How to Get a Raise (or at Least Keep Your Job)

I’m a huge fan of taking control of my own situation. I don’t like giving mediocrity a place in my life because it gives others power over me, and leaves me less able to steer my own ship. Given the tough job market, there’s never been a better time to set yourself apart from the rest of the worker bees.

Today I will outline a few simple and concrete ideas that aim to help employees gain a better foothold on their career, strengthen their likelihood of maintaining employment — and income, and even creating the possibility of a raise or bonus.

Being able to impress your boss by standing out in a crowd is one surefire way to achieve job security. Just like any other worthwhile goal, it won’t be easy, but it will be rewarding.

Ask how you can improve

When was the last time you considered approaching your boss to ask how you can improve? I suggest asking him/her to answer the following questions in an effort to help you support him and his company more effectively:

  • Please list the top three things that I do well. It’s important to be aware of the things you are already doing well, so you can continue to do those things.
  • Please list the top three ways in which I could improve. Being able to take constructive criticism properly is a true mark of a good employee.
  • Please share one short-term and one long-term company goal. This will help you to fix your gaze upon the goals of your employer, and will provide valuable insight into what the company’s strategic plan is going forward.

Align your goals

You cannot sustain a successful career if you don’t believe in what you’re doing. Likewise, you’ll be much more successful if you’re on board with your employer’s goals. If you’re not on the same page, then maybe it’s high time you re-evaluate your position and consider a new company or career. Otherwise, jump on the company train and don’t look back!

  • Use the feedback you’ve received. Take the answers your employer gave to your goal questions and develop a few concrete things you can do each day to promote and help reach these goals.
  • Formulate your own short-term and long-term goals. I liken corporate goal setting to running a relay race – the team is only as strong as their weakest link. DO NOT be that weakest link. Instead, strive to be the strongest link! Your efforts will not go unnoticed!

Put yourself in your employer’s shoes

If you were running the company, how would you want the person in your position to behave/perform? This is a very powerful concept that, when properly employed, will always yield the peaceable fruits of success and improved relations.

Be painfully aware of these “boss pet peeves” that breakdown the relationship between you and your boss on a daily basis:

  • Don’t fake sick days. If you’re legitimately sick, then by all means… Use your sick time, that’s what it’s for. But do not abuse this benefit. Better yet… If you’ve been out sick, provide your employer with a doctor’s note. This will put the issue to rest for good and will build trust between you and your boss.
  • Always be punctual. When I hire people, this is one of my big concerns. I don’t want to worry that you might be late, or wonder if you’ll show up at all. If you have trouble being on time, change your targeted arrival time by 15 minutes so you’ll have some leeway.
  • Don’t make excuses. Excuses are like belly buttons… Everybody has one! How would you feel if you were affected by a co-workers poor performance only to have them come back with a pile of excuses. Let’s be honest, nobody likes being put in this position, so don’t be that guy!
  • Don’t just go through the motions. One of the single most useful pieces of advice I can give is to under-promise and over-deliver! Don’t just do the bare minimum. Go the extra mile. If you’re continually surpassing the expectations of your superiors, it’s only a matter of time before a bonus or raise will come your way.

Another good strategy is to identify daily frustrations that your boss has to deal with and then go out of your way to not only avoid them, but to prevent them. This will REALLY put you in good graces of the people that sign your paycheck. Beyond this, you’ll feel better about yourself as your performance improves.

What about you?

I think it’s safe to say that we have all been the “bad employee” at least once or twice. So why not take this opportunity to shed any bad habits that you’ve picked up and start building the simple foundations of success that I’ve outlined above. How do you set yourself apart? What are you doing to build credibility with you employer?

11 Responses to “How to Get a Raise (or at Least Keep Your Job)”

  1. Anonymous

    @Everyone: Great additions… being successful at work – or anything for that matter – requires an attitude of sincere dedication and hard work.

    If you do not have that attitude… I encourage you to find a line of work you are passionate about so you CAN have this attitude!


  2. Anonymous

    I find that honesty is the best program. Lying about what you have been doing only tends to dig a deeper rut and can be hard to get out of a a later point. It’s just easier to stay on task and then you might be rewarded later! It may not seem like being honest is always easy, but it’s a lot easier to be honest and keep the stories straight then to know what stories to tell. I know a woman that claimed to be sick one time, and then got her nails done, and when she went to work the next day, her boss could see her newly painted nails and knew the truth! Just be honest!

  3. Anonymous

    I really liked your tips about asking the boss how you can improve, with one big caveat. I would go into the meeting having answered all the questions myself. That way I can share them with the boss, get their feedback, and add their suggestions.

    This makes your boss involved in the process, allows them to give you feedback, brings your best qualities to their attention, but doesn’t require a lot of their time.

  4. Anonymous

    I am a manager at my company.

    I agree with most of these, but really at the end of the day it is ability and effort that set people apart.

    Its like sports, not everyone has the same ability. 99% of the people could spend 8 hours a day practicing basketball and not be as good as Kobe Bryant – thats just life. It applies to everything.

    The person who has the ability to outperform and combines that with great effort will be one who excels.

  5. Anonymous

    Oberservations of successful people (and a lot of plagiarized quotes):
    1) If you are paid $1.00, be worth $1.25.
    2) Never get off the direct line between Revenue and Profit. “Optional” roles are absorbed easily in lean times.
    3) POGO – People, Organization, Goals & Obstacles. Run through this with your network. Help them achieve their goals first – the reward can not be measured.
    4) Intent over delivery. A.k.a. Sincerity
    5)Focused Intensity..Always Be Closing (sales, admin, construction, whatever – just always be getting stuff done)
    6) Be 100% responsible for what happens to you. Good and bad.
    7) The harder you work, the luckier you are.

  6. Anonymous

    Matt–Excellent, excellent, excellent. I think this is your best post ever, and one of the very best I’ve seen anywhere.

    “Don’t just go through the motions”–this is so common it’s chronic. You can stand out from the crowd and win by default just be stepping up even a little.

    A fan always,

  7. Anonymous

    Always give a job your “all” – especially during your first weeks. If you’re asking for vacation time or deadline extensions your first week, what kind of impression does that make? While you shouldn’t slack off after once you’ve made a good impression or gone through a probationary period, first impressions DO matter. Your boss will likely understand your needs (sick days, vacation time) if they know that you are committed to the job and can do excellent work.

  8. Anonymous

    Very good post. Another way to think about it is to become your boss’s “go to” person. When something pops up, be the person to volunteer and do a great job on it. Work at making the boss think of you when they need something done unexpectedly.

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