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How to land a raise in a tough economy

Posted on 2/18/14 7:57:00 AM

It appears likely that President Barack Obama will use his State of the Union speech in January to proclaim a higher minimum wage for workers on new government contracts, according to MarketWatch, a blog sponsored by The Wall Street Journal.

Obama plans to utilize his executive power to get the ball rolling on the monetary raise, and he'll renew a call to Congress to approve of the minimum wage increase, which is nearly three dollars for those employees. The minimum wage will go from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 for workers on new government contracts.

While you might not be working for minimum wage, some Americans are hoping Obama can use his executive powers to sway their employers to give them a raise.

Many people across the nation feel like they are being underpaid by their place of work, and that's been especially true since the downturn of the U.S. economy in the mid-2000s.

A slew of companies put an end to doling out raises following the burst of the housing bubble, but several years later, many companies are still lukewarm on the idea of increasing worker compensation, according to Yahoo! Finance.

A number of career experts told Yahoo! Finance that a boost in salary is still possible for some workers, but employees looking for additional income will need a certain characteristic to earn one: The courage to ask for a raise.

"Clearly most companies today are not looking for opportunities to hand out money," Lynn Taylor, author of "Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant; How to Manage Childish Boss Behavior and Thrive in Your Job," told Yahoo! Finance. "During the boom era of the late '90s when talent was scarce and retention was top of mind, nearly the opposite was true. While the corporate landscape is different now, you shouldn't sit idly and feel dissatisfied in silence. If you have supportive evidence your salary is at sub-market levels, you should speak up."

Two workers, no raise
USA Today reported that employees who aren't bringing home enough cash usually make strategic errors when trying to earn a raise. The source gave two examples from anonymous workers who desire raises:

"When I was hired, the salary offer seemed quite low for someone with a master's degree," the first person told USA Today. "I accepted anyway, but now I resent my minimal paycheck. Since the idea of asking for money makes me uncomfortable, I'm hoping my boss will see that I deserve a raise."

This worker is not proactive enough to land a raise, the article contends. The second employee is a bit more upfront on the issue.

"I'm a top performer, but my pay is low compared to the market," the second employee told USA Today. "When I pointed this out during my review, nothing happened. This year, if management offers me a five percent increase, I'll just say 'Thanks, but I'm worth more than that. What can you do to bring my pay up to market level?'"

Despite the second being more upfront, USA Today said neither employee is likely to receive a raise with those approaches. So here are a few tips that could help you secure a bigger paycheck:

1. Understand your company's pay practices. Speak with your HR manager to learn about salary ranges and compensation policies. Understanding when and where people get raises within your company can help you avoid unwanted stress in the workplace.

2. Sell yourself, don't beg. Your boss isn't likely to give you a raise just because you're behind on your bills. But your boss might take into account that you lead your department in sales or have taken on a bigger workload the past few months. Focus on your strengths and make sure you sell your value to the company.

3. Try to be practical. You might pay $25 for a Kobe steak burger, but you're not going to pay that price for a fast-food double cheeseburger. The same is true for your employer. If you work in the mailroom, don't expect to make a vice president salary. Know your role, market value and what they're worth to your company.