Your parents and friends always tell you that you're priceless, but how much does your company think you are worth?

With the improving economy and job market, people have more options in 2006. Companies are offering bigger salaries and better packages to gain and maintain the best employees. In light of this, it may be the perfect time to ask your company for the raise you deserve.

Most companies aren't going to throw more money at you "just because," so it's your job to state your case if you think you deserve more money. Of course, asking for a raise from your boss can be an intimidating task. Here are five tips to help you approach the situation with the proper insight and confidence.

1. Know What You're Worth

The first step is to get the facts and figures to justify your request for more pay. If you do your homework, it's much easier to build a compelling case. Look at websites like and and research industry journals and professional associations to see what people in your position typically make. Speak with your colleagues and check our recruitment ads in local newspapers and the classifieds. If you realize that a systems analyst in Chicago typically makes between $45,000 and $55,000, and you're only at $40,000 - it's much easier to make your case.

2. Prove You Deserve the Money

You need to walk into a meeting with your boss with documented reasons as to why you deserve a raise. Never try to make a case for a raise on the basis of need. Prove that you deserve the money based on your high performance and your contributions to your employer's goals. The best way to do this is to bring in your accomplishments AND what you plan to do to earn your new salary. If you can say, "I sold 850 contracts last year, and that netted the company and extra $60,000 in profit. I think it only makes sense for me to get a $6,000 raise," it makes your case even stronger. Remember one thing though; your salary is not the only expense that a company has for you. What you make is typically only about 50% of what you cost the company. Things like health costs, office space, and phone lines all add up to tremendous overhead. If you make $50,000 a year, you probably cost your company $100,000 a year! Prove that your value exceeds costs, and you'll be hard to refuse.

3. Talk to the Right Person at the Right Time

Your boss might not be the one who determines whether or not you get a raise. You want to do whatever you can to state your case directly to the decision maker. You can make a great, compelling case to your boss as to why you deserve a raise, but if she's not the decision maker, she may not represent your story the same way you would. A good boss with a good heart can be more effective at getting to the decision maker, but if you don't get along with your boss, you may want to go above or around her. Similarly, you want to talk about a raise at the right time. You want a private meeting - with no other distractions or business to talk about. Ideally, you can do it over lunch or in someone's office.

4. Be Direct, Concise, and Assertive

Too many people beat around the bush or sound too wishy-washy when it comes time to actually ask for the money. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is failing to prepare yourself.

Bad: "Well, I know times are tough, and you probably have a lot of deserving people around here, so I was hoping, if it's possible, that I might be able to get a raise?"

Good: "Phil, as you know I've been a valuable and critical member of our team. Over the past year alone, I've elevated the quality of our news program, eliminated on-air glitches, and even filled in for two employees on maternity leave. I have not received a raise in two years, and based on salary surveys, I'm at the low end of the scale for my position. I think you would agree that I deserve a raise."

As you can see, assertive speech presents a more powerful case.

5. Know your Company

If the goal is to get more money, requesting a raise isn't always the only or even best way to get it done. Some companies have very defined pools of money. Some money is for raises, some for promotions, and even some for "counter offers." Since promotions usually come with more money, requesting a promotion may be even easier than requesting a raise. Sometimes even the thought that you're interviewing can spur a company to give you a raise. A strategically "misplaced" resume or wearing an interview suit to work can do wonders! You need to be cautious with this technique as some companies may see this as a reason to give you a raise, but others may see this as grounds for firin! That's why you need to know your company.

Before having the "money talk," it's also important to evaluate your level of job satisfaction. Consider creative options and other benefits to improve your situation if your salary is non-negotiable. You may want to consider back-up career plans as well. Money isn't always the key to job happiness, so you need to identify the point at which you are willing to walk before you have the conversation with your boss.

Securing a good raise seems tricky, but if you put these five tips into practice, you can handle the negotiation with candor and confidence.

Brad Karsh is president of JobBound, a company specializing in resume writing, interviews, and job preparation to help students and professionals get a great job. Author of Confessions of a Recruiting Director: The Insider?s Guide to Landing Your Fist Job (Prentice Hall Press), Brad Karsh is considered the nation?s leading job expert. He?s been featured on CNN?s Paula Zahn Now, CNBC, CNNfn, and quoted in The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Fortune, and many others. For even more job search advice, check out

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