LiveCareer Blog

Call to Action: Use the Tough Job Market to Get a Raise

An unpredictable job market can work to your advantage when you’re ready to get a raise. Here’s how.

Let’s back up a moment to explain how the improved (but still tough) job market can help deserving workers get a raise.

After employment numbers hit a record low during the downturn of 2008, our nation began a long, steady, tempered period of recovery. (As you know.) When aggregated, the data demonstrates that each year following the downturn experiences improvements for variety of metrics. These improvements include available positions, business growth, and market expansion.

But on a granular level, our progress does contain few stops and starts. Back in spring of this year, available positions dropped by a significant margin. The June report showed a return to normal, but mysterious fluctuations like this can fluster hiring managers and stir anxieties among job seekers.

Now, let’s return to the first point. You’re probably wondering how, as an employee with a steady job, you can use these unpredictable ups and downs to your advantage. How can you leverage an uncertain job market to negotiate a raise? Here are a few considerations to keep in mind.

Unpredictability works both ways  

As it happens, a separate monthly report produced this spring by the Labor Department tells a different story. According to The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, the demand for able workers is starting to exceed the supply. This means that employers are struggling to find new hires for a range of positions, specifically positions that require rare qualifications and are hard to staff. If your job falls into this category, your employer doesn’t want you to leave. Just to add more pressure, the study also revealed that the quit rate among employees has increased.  Asking for a salary increase may be easier than you think.

Low unemployment means higher turnover

Overall unemployment rates are now dropping as low as 5%. This means that most people who want to work are able to find a job (not always the exact job they want, but a job nonetheless). Remember when we mentioned the increased quit rate? The drop in unemployment, in turn, means that unhappy employees are more confident about their professional prospects; so, they are more willing to make the leap if they don’t get what they need. Your employers know this. If you make the case that you can do better elsewhere, they’re likely to believe you and make the changes necessary to keep you on board.

Approach your employer at the right time

You won’t get a raise by following your boss down the hall and making your request on the move. Schedule an appointment instead. Sit down in a quiet office — free of distractions and competing appointments —  and present a prepared statement that clearly outlines the increase you want and why you should get it. Conduct market research to determine what others in your position make. Consider the value of the accomplishments you’ve made in this position. When the time comes, present each of your points in the proper order. Start with the idea that a raise for you brings a benefit to the company. Explain how your experience and training have increased your value, and explain how your contributions have outgrown your current salary.

Don’t use the marketplace as a threat

Don’t mention the job marketplace until after you’ve drawn a direct link between the value of your skills and the rising price of those skills. If your initial case doesn’t gain much traction, then you can feel free to bring job market statistics into the conversation. Exercise some caution when you address these statistics so that your argument does not sound like a threat. Be flexible with what your employer can offer you. It may not be the salary increase that you want, but perhaps you can compromise.

For more on how to choose your target salary and make a successful case to get a raise, explore the career management resources at Livecareer