After nearly a decade of a less than-optimistic employment market, things appear to be looking up. The unemployment rate is slowly, but steadily, declining. More people feel confident looking for a job in the past, and fewer people are worried about being laid off. In fact, about 30 percent of workers are so optimistic about their job prospects that they would be willing to leave their current positions if they do not receive a raise this year.
Even just a few years ago, automatic annual raises, even just cost of living increases, were the norm. Unfortunately, however, one of the byproducts of the Great Recession has been a decrease in the number of companies giving automatic annual raises. While many employers would like to pay more, budgets are still tight, and pay increases are now tied to merit, not longevity.
That doesn’t mean that you won’t get a raise this year, though. With some hard work and a little strategic thinking, you can convince your boss to add a little extra to your salary — maybe even a lot extra.
1. Ask for a Raise
This might seem obvious, but it’s amazing how many people don’t ask for raises. They assume that their boss will offer one (and are disappointed when he or she doesn’t) or fear being rejected or even reprimanded for requesting more money.
But if you have been meeting your goals, you consistently go beyond your responsibilities, you have a good rapport with the team and clients, and you can demonstrate your value to the company, there’s no reason that you shouldn’t ask for a raise. You have to do your homework and be prepared to state your case, but if you do, your boss is likely to be receptive to your request.
2. Improve Your Communication
It might be tempting to “fly under the radar” and do your work without a lot of fanfare, but that’s probably not going to get you noticed — and your request for a raise might come as a surprise. You need to be vocal about your accomplishments and demonstrate to your boss on an ongoing basis that you’re not only getting things done, but also successfully addressing his or her priorities.
Sending regular emails summarizing what you’ve accomplished and where you are with your projects to keep him or her in the loop. Focus on the most important things, not the day-to-day minutiae of your job. Your boss expects you to accomplish your assigned tasks. He or she wants to know about your “wins” and what makes you invaluable to the team.
3. Set Yourself Apart
Your boss hired you because you have certain skills and bring unique experiences to the table. And while you’re certainly competent in your job, you don’t want to stagnate.
One of the best ways to set yourself apart from your co-workers and earn a higher salary is to earn an advanced degree to learn new skills and broaden your knowledge base. Going back to school for an MBA or another related degree shows your boss that you’re committed to your career and continuous improvement, and the new value that you bring to the table is cause for a bigger paycheck.
4. Be Positive
Employers want team members who are a positive part of the office environment, not just drones who come in, push papers, and go home. They don’t reward employees who gossip, complain, drag their feet, shoot down new ideas, or drain the energy from the environment.
Before you ask for a raise, consider your demeanor when you’re at work. Are you positive and friendly, bringing people together? Or are you impersonal and divisive? Having an upbeat attitude can go a long way toward a positive office culture, and your boss will reward that.
5. Build a Relationship With Your Boss
You don’t have to be best friends with your boss, but you want to ensure that he or she at least knows who you are. Reach out and request meetings with your boss to discuss projects and priorities. Learn what’s important to your boss, and what he or she cares about — and then use that information to guide your work.
Try to make your boss look good, and anticipate his or her needs. It might feel a bit like “sucking up,” but as you build a more authentic working relationship, it will help your performance, and your salary.
Of course, some companies simply cannot afford to grant raises, and you need to prepare yourself for the possibility that you won’t get one. However, if you use these techniques, your chances increase markedly — and you’ll improve your performance at work to boot.