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The basic rule of asking for a raise is this; if you don’t ask for it, you won’t get it. While you will get cost-of-living increases, you’re unlikely to get more unless you are willing to ask. Below are some good guidelines to help you prepare:

1. Evaluate

Look at the total compensation picture before you start to negotiate your paycheck. This includes bonuses, commissions, health insurance, medical and dependent care spending accounts, profit sharing, paid vacation, stock options, etc. All of these benefits have a dollar amount tied to them.

2. Anticipate your Boss's Concerns

Just like you; your boss has needs and concerns. To persuade them to say yes, your ideas will have to address those things that are important to them.

3. Focus on Objective Criteria

It is far easier to persuade someone to agree with your proposal if he sees how that proposal is firmly grounded on objective criteria, such as what similar firms pay people of like experience or what others in the company make. Remember you shouldn’t explain why you “need” a raise; you should explain why you are worth more.

4. Do Your Homework

Find out what others in your position make. Look up salary calculators on the internet, check with others in the industry, and browse through job postings to see how your salary compares to those being offered to new employees.

5. Prepare Thoughtfully to Achieve Your Goals

This is the only aspect of your negotiations you can completely control. To take advantage of all of the above advice, you have to invest a significant amount of your time and energy.

6. Know Your True Value

Have you saved your company money, improved a process or met your quota? If you've had an impact on the company's bottom line, know the exact figure. Suggest the company tie your compensation to measurable bottom-line results. If your position doesn't have a specific line in the budget, be ready to prove that your work improved morale or employee retention. The key is to provide data that shows your value to the company.

7. Be Your Own Advocate

Make sure you bring your list of accomplishments to your boss's attention. You are the best source of information about you, and you have to be willing to step up to the plate and go to bat for yourself. Don't count on your boss to simply suggest you ought to earn more money or to notice you haven't had a raise in 10 years. You need to be willing to brag about yourself.

8. Plan Ahead

If you want an early raise, let your bosses know you'd like to discuss the issue so you can give them a peek at what you want from the next raise. Ask for a meeting to conduct a pre-review discussion.

9. Clarify Your Interests

Your compensation should satisfy a range of needs, not just salary. Make sure you have thought about other points of value to you as well -- like profit sharing, stock options that vest immediately, a bonus, greater work responsibilities, a quicker promotion schedule, increased vacation or flexible hours.

10. Be Persuasive

It's hard to force your boss to increase your compensation, and trying to do so can potentially damage your working relationship. Think about the process as trying to convince him that it might benefit the organization to pay you more.

11. Focus on Objective Criteria

It is far easier to persuade someone to agree with your proposal if he sees how that proposal is firmly grounded on objective criteria, such as what similar firms pay people of like experience or what others in the company make. Remember you shouldn’t explain why you “need” a raise; you should explain why you are worth more.

12. Aim High but Be Realistic

Many researchers have found a strong correlation between people's aspirations and the results they achieve in negotiation. At the same time, you want to suggest ideas to which your boss can realistically say yes. Firmly establish “Fair” so that when you negotiate it makes sense.

13. Start Off with the Right Tone

You want to let your boss know you will listen and try to understand his views. At the same time, you expect your boss to do the same for you so you can work together to address this issue. Avoid ultimatums, threats and other coercive behavior. Avoid boxing your boss into a corner; instead, let them know you want to communicate and be proactive.

14. Create Several Options

Joint brainstorming is the most effective way to find ideas that satisfy everyone's interests. It works best when you separate it from commitment -- first create possible solutions, and then decide among them. Be open and create on suggestions. Sometimes it’s not easy for the boss to change salary, but perks can often be more easily obtained.

In case you cannot persuade your boss to say yes, you need to have a backup plan. Part of preparation is creating a specific action plan so you know what you'll do if you have to walk away from the table. If you aren’t paid fairly it may be time to look at your options; but remember, it is never worth chasing money if you LOVE your job. Being in the right company is very important and money won’t make your job more rewarding!