More money is good, right? You’re going to be doing your job anyway, so you might as well ask to get paid more for doing it.
But you actually have to do a lot of preparation in order to ask for a raise effectively. The most obvious preparation is to find out what everyone else is getting paid for what you do. A recent New York Times story gives a good overview of online resources for salary comparisons.
Here are five other things you can do to get a salary increase:
1. Understand your boss’s perspective.
This is not a moment of truth, it’s a moment of negotiation. You convince your boss you’re worth more and your boss convinces you he or she is fair, and you reach some sort of compromise that makes everyone happy.
So be reasonable in your approach. You don’t deserve a raise just because you’ve been doing your job well for x number of months. It’s your job to do your job well — that’s why you were hired. You need to show that you’re doing more than you were hired to do, or that you’re doing different work that’s typically paid at a higher rate.
Gather as much information about your boss’s perspective as possible in order to form your strongest negotiating position. Consider this list of 10 things bosses hate most about employees.
2. Expand your job duties.
Get really good at your job immediately so that you can take on more responsibility in another job, in another capacity. Look around for something more to do, and figure out how to do it. Then tell your boss you’re doing more than one job and you want to be paid extra for doing the other job you’ve already been doing.
If you think your boss will balk at the idea of you taking on more responsibility, start looking like your current job is under control. One way to do this is to have a completely clean desk. A clean desk says, “I’m totally on top of my workload. Please give me more.” A cluttered desk says, “Help. I’m drowning.”
(I’m not making this stuff up — researchers actually study offices. Here’s a summary of why you should have a clean desk.)
3. Consistently over-deliver.
Even during a salary freeze there’s always more money for superstars, because losing a superstar costs a company a lot of money. So getting a raise is about conveying to the office that you’re a superstar. This could be in the form of taking on more areas of responsibility, but it could also be in the form of exceeding expectations in a very obvious way.
Exceeding expectations is something that must be announced. If you finish your project, that’s what people will understand. If you finish your project with incredible results, you need to remind everyone what the expectations were and what you delivered. If you don’t toot your horn, no one else will. A hallmark of a superstar is they know how to toot their horn with out being annoying.
Superstars aren’t overnight sensations — they work at it. So start performing like a superstar six months before you want to ask for a raise.
4. Get a mentor.
Employees who have mentors are twice as likely to be promoted as those who don’t, according to Ellen Fagenson Eland, a professor at George Mason University. A mentor can help you position yourself, time and again, to receive a raise.
An effective mentor helps you see your path in a way that maximizes your talents and stays consistent with your goals for life. This isn’t small task, and almost all successful people say they have more than one mentor. But start with one, because that will significantly increase the likelihood that you’ll get the raise you’re going to ask for.
Unfortunately, for some people finding a mentor is almost as difficult as asking for a raise. So here are seven ways to find and keep a mentor.
5. Think in non-financial terms.
If more money isn’t happening for you, try asking for something else. Telecommuting, a job for your spouse, extra vacation time, training, even relocation to a company branch in a city with a lower cost of living — these are all things that are worth a lot of money to you, but look a lot less expensive than a salary increase in a company’s budget. So non-financial rewards are a good place to compromise in salary negotiations.
Also, you can turn these benefits to cash next time you change jobs. When you negotiate salary at your next company and they ask you how much you made in your last job, add up all the benefits and include them in the number you give. Some people’s benefits total up to 30 percent of their salary.
If the shy ones among you are thinking this isn’t a fair negotiating tactic, get that thought out of your head. Even CareerHub, a group blog of career coaches, recommends that you include benefits in the total calculation of your salary next time you negotiate.
If none of these steps work, try not to be so obsessed with getting a raise. Think about it — most raises amount to about 4 percent of your salary. That’s nothing. Even if you earn six figures, 4 percent isn’t going to be life-altering.
There are so many more things you can ask for that will actually improve your life, like training in a skill area you’re interested in, or the ability to telecommute a few days a week.
Try focusing on the things that really matter to you instead of the dollar amount attached to your title. You may find that your salary will increase as a natural offshoot of the passion you develop for your work.