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Recession-Proof Your Career

How to Get a Raise During a Recession

By Bob Rosner and Sherrie Campbell

To ask your boss for a raise during good times is frightening, but during a recession, it feels like a career killer. Asking for a "recession raise" reminds one of us of the high dive at a certain cement pond in Oklahoma. The pool promised a good time, but at age six, the view from the tip of the board down to the pool looked like suicide.

I worked through my fears and spent most of that summer leaping off the high dive. But most of us will never take the plunge and raise the topic of a raise at work. Don't get left in the shallow end of the pool. Take our advice, and learn how to get a raise during a recession.

DO-Know your worth when asking for a raise

The Antique Road Show regularly documents our inability to judge worth. You might score the jackpot with a long-lost Rembrandt under a "dogs playing poker" painting or it may be a worthless paint-by-number Picasso. We're always amazed when their antique pros reveal the true value of the item in question. Figure out your own worth in the marketplace by using an online salary calculator. Also check job listings and pay ranges, because even during a recession there are real talent shortages in certain positions. You could be a rare find.

DO-Campaign when asking for a raise

Politicians spend time polishing their speeches to win elections. You should also practice asking for a raise. Along with salary data, provide examples of where you saved or made your company money. Maybe you suggested a telecommuting program for employees. Or, maybe you recently landed a lucrative client. Securing a raise isn't about your needs or about the recession, it's about the value you've added to your organization. Get out there and campaign!

DO-Ask for a raise

Are you tired of whining about your salary and wondering how to get a raise to fall into your lap? If you don't ask for a raise at work, you are unlikely to receive one. Create your own good fortune by heading into your boss's office at the first sign of good news. Your department can still land important new contracts during difficult times. Choose the right time before you ask your boss for a raise.

DON'T-Stop at "no" when asking for a raise

It's your worst fear. You've figured out how to ask for a raise at work, but the answer is "no." Rejection will not kill us, but it can certainly cause us to choke. It's easy to throw in the towel at the first sign of resistance, but swallow the "no" and ask what you can do to earn a "yes" when you come back in six months. Ask for specifics. "No" is difficult to hear but it doesn't mean you don't deserve the raise or won't land it eventually. It will be easier to take the plunge next time. And, you'll have a better idea of how to ask for a raise at work.

Next: More on How to Ask for a Raise

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.