In February, the U.S. unemployment rate fell to 5.5 percent — its lowest level since mid-2008. As the economy continues to improve, wages are beginning to rise with it: Walmart, Marshalls and T.J. Maxx, for example, have all announced pay hikes for their employees.
As employers of all sorts look to hold onto high-performing employees, more people may be able to make a case for a raise. Here's how.
Time Your Request Carefully
Although the economy as a whole is doing better, that doesn't mean every company is thriving — and individual employers may not have money for raises. Asking for a raise takes careful timing, and doing so when your company isn't doing well makes it more likely you'll be turned down.
Laura Lieff, president of Accentuating Service, says that a stronger economy may signal a good time to ask for a raise, especially if your industry is also doing better. But before you do, she recommends watching how your employer is spending money. Just because the economy is improving doesn't mean your employer is opening the wallet. The company may need to keep a lid on costs to make up for tougher times. Watch for cost-cutting efforts and other announcements about spending limits; if your employer is still working lean, you may want to rethink asking for a raise.
Make Your Case
Asking for a raise shouldn't depend upon the economy's health or even the employer's health, but rather the individual employee's performance, says Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation.com. While your chances of getting a raise may be better if the business is doing well, that doesn't necessarily justify your employer paying you more.
Instead, point out how you helped the company get to its current position of strength, Sweeney says. "Be sure to enter a discussion about a raise with concrete examples of how you've been helping the business. If your evidence is good enough, and you've been working for a raise all year — not just right before asking for it — there should be little reason to say 'no.'"
Highlight ways you've saved the company money, increased the company's earnings, taken on additional projects, and helped the company operate more efficiently, Lieff says. "Your boss isn't interested in the fact that your child needs braces. You've got to show him how valuable you are to the company and, therefore, to him."
When you can demonstrate you've produced additional profits, managers may become more receptive to offering you additional pay, Demartini says. When you make your case, he recommends sharing a list of new work you've taken on and achievements you've made since your last raise or salary discussion.
Mindy Stern, president of Aim Resource Group, recommends stating your desired salary outright, rather than simply asking for "a raise." After making the case with your list of accomplishments, she suggests saying: "Now that the company is hitting their numbers I've done some research and found that a salary of X would more accurately reflect my value to the company."
If you get turned down, ask if there's a better time to have the discussion, Stern says. "If the supervisor rejects this premise be prepared to give an alternative, such as, 'When would be a good time to address this situation?' or 'Can we agree to meet about this again in 6 weeks?'" A willingness to revisit the conversation suggests you're on the right track, while a reluctance to do so means you may want to pursue a deeper discussion into your employers' expectations.
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