Everyone wants to make more money, but employers are reluctant to hand out big raises in this shaky economy. A major consulting firm estimates the median raise in 2013 will be a meager 3 percent. Does that mean you're stuck with a paltry raise? Not necessarily.
The smart employee will use some of these 13 tools to get a bigger raise:
Let management know you want to improve your position. The higher up can't help you if they don't know what your goals are. Ask if they'll work with you to create a personal development plan. You'll separate yourself from the pack by demonstrating a desire to move up the ladder.
Finds ways to exceed expectations. Many employees do just the bare minimum, while others look for ways to help their employer by going the extra mile. Smart bosses notice and remember the ones who put in extra effort.
Work on your communication skills. Practice your listening, speaking and writing skills. Whether you're learning about a new assignment or doing something routine with a co-worker, the ability to communicate well makes you more valuable as an employee.
Define what skills you need to advance. Ask your boss what talents you need for a promotion. Will it require additional training or certifications? If you ask now, you can get started early and position yourself for a raise well in advance.
Get along with co-workers. It's tempting to view colleagues as competitors for promotions or plum assignments. However, most managers don't want to spend time dealing with personality conflicts. A reputation for getting along with co-workers is an asset.
Anticipate technical changes in your job. New tools and methods are transforming many jobs. Some workers resist change. Be the employee who knows what’s coming and prepare yourself to take advantage of those tools and methods.
Anticipate changes in your workplace. Many companies are adjusting job requirements or workforces to keep pace with the new economy. Some positions are combined and others are eliminated. Your job may be evolving, so you want to anticipate your employer's moves. Change is not a necessarily a bad thing if you put yourself in a position to benefit from the alterations.
Join a professional society. Many trades and professions have an association or society for people who work in the field. They offer conferences, online courses and professional journals. Ask your employer if the company will pay for membership.
Read about your trade or profession. Make a point of reading articles, books and journals in your field. Visit websites that cover topics of interest to your peers. Become the go-to person for fresh ideas.
Keep in touch with people working similar jobs in other firms. LinkedIn.com presents an ideal opportunity for online networking. It's an excellent place to contact and learn from others in your field. It's also a great way to find out about job opportunities outside of your company.
Study other jobs within the company. Take every opportunity to learn about other tasks and responsibilities within your workplace—even if you don't get extra pay. Volunteer to fill in when someone is sick or on vacation. Not only will you demonstrate a willingness to learn new skills, but you'll show your ability to do so.
Continue your education. The explosion of community colleges and online education has made it easy to learn new skills; all you need is time and willingness. If you're not sure what to study, ask your boss what skills or tools would make you more valuable.
Ask for constructive criticism. Ask your employer how you can improve your performance. Your boss will appreciate the fact you want to be a better employee. You'll hear about things that can be corrected, now rather than negatively affecting your next performance review and raise.
There's no guarantee these tools will score you a big raise. After all, some companies and professions are trapped in a downward spiral. If so, it may be time for a career change. However, if your employer is going hand out raises, you want to be at the front of the line.
Gary Foreman is a former financial planner who founded TheDollarStretcher.com website and newsletters. The site features thousands of articles on how to save your valuable time and money including an article on do-it-yourself career counseling.