Be a Top Performer

"The devil you know" may be your best option for a raise, says David Van De Voort, an IT workforce specialist at Mercer. Changing positions -- and changing departments, especially -- within your company can increase your salary.

"Shape yourself to your employer's needs. If there's no strategy document, find out where your employer is spending money," says Van De Voort. "This tells what is important to your employer."

Human resources professionals acknowledge that employees who change jobs often see their pay rise more quickly and that a longer tenure can mean slower pay growth. But sometimes a long-term relationship holds greater benefits than a hefty pay raise at another company.

If you're an average performer at your company, expect an average annual raise of 3% to 3.5%. (View pay figures for more than 50 job titles.) But if you're a top performer, you're likely to earn more -- sometimes more than people hired from the outside. "We always caution our clients that when the money is tight, make sure you take care of your top performers," says Gartner analyst Lily Mok. Job hoppers often want to negotiate good increases from their previous jobs, so they sometimes end up above the regular salary grade and don't get the same subsequent raises as others. But if they're top performers, companies often offer lump-sum bonuses rather than increases in base pay, says Mok. (Read more on the benefits of becoming a prized employee at your company.)

And loyalty has other rewards. "My company places a very high value on what I'm doing. If economic times called for cutbacks, it wouldn't be me," says one business continuity manager, who asked that his name not be used. "But even if that happened, I'm pretty confident that I would be working [elsewhere] tomorrow."

Next: 8. Make a referral for a hard-to-fill tech position.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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