don’t go your way.
Raises of 1 percent and 2 percent have been the norm in recent years for many employees, but consulting firm Mercer says the highest performing workers can expect to get average increases of 4.6 percent this year. Wouldn’t you like to be one of them?
Do your job and use these tips to help prove you are the top performer who deserves better than average.
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