Getting a Raise in a Difficult Economy

Getting a Raise in a Difficult Economy

With the economy continuing to sputter, complete with a seemingly jittery stock market, lower than expected consumer spending, and continued high unemployment, many employers are reticent to offer raises. But that doesn’t mean that they won’t respond positively to a deserving employee who’s in need of a salary bump. So how can you go about landing a pay raise? And if you’re deserving but still can’t get your employer to budge, what should you do?

Simply ask for a pay raise

One reason that you may not have received a well-deserved pay raise is that you haven’t asked for one. Sounds simple, right? Dave Ramsey likes to say on his nationally syndicated radio show that 100% of the homes that are foreclosed on have mortgages. The same kind of logic can be applied to pay raises too. You’re almost guaranteed to fall behind the salary curve if you don’t request a bigger paycheck from time to time.

Far too many employees fail to ask their employers for a pay raise. And, especially given the current economic realities, many employers will be content to maintain the status quo unless you ask them to do otherwise. If they’re not concerned about losing your valuable service, there’s no incentive for them to pay you more. Simply asking for a pay raise can make all the difference in the world. Just be sure to pick the right time to do it and state your case convincingly.

Prove your worth to your boss

Of course, if you’re going to ask for a raise, you better be sure you’re worth it. Do you bring in more business than your coworkers? Did one of your brilliant ideas save your company thousands of dollars in annual expenses? Do you routinely cut costs without negatively impacting productivity? Or did you come up with a new way to save time when completing an important task? The perfect time to ask for a raise might be right after you land a big new client. Or you may be able to tie the amount you ask for to the additional revenue or savings that you’ve generated.

Direct contributions that you have made are a great way to justify to your supervisors why you deserve a higher salary. If you can directly quantify how much value you’ve added to your employer’s business, you’ll have a basis to start the negotiations and you’ll be in a much more powerful bargaining position. The more specific you can get and details you can show your boss will help boost your case for a new pay raise.

Jump ship and go job hunting

If all else fails, consider looking for greener pastures — leaving your current job in favor of a higher paying position (assuming you can find one) is a surefire way to improve your bottom line. This can, however, be a risky move. You’re taking a leap into the unknown, and the new office politics (or whatever) might not be to your liking.

If you’re willing to risk it, there are numerous websites out there that can help you determine what your skills are really worth on the open market. And while the job market is tight, there are still opportunities for truly valuable (and patient) workers to improve their lot in life.

On average, American workers change jobs every three years or so. This lack of job loyalty is even more prevalent with workers under the age of 30 who tend to find a new job every 18 months on average. While there are many reasons to leave one job for another, landing an offer for a higher paying position is a great way to increase your salary.

What about you? Have you ever asked your boss for a pay raise, or have you been content with your current salary plus whatever adjustments have come your way without asking? Would you consider jumping ship and looking for a new job just to get a higher salary, or is that simply not an option given your circumstances?

10 Responses to “Getting a Raise in a Difficult Economy”

  1. Anonymous

    I’m glad there are posts like these that offer some positive perspectives during these times since everyone’s writing about “what to do when you’re laid off.” There are still hardworking people that do deserve to make more, and it’d be terrible if they didn’t think to ask for a raise until…whenever this recession ends.

  2. Anonymous

    For better or worse, our company is pretty regimented. For a given annual review score, there is a given raise. Period.

    Your opportunities to negotiate are at hiring and (maybe) at promotion, since you’re moved to a different salary band at that point.

  3. Anonymous

    I’ve spent most of my life on the other side of the table and in my experience by far the most effective tool to getting a raise is the alternative job offer. An employee walks in and says she received an offer that’s say 20% higher than what she’s getting now, and she asks what should she do. That’s all she has to say.

    At that point I’m presented with a choice: do I want to keep her or lose her? If she’s good (and that is a big if) I really have no choice but to match, or at least do more than half the difference.

    Although this strategy is bulletproof, it does have a few drawbacks. You can’t do it every year. If you do it more than, say, once in three years, your boss will let you leave.

    Secondly, you need to be worth what you’re asking. That means you have to be the best in your department. That might mean staying late half an hour a day, signing up for projects that don’t quite fit your tastes, stand up for the company when coworkers take pot shots at it, stuff like that. If you want over and above, you need to deliver over and above.

    And then there’s the final caveat: the more you get paid, the bigger the bulls eye on your back. Come layoff time, the big targets are juiciest. That’s universal. If you continuously make sure you’re getting better and worth more than you’re getting paid, you have job security. But that is up to you.

  4. Anonymous

    I think the large majority of employers look at the cost of labor exactly the same as every other cost, and so the aim is to minimize it without a net negative impact on the company. To justify higher pay, I like the strategy of 1) to demonstrating the value you’re adding to the company, and 2) research your current market value. Accomplishing (2) may mean getting an offer from another employer, then giving your employer the opportunity to match, if you’d prefer to work there for the same money as the new offer. You have to factor in benefits, commuting cost, etc. too, not just salary.

  5. Anonymous

    I have successfully asked for an increase in salary. I don’t know if I should be happy that I got it, or sad that I was under valued. What I did was look up comparable positions with my experience and in my field and had that as part of the re-negotiating tactic.

    The other aspect is that in this day and age the newer generations aren’t tight lipped about salaries and this is beneficial to the employees. Companies (especially well established ones) aren’t necessarily use to employees discussing their salaries amongst themselves. If you find that you are just as qualified as someone new coming in and have much more experience, it is beneficial to cite this (preferably without names).

    Those two tools are good to have in addition Hank had written about. It is a topic most people don’t like talking with management / HR about, but you will never get what you don’t ask for.

  6. Anonymous

    Adding measurable value to your employer’s efforts and then highlighting them during your annual review is a good way to get a raise.

  7. Anonymous

    I’ve asked for more during job changes but unfortunately could not negotiate more $. I did get more vacation time though which was a nice addition. It’ll be interesting to see if I get a raise this year and see if I can negotiate more out of it.

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