Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Beat the Average Raise

I read an article in the Wall Street Journal today that referenced a Mercer Human Resources Consulting survey that said the average annual pay raise this year was going to be in the 3.6%-3.7% range.

The key word there was average. This is further reinforcement for the idea that you need to perform well at your job. You want to give your boss a reason to give you an above average raise.

So this year has already pretty much passed you by. Were you a mediocre performer this year? Did you do just enough to get by with outbeing fired? Are you going to get your usual 4% raise this year?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, and you want to earn more money so that you can achieve your financial goals, you need to make a change. If you do a 180, you will be able to laugh when this same survey comes out again next year, and says the average raise is going to be 4%.

A lot of people have asked me how to make a change at work and break the yolk of mediocrity. I don't claim to be an expert at what you do, but I will offer you a few suggestions on how you might get started:

1) Ask your boss. During your annual performance review (if you are fortunate to have one), ask your boss what it will take to be labled a high performer next year. Chances are he will be able to tell you a few things, but not all bosses are prepared to give you enough feedback.

2) Answer your company's questions. Pay attention at meetings and when senior management speaks. Are there questions that keep coming up each month that nobody seems to know the answer to? Are they wondering how one competitor keeps taking all of your sales? Are they wondering why certian projects consistently come in under-budget while others come in over? I don't know what your company's questions are, but if you keep on the lookout for them, you will definitely begin to notice them. Take your best shot at answering them. Even if you don't come up with a solution, if you find some new insight, your boss will appreciate that.

3) Get some training. Do you always find yourself asking a coworker for help creating an Excel spreadsheet? Does someone else always get assigned to work on projects because of their knowledge of MS Access? There are plenty of classes and books out there designed to improve your skills in these areas and others. Maybe your company will even pay for them!

4) Watch the star performers. Is there someone in your group who is your boss's "go-to" person when they have important projects to work on? If that person isn't you, you need to observe the go-to person and how they work. Do they get in much earlier than you? Do they have better contacts within the company than you have? What do they do that is different, and how can you gain their skills?

5) Read. Reading is one of the most underrated ways to improve your performance. The more you read about your company and your industry, the more ideas you take in, the more you are able to speak intelligently about important current events, the smarter you will be perceived. Don't take this to the extreme, however. We've all worked with the low-level brown-noser who reads an article or something and attemts to impress everybody with their knowledge. Usually this ends up working against them because people resent anyone who tries to flaunt their knowledge. A sincere effort to better educate yourself on your company and your industry will pay huge dividends down the road.

My lowest raise was something like 7.5%. Admittedly I am still young and haven't had the chance to really settle into a career yet, but I intend to do everything possible to keep my streak of above-average raises alive!

You can check out the Journal article here:

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