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How to Fatten a Flat Salary

How to Fatten a Flat Salary

By Caroline M.L. Potter

If the last few years have been unpleasant in terms of your total income, what can you do to boost your bottom line in the near future? Read on for several tips.

Request a Variable Pay Program

Due to concerns with attracting and retaining talent, Hewitt Associates, a global human resources consulting and outsourcing firm, reports that 90 percent of companies have at least one type of broad-based variable pay plan. Variable pay plans include awards, bonuses and incentives. If you're unhappy with getting a raise that barely equates to a cost-of-living increase, talk to your supervisor and human resources department about how you can tie your pay to your performance. Set aggressive goals with your boss and agree on the compensation you'll receive if you meet them.

Consider Relocating

Where you work may be as important as the work you do in determining the size of your raise next year. A 2012 Hewitt survey shows that workers in some cities, such as Denver, Austin, Dallas/Fort WorthDetroit and San Diego, will enjoy increases higher than the national average of 3 percent in 2013, while their counterparts in other cities, such as San Francisco, Chicago and Minneapolis/St. Paul, will receive lower raises. Keep in mind, though, that cost of living varies from city to city, and a minor bump in salary may not counter the sharp increase in housing.

Change Industries

If gains are stagnant in your industry, consider switching to one that is enjoying more lucrative times. Industries expected to see the highest salary increases in 2013 include mining/milling (3.8 percent), computer and related products (3.6 percent), energy (3.6 percent) and automotive manufacturing (3.3 percent). Many jobs can be found in various industries. Don't remain tied to one if it's going to limit your earning potential.

Plan to Get a Raise Anyway

Even in lean times, Norman Lieberman of says you can still get a raise. "Companies use negative news to their advantage regardless of their profitability," he says. "It's fodder for keeping the masses down in terms of pay raises. It works for them to say to raise-seekers: 'You see the papers. Here's the headline: Plants are closing. A recession is coming.' But what they don't tell you is that the top eight people at the company got raises." This tactic works "because most people just shut up and go away,"  he says.

Rather than having to retreat, Lieberman has three tips to help folks get a raise in the coming year:    

  • Have a Plan: Position yourself as an irreplaceable employee. "Perception is reality here," Lierberman says. "If your employers think that you are a rubber stamp of everyone else, they can go out and easily replace you; you're not an added benefit." Plan to take on additional work, volunteer for special projects with higher-ups and master other tasks that make you stand out from the crowd.
  • Keep Track of Your Progress: Don't spend six months trying to stand out only to forget all you've done when you're in front of your boss. "Keep an informal journal that lists what you've accomplished," Lieberman says. "Show how you've saved money and time, increased income, or created a new methodology. If you want a 10 or 15 percent increase, you have to show that you've contributed in a major way."
  • Don't Beg -- Request a Raise: People falter when they're in the hot seat if they're not prepared, Lieberman says. Instead of thinking of a raise as a gift or begging, he states, "You're reminding your employer of your value." If you've laid the proper groundwork and can speak confidently and specifically about your accomplishments, Lieberman says, "It will be really tough for a boss to turn a blind eye to that."

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