Get yourself into the habit of recognizing when you have been doing a good job for an extended period. This is the classic signal that you're ready for a promotion, a pay increase, or both. Learn the etiquette about pay talk on the job. Then get yourself into the habit of asking for what you deserve.
What have you done for them lately?
First, you need to be able to explain the logic behind the hunch that says you're ready for more. You need evidence to show your manager that you deserve it. No one is paying closer attention to your work than you are. What have you done for your company lately? The company wants to know.
One way to document your contribution to your company is to keep a job diary. Every week, or even every day, write down what you did and how it helped meet the company's objectives. Keep lists or spreadsheets, because managers like to count things. Remember that attributes such as positive attitude, willingness to put in overtime, and quality of work, are essential. Include a few good stories about your work in the diary to illustrate what you added.
From all this documentation you should be able to create a list of several compelling reasons why you deserve a pay increase.
How often can you ask for a raise or promotion?
You probably get a performance review once a year or once every six months. Companies often schedule salary reviews to coincide with these performance reviews.
If you work for a company that has been around for a while, you might have to wait a year before your first salary review. But if you work at a startup and cash is tight at the beginning, you might be able to get a performance review after working there for three or six months, or after a significant round of financing. If it has been more than a year since your last pay increase, it is probably time to ask for a raise.
A promotion, usually accompanied by a raise, acknowledges that you are ready for additional responsibilities. Even without a pay increase, a promotion can help further your career by signaling to future employers how your career has progressed.
How much should you ask for?
As with any negotiation, you should know what you're worth before you ask for more. Find out the market range for your job by doing research through compensation tools such as the Salary Wizard, then consider where you should fall within that range given your skills and accomplishments.
It is not unheard of for a company to adjust a salary considerably when presented with better information about the value of a job. But some companies offer only modest increases, even for outstanding performance. Use the rumor mill and the human resources office to find out about what types of raises are customary. Just don't ask your coworkers what they are earning.
A cost-of-living increase that keeps pace with inflation is not a real raise. If inflation is 4 percent and your raise is 4 percent, you are just staying even.