Your IT career: Talk your way into a raise, even now

On paper, IT salaries are frozen. In real life, there are still ways to get a raise. Here's how.

Has anyone in your IT department managed to get a raise lately? Statistically, the answer is "probably not." Pay for IT employees -- as well as everybody else -- has been flat for a few years now, and many analysts don't expect it to get better this year.

In a survey released in November 2009 by the Society for Information Management (SIM), 46% of IT staffers polled said they expected to see no bump in pay in 2010, with another 9% predicting that IT staff salaries in 2010 would actually be lower than they were in 2009.

But that doesn't mean you can't talk your boss into giving you a raise.

"Short of impending financial collapse, even when there are salary freezes, good employees can always get salary increases," declares Erik Van Slyke, founding partner of Solleva Group LLC, a Princeton, N.J., firm that advises companies on change management, new technologies and IT strategies.

If you're a techie who wants a raise despite tough times, industry insiders say you have to build a strong business case and execute the right strategy. Here's how to do just that.

Set the stage

From the moment you take a job, know what you must do to earn raises and promotions, says Nicole Spicer, president of the Burbank, Calif.-based recruitment firm OARIP and a frequent presenter with Women in Technology International.

Have a clear job description, and make sure you and your supervisor agree on what it means to be successful in your position, she says. Then do the job better than expected. Ask for extra assignments. Find ways to help your boss solve whatever problems he or she is facing.

Spicer cites the case of one IT manager in particular who taught Java to colleagues after work and volunteered to mentor junior workers. "He was constantly being promoted and getting significant raises because he was always doing more than the requirements in his job description," Spicer says.

Just don't get so swept up that you forget why you're going the extra mile. "People need to track everything they do. We get so busy in our day-to-day jobs that we forget what we've done," she says.

If people offer kudos for a well-done job, ask them to e-mail you the compliments and cc your boss, Spicer advises. Gathering that kind of documentation about your outstanding performances and on-the-job victories will help you build your case for a raise when the time comes, she says.

Benchmark your salary

Even when salaries are stagnant, your pay should be on par with that of other professionals in your region and field of expertise, says Jerry Luftman, executive director and distinguished professor at Stevens Institute of Technology's School of Technology Management.

Look at surveys (such as Computerworld's 2009 salary survey) and job postings to calculate the salary range for your position in your region. Discreetly ask co-workers and colleagues in your professional network what they're hearing about the average salaries and raises for your type of position. Look at your company's financial reports and their official stance on pay practices and policies.

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