Accounting Students 5 Spot: Survival Skills

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Accounting Students 5 Spot: Survival Skills. How to Successfully Negotiate a Raise. It ranks right up there with root canals and traffic court: no one likes asking for a raise.

However as the holiday season approaches, more Americans will likely swallow their pride and approach the boss' office, sweaty-palmed and apprehensive, but compelled by an ever-growing list of Christmas obligations.

In fact 34 percent1 of Americans worry their current paychecks will not stretch far enough to purchase the festive goodies the Christmas season requires, leaving one-third of us with thin smiles and thinner wallets during this season of so-called good cheer.

Asking for a raise does not need to resemble a scene between Bob Crachit and Ebenezer Scrooge. With proper research, good timing and a little luck, you will likely be able to stuff the stockings and trim the tree, with a little extra jingle in your pocketbook to boot.

Research and Preparation

Before you remotely entertain the notion of approaching a superior for a pay raise, your strategy must be well planned. Proper research builds a strong case in your favor, and suggests to your employer an air of importance, consideration and respect.

Be honest. Take a long, hard look in the mirror and truthfully determine whether or not a raise is deserved. If you have any doubts, so will your employer.

Know the boss. Be familiar enough with the boss to know how best to approach him. It may be beneficial to speak with other colleagues who have had previous success. Know what to mention and what to avoid.

Timing is also crucial: wait until the boss is particularly pleased with the output of the company, preferably with a specific project of yours before requesting a raise. If you have produced more than expected, the manager can likely justify the raise.

Pay attention. The employee should know the financial welfare of the company, as well as his particular department. Has the manager been complaining about cutbacks? 

Can the company honestly afford to give a raise at this time?

How often are raises awarded? How much is given? Does the company award Christmas bonuses? Know the answers to these questions before proceeding. Proper timing cannot be stressed enough. Do not suggest a raise when business is down.

Know the market. What is the going rate2 for your skill set? Find out what other employees receive in similar career fields. If you are receiving fair market value for your work, your manager will likely tell you your request is unfounded.

Schedule an appointment. For many businesses, the holiday season is especially hectic - do not try to "drop in" unexpectedly as this puts added stress on your manager, and decreases the likelihood of success.

Ask your superior verbally or send a memo to request a brief meeting. Preferred meeting times are generally first thing in the morning or directly after lunch, before excessive deadlines and other obligations have a chance to pile up.

The Meeting

You should have a well-planned agenda for the meeting. Do not waste the boss' time by arriving disorganized. Plan your approach: know exactly what you want to say.

Relax. Many employers are very helpful and non-intimidating when asked for raises. Speak with respect, but not fear.

Drop the attitude. Never present a request for a raise as a demand or threat. Instead assume a positive, friendly demeanor that conveys how much you enjoy your job.

State the facts. Prepare a document that lists major accomplishments. Give specific examples of work you have completed that is, "above and beyond the call of duty." 

Make before and after comparisons.

Discuss how other employees with similar responsibilities and job descriptions are paid. Describe skills that are indispensable to the company. Also include any future goals you intend to achieve on behalf of the company.

Shoot straight. Have a specific amount in mind for your raise. Be fair: do not overshoot the number, thinking you will have to dicker. Also, do not bring personal matters into the equation (i.e., "My husband lost his job," etc.).

You may find it effective to state general facts such as, "The cost of living has increased 10 percent over last year," or "Property taxes have tripled due to Proposition XX that was passed last fall." However if you choose to cite examples, document your findings.

The Outcome

Fifty-two percent 3 of employees that ask for higher salaries actually receive them. Be prepared for a number of responses from your employer.

Be flexible. If your employer declines your request for a raise citing inadequate funds, suggest the possibility of non-monetary alternatives. This creates a sense of choice for the employer, who may be more willing to offer insurance, extra vacation, paid parking or other perks, rather than cash.

Be persistent. If your boss responds with a flat-out "No," respectfully ask for specific reasons why the raise is being denied. Do not become argumentative. Write down the reasons, resolve to work on them, and tell your supervisor you appreciate his honestly.

Express your thanks. If you are granted a raise, show your gratitude. An immediate and sincere, "thank you very much," is a given. Take a step further. Restate your future goals. Reassure him you will work even harder.

A 'Thank You' card and/or a gift are other thoughtful ways to demonstrate gratitude. Worst case scenario: if you are not granted a raise, a 'thank you' is still in order.

Tell your supervisor you appreciate his honesty, you are grateful he took the time to meet with you, and that you look forward to working harder next quarter.


2 The American Almanac of Jobs and Salaries, by Wright and Dwyer (Avon Books)


Do you have a survival story of your own or some good advice to those entering the "real world"? Tell us about your survival skills.

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