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May I ask for a raise my first day on the job?

Q. I have accepted a job at a salary that is far less than I was making earlier as a contractor for the same company. I talked to the human resources department, and they are not ready to increase the salary yet. I was thinking of talking to the manager on the first day of work regarding the salary. What do you advise?

A. It is never a good practice to accept a position, then ask for an increase in your salary the first week on the job. The best time to negotiate a competitive salary is before you accept your job, when both you and the employer are trying to establish a relationship. You accepted the job knowing what the company was offering. The employer now controls the relationship and you are simply beholden to them. You have lost your negotiating power with this employer.

Having said all that, I strongly urge you to research what your job is worth, using the Salary Wizard or the Personal Salary Report. Then, about six months from now, or before your annual review, ask for a raise competitive with what you found on the site.

At the same time, keep your resume in circulation so you don't have to depend on your current employer to pay you what you are worth. And as you prepare for your next salary negotiation, brush up on your negotiation skills by reviewing the Negotiation Clinic at Salary.com.

Note that contractors' rates are sometimes higher for the same job as a full-time employee because contractors must pay for their own benefits. You can compare your total compensation package - salary and benefits - against your industry by using the free My Benefits calculator. When you take into account medical insurance, retirement plans, vacation and sick time, paid holidays, and other company benefits, you might find that the difference in pay is less than you thought.

Good luck.