Q. I took this job at a very low salary because I wanted to get my foot in the door. Now, three years later, I need more money. I know there's a recession and I'm lucky they didn't lay me off as they did some others. But is it still possible for me to ask for a raise?
Ans. Since you obviously understand how difficult the business climate is, and realize you are lucky to still have that job, your best move right now may be to put your head down, not ask for anything more, and, if necessary, get a part-time job after hours to increase your income. But, if you're still convinced you want to try for that raise, you need to know the professional way to do it. Check Sandra Naiman's "The High Achiever's Secret Codebook: The Unwritten Rules for Success at Work" (Paperback $14.95). She notes that companies do understand they must reward and retain top talent if they hope for economic recovery. Naiman says your best bet is to focus on-and stress-the special value you bring to that company. Talk about your skills, achievements and unique talents that others don't possess, but you have displayed during the time you've worked there. Document those contributions and present them, she advises, but also be reasonable and don't ask for more than you think the company can bear.