Here’s how to get a raise despite a tough economy

Even though job growth is expanding, you probably won’t land a big salary increase in the form of a raise or bonus next year unless you’re a star employee, according to global professional services firm Aon’s 2017 U.S. Salary Increase Survey.

Aon looked at 1,062 companies in the U.S. and found that 40 percent plan to ditch raises for “lesser performers” in 2018, while 15 percent plan to set higher goals to meet for those who want to earn a raise.

Cash for employee bonuses is only expected to make up 12.5 percent of most companies’ payroll in 2018 — levels that haven’t been that low since 2013, when the gold bubble burst.

“The economic outlook for most industries continues to improve … but companies remain under pressure to increase productivity and minimize costs,” Aon’s Ken Abosch said in a statement, “As a result, we continue to see relatively flat salary increase budgets across employee groups, with most organizations continuing to tie the majority of their compensation budgets to pay incentives that reward for performance and business results.”

While there are a few places that might buck the trend — including employees who work in the automotive, telecommunications and computer industries or accounting/consulting/legal industries, those in education, medical devices and construction/engineering face lower than usual raises, Aon found.

In addition, the trend of shrinking raises might be the new normal, Aon predicts:

“So when do we expect the logjam to break free and see larger pay budgets? We don’t have a crystal ball, but in all likelihood, this is the new normal,” Aon’s Director of Survey Product Management, Chris Kelley, warns.

In light of this recent news, we’ve included tips on how to put yourself in the best position possible to get a raise, or cope with not getting one, in the face of the less-than-rosy predictions.

Practice makes perfect

The old adage is true for most things, including salary negotiations. If you go into a meeting with your supervisors cold, odds are you won’t be able to find your footing if they push back against your offer. The best thing to do, according to experts, is prep with a friend beforehand. 

Make a list of your valuable contributions over the course of the year, and be prepared to explain them under scrutiny.

Don’t threaten to quit over not getting a raise

When you’re sitting in your boss’ office, you might be willing to risk it all in a bid for more money, but this is never a good idea, according to one expert who spoke to Ladders.

Amy Cooper Hakim, Ph.D. said that issuing ultimatums to your bosses could lead to bad consequences, like ending up on your manager’s bad side or getting fired.

She shares her advice on how to ask for a raise here, including emphasizing that you’re a team player, and that your contributions are worth the extra money.

If you have a number in mind, you’re better off saying it than stewing in silence

When comedian Maria Bamford was approached to make a commencement speech at her alma mater, the University of Minnesota, back in May, the state school wouldn’t offer her any money for the speaking gig, blaming their role as a “state-funded institution” that  has “to be careful regarding the use of our resources.”

She could have just rejected it outright. But she got good advice of her business adviser: “never say no without a number.”

So instead of declining to speak, she told them she charged $20,000 per gig, saying she was “a self-funded institution who needs to be careful regarding use of my resources.” She waited, and the school came back with the offer of $10,000 — still a steal compared to the speaking fees collected by the likes of Matthew McConaughey and other stars.

If you ask about salary during the hiring process, do it at the right time

While not every employer cancels a job candidate’s second interview if they dare to inquire about salary and benefits after their first interview, experts agree that salary negotiations are a delicate dance during the hiring process.

Sarah Stamboulie, a former human resources manager for Morgan Stanley and Nortel Networks, encourages applicants to hold off on asking about the money until you’re told that you’re the top pick for the job.