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by Helen Wilkie

If you’re thinking of asking for a raise, the right preparation will help you get that raise.

Your success in getting the raise you want depends on three things:
> The perceived value of your position
> Your job performance
> Timing

Most jobs fall into certain salary classifications.

Sometimes these are set out in company policy as “salary bands”. In this case your job will fall into a certain salary band, which is represented by a dollar range. So the company has determined that this position is valued at $30,000 – $55,000.

Most likely, when you just start the job you’ll come in closer to the lower end of the band, although this is not a hard and fast rule. If you’ve come into the job from outside the company you may have negotiated a higher salary, such as $35,000.But whatever happens, as long as you stay in this particular job with this particular company, you can’t expect to earn more than $55,000 because that is the top of the range.

In smaller companies, it may not be stated in the policy like this, but pay level has to be decided somehow and most often it’s based on what the position is considered to be worth on the job market. You can find this out in several ways. You might check with your local Chamber of Commerce, or with a recruiting firm that handles your type of work in your community. They can tell you what other companies are paying on average for your job.

If you find your company is noticeably lower, you have the first block in building your case for a raise.

If your job performance has been poor, you might as well forget about asking for a raise.

But if you feel you have done an above average job, or created added value for the company, maybe this is the time to ask for a raise.

Again, though, do your homework in advance. Gather the information that illustrates the value you’ve added and carefully prepare your pitch. This may mean you have to look at your job function in a different way than before. instead of thinking about the tasks you perform every day, focus on achievements.

Senior management people have always done this, but non-management staff often don’t think of their work in this way. Focusing on your achievements will give you a better chance of getting that raise.

Now you may be thinking you don’t have any achievements to talk about. But think again. Let’s say, for example, you researched a new software system for performing certain work done by your department. You looked at three different systems, you interviewed the sales people and you researched online. Finally, you recommended one and your recommendation was accepted.

Now that the software is in use, what is the result? Has it directly saved the company money? Has it saved people’s time? Remember, time is money. Has it freed people up from doing routine work so that they can focus on more important tasks? All of these are achievements that help the company, so don’t be shy about talking about them.

If you can quantify the savings in dollars, so much the better.

When you approach your raise request in this way, not only will you demonstrate that you have added value but also that you understand management thinking, which automatically adds to your own value.

Timing is more important than you may think.

In this regard, it’s always useful to know what’s going on in your company. Is business booming, or are sales dramatically down for whatever reason? Read your company’s news releases on its website, or watch for mention in the newspapers.

If the company has just released a new product line on the market and it has been a great hit, business is likely to be good. Chances of getting that raise may be better than if they’ve just closed down a plant!

Now there’s one thing I caution you against, and that is asking for a raise because you need it. It may well be true that your kids need new hockey uniforms or you want to take a trip or your house furnace is on its last legs. But none of this is your employer’s problem or concern. Your success in getting that raise will depend on what your job is perceived to be worth on the market, combined with your boss’s opinion of your job performance — and not on your opinion that you need more money.

Finally, don’t discuss this in a casual way in the corridor, or by email. It’s a business discussion, so set an appointment for the meeting. That sends the message that you mean business.

Helen Wilkie is a professional speaker, communication expert and blogger. Her recent work is helping ResumeBucket and their vast sample resumes collection.

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