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Most people "want" a raise, not all people "deserve" a raise. Deserving a raise is the key to getting it.

First, here are some questions to ask yourself:

1. Am I a dependable employee?

2. Do I perform all tasks to which I am assigned, plus go out of my way to help others or to take on new assignments?

3. Do I take initiative?

4. Am I pleasant and easy to get along with? (Believe it or not, you might be a superstar at performing tasks, but if even your boss is afraid to approach you, you're not a good employee.)

5. Am I flexible and willing to work late to get a project done?

6. Does my performance far outweigh that of my predecessor?

If you answered yes to these questions, then you do deserve a raise. If you had some "no's", you know what you need to work on.

Now that you've established that you deserve a salary increase, let's talk about ways to guarantee that you'll get it.

Let's go over the questions and some examples of answers.

1. Dependability. If you rarely call out sick, and arrive every day at 8:45 instead of 9:00 and don't run out the door at 5:00, say so.

2. If you are a real team player, going out of your way to help other employees, or if you have a "knack" for a certain area of your work, for instance if you are a real computer whiz, share your knowledge with your fellow employees. Let them know that they can ask you for help when they are stuck. This makes you not only indispensable to your boss but to everyone else you work with.

3. Have you ever reorganized the supply closet? Created an e-mail address list for your boss? Implemented an efficient calendaring system? Any extra added task you've done completely on your own, no matter how trivial you might think, shows dedication and ingenuity.

4. There is no need to be a phony on the job, since being too nice is as detrimental as being miserable. Everyone has bad days, but try not to bring it to work. Maintaining a pleasant, even-tempered personality can mean all the difference in a work environment. Also, if you're dealing with clients or customers who like you, chances are they will compliment you to the boss.

5. If your boss has an important meeting at 9:00, do you show up at 8:30 to make sure he is prepared? If you are in the middle of a project at 5:00, do you stay until 5:15 to finish? If an important presentation deadline is looming, do you come to work slightly under the weather? A dedicated employee is worth her weight in gold.

6. This may be a bit harder to answer since you may not have known your predecessor, or you might be in a new position. However, if you did have a predecessor and you are doing a far better job, chances are someone has remarked on it. "Wow, it used to take Jane all day to do that." Be aware of these remarks and who is making them.

I know that it can be very difficult to pat yourself on the back, but unless you go into detail about what an excellent employee you are, it won't matter. The boss might think you're great but when it comes to giving you more money, you'll need to remind him!

You now know that you deserve the raise, but do you know how much of a salary increase? First, do your homework. Do you know what your coworkers are making? Do you know what your predecessor earned? What is the average salary for your field of work? Are you now paid below, at or above average? Chances are you are below or at average.

Second, be reasonable. If your request is too outrageous, it won't even be considered and you'll end up without a raise and with a stigma of being a prima donna.

So we know the why and the how much. Now for the "what if". Many people go into salary negotiations with an ultimatum. "If you don't give me a raise, I'll quit." An ultimatum will not get you a raise; however, if after making your presentation, you are denied a much-deserved salary increase, you should be prepared to look elsewhere for a better-paying position, since you know you deserve it and you've studied the market.

When asking for a raise, timing can be everything. If your boss is dealing with an irate client, and he's 20 minutes late for a meeting with the district supervisor, this is not the time to ask for a raise. Check his calendar for a free day. Gauge his mood. You probably know him better than anybody. What day of the week is usually his best day? What time of the day is he at his peak? If this happens to be Tuesday, at 10:00 a.m., ask him on Monday afternoon if he has some time to speak with you tomorrow around 10:00.

Now that you have your appointment, treat it as if it were a job interview. Dress appropriately, even if the boss isn't. Be assured and assertive but not demanding or pushy. Some opening phrases include "Given that I've proven myself in this position, an increase in my salary is appropriate at this time." or "I'm sure you'll agree that my work has been outstanding and I should be compensated for the job I've done and will do in the future." Never, never, use the phrases "I need", "I think", or "I feel". Be positive and self-assured. If his next questions are, "What have you done that others haven't?" "Why should you get an increase?" or anything that means he might be looking for a way out, take out your list of accomplishments and start enumerating. You probably won't have to finish them; he'll realize how truly indispensable you are!

Once you've established that you are deserving of a raise, tell him exactly how much money you want. Again, be assertive (remember, you've done your homework), but be prepared to negotiate and know your bottom line, as well as the company's current financial situation. If you are not willing to budge on your demand, you appear stubborn and inflexible. If you are asking for a six percent increase, be willing to take a four percent increase, especially if corporate profits are down, with the commitment to revisit the other two percent in six months. This again shows your flexibility and dedication to the company.

Now that you have your raise, treat yourself to something special, and keep up the good work!