Boosting Your Paycheck

By Hannah Wallace March 31, 2007

Unless you're a celebrity CEO already making $250 million-plus in stock options, it's never easy asking for a raise. Even stellar employees, who for years have only seen cost-of-living raises, may hem and haw before approaching the boss.

"People may not be sure they're underpaid," says Sarasota career coach Barbara Somma. "They're not sure how their boss may feel about them. You don't want to get into that situation."

Earning a fatter paycheck takes understanding the goals of the organization and making sure the work you do is recognized, says Soma.

You should find out how raises are determined well in advance of your job review so you have objective criteria to back-up your request, should the annual raise turn out to be on the skinny side.

Somma, who spent 35 years in pharmaceutical market research before starting Defining Destiny career coaching, offers the following strategies.

Smart salary strategies

1. Understand your organization's performance criteria. Ask for feedback throughout the year and be ready to accept it. "What you think is important, your boss may think is minor," says Somma. Problems crop up when people don't understand or agree with a company's criteria. Still, not everything about pay raises is cut and dried. "There are technical skills and there are softer skills-problem solving, initiating and managing change, being a team player," she says. Those less measurable skills are valuable, too, so add them to your list of accomplishments.

2. Find out how and when raises are given. You may convince your boss you deserve more money, but if you wait until November and the new budget is already set, you could be out of luck until the following year.

3. Don't give your best ideas away. Many people aren't comfortable with self promotion, but you have to make sure your work is recognized. Save that brilliant marketing idea for a meeting with your boss. And if you mention it to a co-worker who could run with the idea, follow up with an e-mail along the lines of "I was thinking about our conversation today," Soma says.

4. Make sure key individuals understand your contributions. If you get a complimentary e-mail, make sure your boss sees it, Somma says. Save all those positive notes and meeting agendas that document your good work. Likewise, be the person who sends congratulatory notes to co-workers. That fosters the perception that you're job-focused.

5. Find out what it takes to get promoted. You may need to get more education or training to move up the corporate ladder. "Is there a project you can take on to show your potential?" Somma says. Your idea that saves the company money may warrant a bonus. "Innovation is a great thing," Somma says. "People will create new systems and not tell anyone. Bring it forth to the boss."

6. Don't be a squeaky wheel. A salary decision typically goes up a line of management and that might take time, says Somma. "You may be one of many."

7. Be well informed. Find out about other company benefits to boost your salary. Does your company offer a mileage allowance? A cell phone? A 401K or pension plan? "Understand everything your company offers," Somma says. 

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