By Vickie Elmer
If your boss is like most managers, she's probably too busy managing meetings and deadlines and corporate goals to give much thought to your value to the company.
So, you could make it easy for her to give you a substantial raise by preparing a short memo on your value, and how that could show up in your paycheck. Some managers may respond better if you do this in a one-on-one or conversation first, so you get their blessing to make a case for a large bonus or raise.
If you're about to do this, pat yourself on the back for taking the initiative. Most people who ask for more money get it, Jack Chapman writes in his book Salary Negotiation: How to Make $1,000 a Minute. This, of course, works best for those who have spent their time and energy on the most important tasks all year and have a track record of success.
This is the month that many bosses are finishing up performance reviews and recommending raises, so get going now to earn more. Here's how to posture for a primo raise:
1. Do some digging.
Start sleuthing early, talking to people in human resources and maybe a manager you're friendly with in the next department. Go through Glassdoor's salary sections and check for people who have comparable jobs and experience as you. "In this game, the more information the better," said Jim Hopkinson, author of The Salary Tutor. Make sure you pay attention to any clues that the company is facing a rough patch -- that is not the time to ask for a 25 percent pay increase, if another department just laid off three people. Also: Tap your network to find out the success stories, those with the oversize pay increases, and figure out how they did it, says Mary E. Hayward, a former career director turned salary negotiation and resume coach.
"Approach this from a more collaborative point of view" with your boss as an advocate of you and your raise, said Hayward. "That shifts the whole dynamic" when you can go to your boss and strategize on how you can build a case for a big raise. You may even be able to write part of your performance review, or at least provide the bullet points of your top five or seven accomplishments. Ideally, you've been developing this relationship all year-round. If not, start now. Ask for a quarterly meeting or discussion of your work, and review your accomplishments and goals for the coming period. Be sure to ask: "How can I help you make a success of the work ahead?"
3. Joke about a $1 million salary.
Job candidates who quipped, "Well, I'd like a million dollars, but really I just want what's fair," when asked about their expected salary, ended up with an offer that was almost $4,000 or 12 percent higher than those who declined to give an expected salary, according to a Fortune.com article. The reason: "When we encounter a number -- even an irrelevant number -- we fixate on it, and it influences our judgment," Todd Thorsteinson, a psychology professor at the University of Idaho, told Fortune.com.
If you document that you've brought in an extra $25,000 in revenue beyond your quota that gives you a strong platform from which to ask for a $7,000 raise. "Monetize your contributions," Chapman suggests, whether your role is scientist, engineer or secretary. Some people help others achieve results or save them time and effort -- those can be quantified too.
5. Consider an adjective.
If your boss asks how much of a raise you want, sometimes it's better to "keep it vague," said Hopkinson. This is where terms such as "generous," "substantial," "large" may work in your favor. That way you don't leave thousands of dollars in income behind by asking for a 7 percent raise when your boss was thinking 11 percent.
6. Take along tough year alternatives.
If your company just reported a big loss, or had to close some locations, your salary increase proposal may need to be abridged. You could ask that your performance be evaluated again in six months, and then draw up a list of specific goals that you need to achieve to earn a healthy increase, Hayward suggested. Or "go for perks" instead of money, things like membership to a local gym, increased tuition reimbursement, attending a professional convention or more vacation time. Said Hayward: "In this crazy world, three extra vacation days have a very high value to most people."
Vickie Elmer writes about consumer issues, careers and workplace subjects for The New York Times, Fortune magazine, The Washington Post and other top tier media outlets. The mother of three also co-owns Mity Nice LLC, a small social cart business based in Ann Arbor, Mich., which donates to more than a dozen charities each summer and fall.
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