More than 90 percent of employers plan to give out raises this year — a huge improvement over last year's 60 percent and the mere 30 percent of raises doled out in 2010. But despite the significant bump and apparent improving business climate, it's safe to say that your supervisors will be thinking long and hard about who gets a raise, who doesn't, and how much it will be. Now is the time to ensure you not only get a raise, but get the biggest one possible. Here are a slew of strategies to make that more than a likelihood:
1. Be Reliable
As simplistic as this sounds, it's true. The first indicator for bosses is often as straightforward as who shows up on time and who keeps their promises. Sure, it's important to look for that inside edge, but it's also critical to perfect the basics. Arrive early every day — or at least on time — and complete all your responsibilities fully and in a timely fashion. Far too many workers offer to take on other people's work in an attempt to shine, when their own pattern of accomplishment is spotty. Believe it or not, it's the "steady Eddies" who are better rewarded come performance-evaluation time.
2. Go Back to School
Many businesses used to pay you to go to school to hone your expertise or branch out in new areas, but that's less the case nowadays. Still, if your goal is to position yourself for a raise, there are plenty of low-cost courses or accreditation programs available. Community colleges have a plethora of relevant offerings, iTunes U provides free classes from top universities, and the website OpenCulture.com abounds with access to free educational media. Even if you do have to spend a little money, it's an investment that will pay for itself in short order.
3. Cross-Train Yourself
To use a restaurant metaphor, if you're the "salad" guy, and you're standing right next to the "fry" guy, and a ton of burgers are needed now, how valuable would you be if you could just jump in and help get the job done? During slow periods at the office, take some time to cross-train yourself — talk to your coworkers and ask if they can show you how they do what they do. Everyone loves to wax on about themselves. This could potentially help your bosses reduce labor costs, and secure your position in case of corporate downsizing. And of course, be sure to mention your efforts at your performance review.
4. Assist Your Supervisor
Corporations across the board have been slashing payrolls, which means supervisors have more work to complete for their higher-ups in the same amount of time. Offer to help your boss — but do it in a professional manner. What you don't want is to come across as obsequious. Even if it's nothing more than filing paperwork, any job you can take off your bosses' hands is guaranteed to make you look better when it comes time to hand out raises. Just make sure you don't take on more than you can deliver.
When that pay raise does come through, feel proud of the effort you expended. And vow to keep up the hard work, as there could be a promotion waiting in the wings. Also, forego the temptation to spend your windfall unwisely. Put extra money toward your 401K or college for the kids, and continue to live off your old salary. Sneaking in a modest perk for yourself or your loved ones is okay, but if you were getting by nicely before the increase, continue your current lifestyle and invest this money for your future.
How do you plan on maneuvering to get the biggest raise possible?
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David Bakke is a contributor for Money Crashers Personal Finance where he shares his tips for career advancement, small business, and the importance of furthering education especially when it comes to money. This story was written exclusively for Dimespring.