Do you ever rip open your paycheck — or examine your bank account online — hoping you’ll see an automatic increase? Are you constantly trying to figure out ways to up your salary? Getting the salary you deserve won’t happen without a well-planned strategy. Knowing why you deserve more money, for instance, will help you make a stronger case for an increase. Understanding how your company compensates its people will further your cause.
Becoming savvy about your salary is one of the most important steps you can take toward successful career management. Here are five solid strategies for getting you there:
- Minimize the stress. Let’s face it: talking about money in general can be uncomfortable; discussing your salary can be downright stressful. Instead of viewing it as a personal issue — which is what makes it so angst-producing — think of your salary as your company’s cost of doing business, its valuation of a position. You bring a certain amount of value to your employer and for that you must be compensated. For example, telling your employer that you should have more money because you deserve it is a personal appeal. However, demonstrating the value you bring in that position (with documentation) highlights your accomplishments rather than your needs.
- Bide your time. Just reading this article may inspire you to approach your boss for a raise. But don’t pounce so fast; consider your timing. First, your company presumably follows certain policies and procedures for reviews and raises, which occur within a specific period of time. It may be more acceptable, for instance, to ask for a raise a month before a review or even earlier. Your company’s current state of financial health and the state of the economy are also important factors to consider. Finally, think about where you are in terms of the projects for which you’re responsible. Completion of a major project or achievement of a specific company goal may present a good opportunity to talk salary. If you’ve committed a major blunder or your project did not meet its goals, however, it’s probably a good idea to hold off on asking for a raise.
- Find a mentor. Having a mentor in upper management is essential. A mentor can help you tap into your potential, instruct you on specific business protocol, or advise you on any number of issues that come up in your daily work life. This, of course, includes salary negotiations. A mentor is more likely to know, for example, the best time to approach your supervisor and how the company has responded in the past to requests for more money. Remember that your mentor may not always tell you something you want to hear, so be prepared to regroup and strategize again after you’ve talked.
- Know your worth. You can’t make a case for getting what you deserve unless you have proof of your worth. Just because you know your value doesn’t mean anyone else does. Evaluate what you do: How much money are you responsible for? How many people do you manage? Do you travel much? Are you always dispensing advice to senior management? Talk to a pal in Human Resources (or find one if you haven’t done so already) about pay scales, go online to poke around a variety of salary sites (such as JobStar Central) and read as much as you can, ask your peers at networking events about salaries, pinpoint what the salary ranges are in your geographic area, and stay current on your knowledge — researching this stuff once a year isn’t enough.
- Be realistic. You may be the company superstar (at least in your mind), but that doesn’t guarantee you millions. No matter how low your starting salary may be, or how well you perceive the company to be doing, you must learn to understand how your company makes its salary decisions. You might pine for the top end of the range, but chances are your company is going to raise your salary in increments. If you believe that you’ve outgrown your job (and its accompanying salary range), talk with your supervisor about opportunities for advancement.