Getting your boss to agree to a pay rise may seem unlikely amid widespread redundancies and public sector pay freezes, but there's no way of knowing until you ask.
Most companies want to maintain good employees by keeping them happy, so follow our practical guide to build your case for a New Year pay boost.
Time it right
Timing is key to the success of your request. "If you have recently completed a successful assignment, or won some new business – then it is probably a good time to ask," advises David Press, director of DMJ Recruitment. Other good times include your annual performance review, or at the end of the calendar or financial year.
"As a general rule, it can appear greedy if you ask for a pay rise more than once a year, unless your responsibilities have changed dramatically," says Michael Gentle, head of consumer marketing at Monster (UK & Ireland).
Prove your worth
Demonstrating how your role or responsibilities have changed since your last pay discussion is vital to prove to your value to your boss. Press explains: "Keep a record of all your achievements over and above your core responsibilities to demonstrate the 'extra mile' you go to be the best at your job."
Refer to any additional training, qualifications or skills you have gained and link these back to the company vision. "Soft skills are also important - attitude, teamwork, accountability and personal popularity are all valuable bargaining points," adds Gentle. "Whilst most bosses will recognise your work skills, they may not be aware of your wider reputation or profile within the company.
Know your value
"Gather up to date information on market rates from respected recruiters in your specialist area - if you are being paid below market rate this would be a good starting point for negotiation," advises Press.
Research on websites such as payscale.com or benchmarkmypay.co.uk, and look at advertised vacancies for similar roles. This will help to determine your position on the industry pay scale and put you in a strong position to negotiate. "Always aim higher than you expect to get," says Gentle. "Support your request by explaining you're willing to take on more responsibility in return for extra money."
Arrange a meeting with your boss at a quiet time of the day, week or month to get their undivided attention. "Avoid saying directly that the meeting is about your pay as they may try to put it off," says Gentle. "Instead keep it vague and say you would like to have a chat about a few things."
If it helps, take in notes of the points you want to raise, such as your progress since joining and any facts and figures to reflect your performance. Be confident, clear and concise as you present your case. "The more convincingly you present your value, the better your chances of achieving the pay rise you're looking for," adds Gentle.
Prepare to negotiate
Expect some resistance and be prepared to fight your corner. "Try to anticipate the sort of objections or excuses your boss might come back at you with, and have a reasoned response ready," advises Gentle. Keep in mind how much you would like but don't be stubborn: approach the meeting with an open mind and be prepared to negotiate on the amount you will accept.
If they cannot provide you with the salary you asked for, Robert Bowyer, director at Venn Group recruitment specialists, suggests to finding out if there are any benefits they can offer. "This could include training and development initiatives to further your skill set, a pension option, and healthcare to name a few."
If your request is unsuccessful, you have a couple of options. Hopefully your boss will explain the reasons and if it is down to personal performance, use it as an opportunity to learn and improve your skills. "Draw up a plan with your employer to move onto the next step, and be adventurous," says Tony Wilmot, co-founder of job site Staffbay.com. "Your boss would rather have an employee who is full of ideas, even if they don't always hit the spot, and they'll be even more impressed if you can turn those ideas into actions and improve the bottom line of the company."
"Your second option would be to think seriously about your future at the company," says Bowyer. "If your salary doesn't look like it is going to go up in the near future, and there are no other benefits on offer – it may be time to move on. Don't take this decision lightly though, particularly in the current climate."