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If you’ve made it this far into the worst economy in decades without experiencing a layoff, chances are you’re out of the woods. Most economists agree that while businesses won’t be hiring much this year, they also won’t be firing much.

Could this be the time to ask for a raise?

“Raises are back,” says Catherine Hartmann, a principal with Mercer’s rewards consulting business.

A new survey from the International Association of Administrative Professionals reports that the most difficult aspect of the current recession is that employees are not getting raises. Of those surveyed, 27% said they haven’t gotten a raise, with 21% saying their workload has increased.

The key to asking for a raise is making sure you’re a key player. To get one, angle for a promotion—those are budgeted for about 7% on average—or seek a bigger-than-usual merit raise.

Strategies to use when asking for a raise:

1. Lay the groundwork. Before touting your worth, have documentation to back up your claims. Put together a portfolio. More than a résumé, a portfolio spotlights your strengths. While a résumé focuses on job duties, a portfolio draws attention to results and accomplishments.

2. Raise your visibility in-house. Make yourself known as an expert by sharing links to news about your field with your colleagues, posting insights to industry groups on LinkedIn or volunteering to write for your company intranet or newsletter, says social-media strategist Diane Crompton. “It shows that you’re relevant and up-to-date,” she adds.

3. Get over your queasiness about negotiating. Women, especially, tend to feel uncomfortable with asking for a pay bump.

“Society expects women to be strong advocates for other people, but it’s more ‘socially costly’ for women to advocate for themselves,” says Hannah Riley Bowles, an associate professor in management and decision-making at the Harvard Kennedy School.

One way to ask for money is to couch the request in terms of the team, department or company. Your goal? To show that a raise will benefit not just you, but everyone.

For example:

“I hope you see the market share we have been gaining as a win for the executive team. Based on that, I’d like to discuss a raise.” Or: “I know that this reorganization has challenged us, and I’m glad I’ve been part of the successful relaunch. Given that we have increased our division’s contribution by 10%, this seems like a good time to discuss my compensation package for next year.”

4. Worst case, know your alternatives. If you’ve been seriously underpaid for a long time, and a raise is the only way you’ll be able to make ends meet, such negotiations are more critical. Before you sit down at the negotiating table, do the research to find out how marketable you are.

Above all, remember that our lives are filled with negotiation opportunities. All you have to do is ask. You might just get it.

For additional advice on the best way to ask for a raise, see Administrative Professional Today's white paper Asking for a Raise at http://www.adminprotoday.com/white-papers.html

— Adapted from “Make Money in 2011: Your Job," Anne C. Lee, Money, and “Why Women Have Trouble Negotiating for More Money,” Joanne Cleaver, BNET.

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