Five Steps to Get the Salary You Want (yes, even in this economy)

    Your company likes you. They really like you. Only, they aren’t paying you like they do. Just because you’re one of the lucky ones who actually has a job in this economy doesn’t mean you’re making ends meet. If you’ve got a job, you’re working your tail off, and you’re still just scraping by, it may be time to ask your boss to show you the money. Can you ask for a raise with the current unemployment rate? Here are five tips for doing it in a classy way:

    1) Take a good look at yourself. Ask a few co-workers to lunch or coffee and get a feel for how you look in their eyes. This needs to be done discreetly and informally (you do not need to feed the all-too-active rumor mill). Preface your questions like this: “Bill, I need blunt, honest feedback from you, OK? How do you think I am doing at work? Do you consider me a team player? The go-to guy? What areas do you see that need improving?”

    If for what whatever reason you don’t get favorable feedback from your reality check with your peers, it may be time to take a good look in the mirror -“ never easy, but very important if you want to improve yourself. Simply put, you’re responsible for making the moves that will get you ahead.

    2) Read the tea leaves. If your company is laying people off, it’s probably not a great time to ask for a raise. However, if you see growth and at least steady business, this may be your time to shine. Nota Bene: do NOT wait for the “perfect time” because that will never come. If you are invaluable and a much-regarded asset at the company, then now is a great time for a well-deserved raise, and it’s important to know that you have nothing to lose. Worst-case scenario, you walk out having the same salary you did going in for the task.

    3) Tell your boss you want a meeting. It’s paramount never to ambush your boss; bosses hate surprises. A simple email or voicemail stating, “Hi, Joe-”I would like to see when you’re available in the next few days to sit down and discuss my compensation. Thank you for your consideration.”

    4) Prepare. Be sure to practice with your spouse, partner, friends, or anyone not connected with your company. If you ask your friends, you will probably be able to find someone who is a boss or in human resources and knows the drill. At any rate, have your answers ready as well as your brag sheet of accomplishments. Do not be modest! Sometimes your boss may be oblivious to your accomplishments until you point them out.

    5) Know your number. Aim high! Always allow your boss room for negotiations. For instance, you may really want a 10 percent raise and feel you truly deserve it; ask for 12 percent or perhaps 14 percent. Nine times out of 10 your boss will bristle at whatever number you offer (it’s in their nature), so allow them room to come down and make it feel like a “win-win” for all. Be prepared to defend your number; point out how you have continually put the company’s needs in front of your own (only if true, of course).

    The bottom line is that if you are invaluable to your company, you will get a raise even in the most difficult economy. It is so much easier to keep talented employees with the firm than to hire and train new ones. Finally, if all the pieces come to be in your favor and the boss (company) still won’t give you a raise, it may be time to start looking at other opportunities. There is always a demand for intelligent, hard-working employees who have integrity. And they get paid well, too!

    Michael McIntyre, president and CEO of Benefits America, has spent 27 years in the sale industry generating more than $3 billion in sales, training more than 20,000 sales agents, and opening offices in more than 40 states. Reach him at