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Strategies for increasing your pay
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Overall, base salary increases will average 3.6 percent in 2006, according to Hewitt Associates. Meanwhile, the human resources consultant says that health-care costs are projected to rise 12 percent next year.

The good news: More and more workers are eligible to receive bonuses that are based on performance. So-called "variable pay plans," defined as performance-based bonuses that must be re-earned each year, are becoming an increasingly popular offering from employers. About 78 percent of large companies now have them, up from 50 percent in 1991. This type of merit-based pay aligns the interests of both business and employees, who have incentive to help the business prosper.

Do your own review
Managers are often so focused on the latest pressing business concerns that they may be oblivious to their workers' contributions to the bottom line. That's why you need to conduct your own analysis.

Have your efforts resulted in increased revenues for the company?

Have any changes that you suggested resulted in savings to the company?

Have you contributed in a positive way to the company's image by publishing a report that was picked up by the media? Or did you participate in a panel discussion that was attended by favorably impressed prospective clients?

In other words, what have you done for the company lately?

If you happen to work in a department that may not have a direct bearing on the bottom line even though it's central to the business, there are probably a dozen things you can do to improve your skill set that can in turn enhance your chances for a promotion or a big raise. Get into problem-solving mode and come up with a creative plan.

What have you done for yourself lately?
It's also the time of year when Americans traditionally make resolutions to meet goals of self-improvement. Following some of these suggestions can improve your value to yourself and quite possibly to your company, giving you the ammo with which to demand higher wages: Take a course in a relevant subject (for example, business management or accounting) at a reputable local or online college. Some companies will reimburse your tuition costs if the subject matter is related to the business. Check with your human resources department. If your company doesn't pay for course costs, take advantage of tax breaks that apply.

Volunteer to do work that will help you improve important skills that you may lack. For instance, charities are always looking for help with fundraising, and your involvement could help sharpen your sales pitches. Attend club meetings such as Rotary or Toastmasters that may help you overcome public speaking phobias or improve weak presentation skills. Join a professional organization so that you can network among others who may have insights on how to get ahead in your particular field.

Next: Get a side job.
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