Most people who are employed right now are simply thankful to have that job. Asking for a pay raise is most likely the last thing on their mind. However, if you don't ask for a raise, you will almost certainly not get one. You need to find a balance between being sensitive to the company's financial state and asking to be compensated for your value. Here are some strategies you can employ when asking for a raise - no matter the state of the economy.
Assess your worth
Conduct some initial research that identifies what someone in your geographic location, with your education and experience levels, and in your industry should be making. Use sites such as www.salary.com and www.glassdoor.com to conduct this research. If you discover in your research that you are earning below industry standard wages, then you should proceed with the process. If not, go back to being thankful for your job and prepare yourself to make a case during your next annual review.
List your achievements
Remember when you wrote your resume and you documented measurable accomplishments for each position? This step is very similar. Evaluate the key contributions you have made to the company. Whenever possible, quantify the value in percentages or dollars that these achievements have brought the company.
Identify the specialized skills you bring to the table. Are you fulfilling multiple roles that would require you to be replaced by multiple individuals? Is there room to propose a promotion within the organization because of the way you have performed? Do you have any customer, client, peer, or supervisor compliments that relate to your performance? If you are having trouble answering these questions and gathering evidentiary data of why you deserve a raise, you will have a very difficult time making a case for that raise.
Make your case
When you get the opportunity to speak with your supervisor to request a raise, you must tread carefully. You do not want to come across as though you are threatening to leave, and you don't want to appear pushy or angry. When asking for a raise, do not make it personal. Your boss does not want to hear about your personal financial struggles. You are simply there to present the facts (backed with data) of the value you bring versus the compensation you are receiving.
Be ready for the fact that your boss may acknowledge the validity of your claim, but be unable to meet your requests at the current time. This is a good opportunity to negotiate for other reimbursements such as an upgrade in title or responsibilities (which should come with a raise), increased vacation time, or even a written agreement to increase your salary at a time that you can both agree to.