Six Steps to Set Yourself Up For a Raise

by Salary.com Staff - Original publish date: December 5, 2011

Most employees don't know how to negotiate. Many feel they are underpaid for the work they do, yet they wait until their yearly performance review to begin salary negotiations. Where and when do you begin? Now is the time to convince your boss.

According to Lena Bottos, CCP, GRP, if you wait until it is time for your yearly performance review, you'll be too late. Bottos, who is Managing Director of Compensation at Salary.com, shared the following steps with us to help you start off on the right foot and make sure you are in position for a raise.

1. Define Your Current Job

The first step in setting yourself up for a raise is to establish a baseline or benchmark by finding and updating your job description. "Unfortunately, many employers have outdated or inaccurate job descriptions," says Bottos. "Often there is no description on file. If that is the case, use the Salary Wizard to search for one or two job descriptions that are close matches to your job and use that as a starting point." In either scenario, Bottos urges you to update the description to reflect your specific responsibilities and tasks.

Review your updated job description and divide up your job into its component parts. In each area set standards and goals. "For example, an entry-level media coordinator at an advertising agency might divide his job into the areas of pitching cable buys, assisting the media director, and clearing billing inquiries," says Bottos. "His goals for the next three months might be to prepare and execute six buys, maintain all the records of those they assist, and answer all inquires within two business days."

2. Track Your Progress

After you have finalized your job description and set future goals, take the time to document your progress. "Each time you complete a task or reach a specific goal, record what you have done," says Bottos. "This personal job data will be useful during your performance review. Instead of speaking generally about the work you have been doing, you will be able to point to specific examples of the progress you have made." According to Bottos, this information may also indicate to your employer that your job is evolving -- and that it is time for an increase in responsibility, salary, and title.

3. Discuss Your Upcoming Review

As review time draws near, take the initiative and set up a meeting with your boss. "Let your employer know you are invested in your future at the company and prepared to discuss it," says Bottos. "This will also give your employer the opportunity to evaluate the work you have been doing up to this point."

4. Do Your Research

Although salary negotiations may still take place behind closed doors, the internet has made it easy to learn where your compensation package stands in comparison to other workers in your field. "Salary.com's Salary Wizard is especially useful," says Bottos. "Consider not only your base salary but also your total compensation package: benefits, vacation days, telecommuting, and other work/life benefits. These areas are all important to your quality of life." Bottos adds that you should also bear in mind that salaries vary depending on locations, industries, and company size. Consider these factors if you want to accurately assess your market value with your employer.

5. Frame Your Pitch

When you sit down for your performance review, you can use all the information you have gathered and records you have kept to illustrate both your past work and future potential. "It is important to keep the negotiation focused," says Bottos. "Don't discuss upcoming expenses you might have or loans you are hoping to pay off. These factors may be important you, but they will only distract your employer." Bottos advises that you should let the discussion focus on your performance and your future at the company. Make it clear that you want to grow in the job -- and that you want your salary to grow with you.

During negotiations, be sure to mention the other areas of your compensation package. It may be easier for your employer to expand your work/life benefits than to raise your salary, and frequently the resulting change is equally beneficial to you.

6. Start Again

During your review, be sure to speak to your employer about his or her goals for your future at the company. "Discuss a timeline for these goals," says Bottos. "Now you are prepared to set yourself up for next year's raise."

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