Asking for a raise during a recession is not for the faint of heart when it comes to climbing the career ladder. But the fact is, you can't simply put your career on hold because the U.S. economy is in the tank. And that means that -- despite the economy -- now might be the right time to ask for a raise, or at least a bump in non-monetary compensation. If you think I'm talking about you, then I probably am. So here are five tips to follow before taking the plunge:

1. Make sure you're underpaid. Your first step is to gain an understanding of what your job pays at other companies. You can use sites like RiseSmart partner PayScale, or you can talk to others in your field. One of your best resources is an executive recruiter, if you've built a relationship with one who works in your industry. Recruiters can tell you the latest real-world salary info based on their recent placements.

2. Document your performance. Prepare a memo that highlights your accomplishments, focused on measurable results. Write it with the same care and approach as you would your resume. Use lots of action words, bullet points and impressive numbers -- but no fudging the facts!

3. Time it just right. The best time to ask for a raise is just after you've completed a major project or scored a big sale. That's when you can argue your value with the least resistance. Speaking of timing, it's a good idea to choose a day when your boss is in a good mood, too.

4. Consider a non-monetary boost. If cash flow is tight at your company, you may wish to consider asking for non-monetary compensation, such as an increase in vacation time, tuition reimbursement, a more flexible work schedule, telecommuting from home, or other possibilities. If you ask for a raise and your boss says "no," requesting perks can be a good fallback position.

5. Don't settle for "I'll get back to you." Ask for an answer in your meeting. If you don't get one, schedule a follow-up discussion to revisit your request. Don't leave it open-ended -- make sure a plan is in place for your boss to make a decision.

26 January 2009

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