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Recession-Proof Your Career

How to Make Money in a Recession: Ask For a Raise

By Bob Rosner and Sherrie Campbell

Economic planning during a recession is difficult for everyone. But, wouldn't it be easier to balance your budget if you landed a raise? So much is out of our control during a recession: stocks, layoffs, inflation, gas prices. But there is one area you can personally influence - your paycheck. So, if you're worried about how to make money in a recession, here are some solid strategies to guide you in asking for a raise during a recession:

  • DO - Know your worth
  • DO - Campaign for a raise.
  • DO - Ask for a raise.
  • DON'T - Stop at "no."

So let's take a creative look at your past, present and future to create some new options that you could pursue in the event of a career meltdown, or job burnout.

Know Your Worth When Asking for a Raise
Rather than searching the Internet for "how to make money in a recession", it's a good idea to research your own value, and consider asking for a raise. Of course, it can be a real challenge to determine your own value. To overestimate, when asking for a raise, can be painfully embarrassing and to underestimate could cost you greatly. Ask yourself the following questions before asking for a raise.

Asking for a Raise - Checkup Questions:

  • What salary should someone in your position earn?
  • Are there other places you can turn for salary information?
  • How can you present your case?

Let's get to the bottom of these questions with specific steps to determine your worth.

Asking for a Raise - Action Plan:

  1. Determine your value. PayScale has received salary information from almost 10 million people. Take five minutes to fill out the PayScale salary survey and compare your salary to other people in similar jobs. The salary levels come from real people just like you. PayScale's figures are actually used by thousands of employers to determine salary levels and millions of employees to determine their individual worth. The information you gather from this report could be a deciding factor in your bid for a raise. You can even print out a report to take into your salary negotiation.
  2. Check other sources. You can double check salary figures by scouring the want ads that include the pay range for your job. Clip them. We know this is almost as exciting as cutting and filing coupons, but keep your recession raise in mind. When asking for a raise, you'll not only want to show your boss the pay range for your position but that you are aware of locally available positions.
  3. Present a case study. Put together a report that outlines all of the salary data that you've gathered. Provide the range of pay, graphs and want ads from companies in your region. However, leave your financial troubles, mortgage payments and credit card debt out of the conversation entirely. This is not about your financial needs; it's about providing proof of what the market is paying people with similar job titles.
Campaign for a Raise
This campaign isn't for your favorite politician; it's for a bigger paycheck. You probably can't hire a team of campaign managers, but you can document your specific contributions. Trust us (as all good politicians imply), it will pay off.

Asking for a Raise - Checkup Questions:

  • What do clients, coworkers and managers say about your performance?
  • Can you state clearly your direct effect on the company?
  • Are you confident in your job performance?

The action plan below will help you document how you add value to your company.

Asking for a Raise - Action Plan:

  1. Prove your worth. Politicians are great at creatively stating their benefit to their constituents. You need to do the same. Make a list of benefits you've brought to the company. Start with specific examples of times that you've saved your company money or examples where you added revenue. But, don't stop there. Document long-term problems facing the company that you solved and the great employees that you brought on board. Remember, you can document how you have been a benefit to your company more intimately than anyone else.
  2. Build PR. Get the public involved in your own public relations campaign. Keep a file of past "atta boy" or "atta girl" emails and cards about your performance on projects. Revisit your last performance review. Ask a couple of highly respected coworkers or customers to write a letter of recommendation for you. You can also gather evidence of your contributions through a free 360 evaluation (an evaluation that you can send out to past supervisors, peers and employees) from a company like Checkster.com. An appropriate piece of PR at the right time may sway the deciding vote when asking for a raise.
  3. Practice asking for a raise. Congratulations! You've just developed talking points. Have you ever heard someone give a speech and had the feeling they didn't believe their own arguments? Don't stumble on this one. Present your case confidently. It's going to be tough to convince your boss if you don't buy in to your own hype. Practice with a trusted friend or loved one or even argue your case to the mirror.
Ask for a Raise
It would be great if more cash just fell from the heavens into your own backyard, but it doesn't happen that way. No, you've got to ask for a raise. And we'll help you build your case below.

Asking for a Raise - Checkup Questions:

  • Who would be a great co-conspirator when asking for a raise?
  • How will you (pardon the pun) raise the topic?
  • When and where will you present your case?

Asking for a raise is hard, and we know it. Every year we receive a ton of mail from sales folks begging for the secret key to commission glory. The biggest answer we've found that leads to more sales is "the ask." It seems obvious, but it's the scariest part of the sales process and an open door for rejection.

Asking for a Raise - Action Plan:

  1. Partner up. Lean on your support network. We're talking about the buddy system here. Find a person you can confide in, practice with - someone who will follow up on just how the meeting with your boss went. It could be your spouse, your best friend or your neighbor, but find your co-conspirator.
  2. Practice your monologue. Jay Leno often sneaks into open mic night at comedy clubs to practice his Tonight Show monologue. We could take some cues from Leno and practice our monologue before asking for a raise. "I'd like to talk to you about why I deserve a raise." Launch right into what you've done for the company, what others say of your performance and your salary information case. And, it's best in this monologue to leave the joking to the late-night pros.
  3. Time it. We all have times of the day and week and month that are best for us; your boss is no different. Asking for a raise during the year end budget planning process, during an outside audit or when your boss is distracted is less than prime time. Comedians know it's all about timing, so find the time when your boss will be most responsive when you ask for a raise.
Don't Stop at "No."
There are a thousand sports references we use to cheer ourselves on: "step up to the plate," "keep swinging," and the ever popular "try, try again." We also use one you might not have tried. "Choke up!" It's a batting term that simply means, get a good grip. And you'll need to get a grip on what you'll say if your boss responds to your raise request with a "no."

Asking for a Raise - Checkup Questions:

  • Can you proceed after rejection?
  • Do you know what's next for you?
  • How can you get out of the situation?

Having a next-step plan can provide the breathing room you need in times of rejection.

Asking for a Raise - Action Plan:

  1. Breathe. After all the work and nervous energy you've put into asking for a raise a "no" can feel like a sucker punch. Don't call your boss a sucker (out loud anyway), but do catch a quick breath and show your determination for the next round of salary negotiations.
  2. Move forward. A "no" today isn't necessarily a "no" forever. Ask your boss what steps you can take over the next six months to work toward a raise. Take notes and work with your boss to develop a plan together. Nudge your boss to be as specific as possible. If your boss refuses to offer any specifics, it might be a sign that catching a raise from your current employer just isn't going to happen. You might dust off your resume and start looking elsewhere for better pay. Then, try our favorite home-run way to land a recession raise. Bring in a competing offer from another company. If you do that, though, be prepared to take that other offer. There's no guarantee your current employer will counter-offer.
  3. Schedule. Give yourself time to reach the target that your boss has established. Six months is a good ballpark figure. Get out your calendar and ask to schedule your follow up conversation before you leave the room. Sure, this puts pressure on you to produce, but it also lets your boss know you have the confidence to pull it off.

Bob Rosner and Sherrie Campbell author the weekly internationally-syndicated workplace911 column. Bob's a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. Sherrie's a work relations expert and award-winning comedian. Together they offer 12 years of quick, intuitive and humorous column responses on their workplace911.com website. You can e-mail them at bs@workplace911.com.