CANOE Network

The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

Show me the money

By Linda White
Special to the Toronto Sun

You made a pitch that earned the company a lucrative new contract, surpassed last quarter's sales quota, can appease the most difficult clients, are putting in more hours than ever before. Bottom line: you feel you're worth more than you're getting paid and want a raise.

Your list of virtues may indeed be long, but understanding what your job is worth and preparing your case before sitting down with the boss will increase your chances of success.
(Photo, Comstock)

"This is an appropriate time (to negotiate compensation) because performance reviews often take place at the beginning of a year," says Karen Meredith, president of Drake North America. "It is a sensitive issue. Most people shy away from this and become reactionary, waiting for the company to approach them. But you are in charge of your destiny."

The first steps to negotiating a pay raise are:

* Evaluate your skills and your formal job description.

* Compile a list of tasks you've undertaken in addition to those listed in your job description.

* If your company does performance evaluations, gather copies of your most recent reviews.

* Make a list of your accomplishments and, if applicable, the dollar value of each (e.g. how much you saved or earned for the company).

Determine the market value and demand for your job using sources like job postings, industry periodicals, recruitment agencies and online compensation guides, advises Keisha Lynch of YMCA Employment Services in Toronto. But remember, salaries typically vary from one region to another, so be sure to include some local information.

Be aware of your company's policies regarding salary increases. Perhaps employees are reviewed at the same time each year and raises are awarded only at that time. Understand your company's financial position. If it's struggling to stay afloat, this may not the opportune time to ask for more money.

"In some cases, the negotiation process is out of your hands and really depends on the structure of the company," says Nancy Anderson, an associate with Career Partners International/Hazell & Associates in Toronto and an independent career management consultant.
(Photo, Warren Chue)

"Larger companies may have policies in place with little room for negotiation, while small and mid-sized companies may be more flexible with options that can be negotiated," Anderson says.

In lieu of a salary increase, consider negotiating such benefits and perks as: extra vacation time, flexible hours, health and insurance benefits, training, pension plan, bonuses, commissions, profit sharing, stock options, expense account, memberships, a severance package, parking, office space and a laptop computer.

"Determine what values are important to you," Anderson says. "People need to know what they can negotiate. You need to sell that to an employer and make it a win-win for each of you." Once you've done your homework, it's time to present your case. Ask your boss for an appointment at a time convenient for them. "Let them know why you want to meet with them, that you'd like to discuss your career and compensation," Meredith says.

Even if you enjoy a friendly relationship with your manager, take a formal approach to your meeting. Outline why you enjoy working for the company and your interest in growing your career with it. Reference your accomplishments. Ask open-ended questions: What are the opportunities for increased compensation in this position?

"Be reasonable and know your worth in the marketplace and your worth to the organization," Meredith says. "Never give your manager an ultimatum. Your manager will need to think about it and may need to consult with their manager or the HR department. Establish a time frame to reconvene your discussion."

Follow up your meeting with an e-mail or letter summarizing topics covered. List action items, such as how you're going to accomplish new goals and when you have agreed to meet again. If tensions arose during the meeting, this is an ideal opportunity to clear the air, restating your dedication and loyalty, Meredith says.

If your boss does come back with improved compensation, don't accept the offer too quickly, Anderson advises. Take the time to ensure it adequately addresses your request.

Remember, you're presenting a case that the job you're doing is worth more than you're getting paid. Too many employees make the mistake of asking for a raise because they need more money. Your personal finances are not your company's problem.

Finally, don't despair if you don't get the compensation you requested on your first shot.

"Keep working to the best of your ability to exceed targets. Take on new responsibilities," Lynch says. "Go back to your boss a few months down the road and revisit your request."

(Linda White ( is a freelance writer based in Brooklin, Ont.)

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