Ask Dr. Job’s chief contributor, Sandra Pesmen, is a member of the Chicago Journalism Hall of Fame and author of “DR. JOB’s Complete Career Guide.”

Winner of several journalism awards, Pesmen is a graduate of the University of Illinois Media College at Urbana, and is listed in several Who’s Who editions. She also has been Corporate Features Editor of Crain Communications Inc., founding Features Editor of Crain’s Chicago Business and a reporter/features writer for The Chicago Daily News.

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Ask for Deserved Raise!


Ask for deserved raise

By Sandra Pesmen

Q.1 When I took this job as production assistant to the owner of the small printing company three years ago, the salary wasn't great. I accepted it because I needed work. Since then I took charge of sales, all production and management of the two other employees. I increased profits by working longer hours and finding and bringing in new customers while the boss takes more time off to go fishing. I need more income since I am single and must pay for gas and car, dental, some medical and other bills. I'm afraid if I ask for a raise he'll tell me to leave and I can't afford that. He also is moody. One day he's nice, the next brusque. What do I do?

Ans. You ask for more money if you can show you're worth it. First draw three columns on a piece of paper. In the first, list your starting salary and all the work in that job description with the number of hours you were expected to spend there.  In the second column, list all the jobs you now do, all the additional clients you brought in, all other extra work you've taken over, how many more hours you work, and how much money you estimate you are bringing into the company. In the third column list your future plans for further improving company profits and services. At the bottom of the page, state that you believe this justifies a salary increase and hope he will name an amount that is fair. (Remember: "He who names first figure in any negotiation-loses."). Now you're ready to ask for an interview at a quiet time on one of his "good days." Begin by saying how much you like your job, how grateful you are for having this opportunity to grow and to expand the original job description and stress it's HIS brilliance and generosity that made that possible. People who are afraid to ask for a raise rarely get one.

Q.2. I've always thought of myself as a "creative," but so many people have been laid off I'm suddenly the manager of this department. I never managed anyone except myself, and I noticed over the years most of my managers didn't do a good job of managing the rest of us. How can I do a better job now that I must?

Ans. The biggest problem is that too many managers "fall into" the job as you did, then don't bother to find out what they should be doing, and how they can avoid making the wrong moves. Yet Susan M. Heathfield,, a Guide to Human Resources, states that managers and the way they manage their staffs set the tone for the entire business operations. Some mistakes she warns you to look out for are failure to get to know employees as people; provide clear direction; trust your people; listen to and help employees feel their opinions matter; make decisions, then ask people for input instead of the other way around; react to problems and issues that will soon fester if ignored; trying to be friends with employees who report to you instead of remaining their manager at all times. The biggest mistake may be not treating all employees equally. 

Q.3 I just got out of the service, and after looking for a job for several weeks I'm very discouraged. People always say "Thank you for your service" and are very polite, but they don't seem to think my skills transfer to civilian life. How do I show them they do?

Ans. Unfortunately many misconceptions exist about those skills transfers. Chuck Wardell 111, a decorated Vietnam War veteran and president and CEO of Witt/Kieffer executive search firm reports that vets often are overlooked for leadership and executive positions even though those are the exact skills they developed while in the military. The quality of their training and their ability to adjust to a new environment are also usually well honed. Wardell suggests private industry can use the special strength of vets and make smart choices about hiring them because they do bring those special skills to the marketplace, and you too should mention that in your interviews and on your resume. Also take note that Wal-Mart recently announced it plans to hire 100,000 vets during the next several years. Start there.

Q. 4 I have the feeling that the people in this company don't have the right perception of my talents and me. I would like to do something to make them realize who I really am and how much I really know about this industry and how much more I can do around here. How do I go about that?

Ans. You have to create a new "brand" for yourself, the same way any company would brand its product, such as cereal, toothpaste, or anything else. Linda Citroen, an international personal branding and reputation management expert, believes you can start the new year with a new image if you follow her suggestions: Own your past. Take personal accountability for choices you made which may have led to your current reputation and brand.  Define your desired reputation. Set a clear goal of how you want people to feel about you. Create a game plan. Plan the steps you'll need to take to rebuild your reputation. A well-planned "reputation repair strategy" is not about "spin" and packaging - it will enable you to hold your head high and walk confidently into the next phase of your career. Set metrics and benchmarks. Part of your strategy will be to set benchmarks and milestones to achieve and assess your progress in repairing your reputation. Carefully analyze the reputation you are earning (through feedback and progress towards your desired brand) and correct your strategy if you find yourself off course.###

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