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Six Steps to Set Yourself Up for a Raise

Many employees feel they’re underpaid for the work they do, yet they wait until their yearly performance review to negotiate a higher salary. But if you wait until then, you’ll be too late. You need to prepare year-round for that discussion. The following steps can help make sure you’re in position for a raise when review time comes around.

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 Unfortunately, many employers have outdated or inaccurate job descriptions. Often, there is no description on file at all. If that’s the case, use the Salary Wizard to search for one or two job descriptions that closely match your job and use that as a starting point. In either scenario, update the description to reflect your specific responsibilities and tasks.

Review your updated job description and divide your job into its components. 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. His goals for the next three months might be to prepare and execute six buys, maintain all the records of those he assists and answer all inquires within two business days.

2. Track Your Progress

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

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’re invested in your future at the company and are prepared to discuss it. This advanced notice will also give your employer the opportunity to evaluate the work you’ve 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. For example, the Salary Wizard is especially useful. Consider not only your base salary but your total compensation package: benefits, vacation days, telecommuting and other work/life benefits. These areas are all important to your quality of life. Also bear in mind that salaries vary depending on location, industry and company size. Consider these factors if you want to assess your market value accurately.

5. Frame Your Pitch

When you sit down for your performance review, use all the information you’ve gathered and records you’ve kept to illustrate both your past work and future potential. Keep the negotiation focused. Don’t discuss upcoming expenses you might have or loans you’re hoping to pay off. These factors may be important you, but they will only distract your employer. 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 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 goals for your future at the company. Discuss a timeline for these goals, so you’ll be prepared to set yourself up for next year’s raise.

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