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Post-Recession Bounce Back Plan: Recover Your Earning Power

During the recession, many workers have vastly lowered their expectations about earnings. One survey of career-fair attendees conducted by Next Steps Career Solutions found that 65 percent of respondents were willing to accept compensation that was up to 30 percent lower than their pay at their previous job. In addition to salary cuts, workers have also reduced their hours or accepted lower-paying jobs than they had previously held.

But now that the economy is beginning to thaw, Laura Browne, a corporate trainer and author of Raise Rules for Women: How To Make More Money At Work, says there are opportunities bump up pay. “Companies are giving money back to people, but being selective about who gets it,” she says. Here’s how to get on that list:


  1. Forget the past
    Whether you have suffered a pay cut or a raise freeze, understand that that money isn’t coming back. Complaining about the hardships it caused will get you nowhere. Instead, show your managers what you are doing now—and what you will continue to do in the future. “They want to know, ‘Did you make money for the company?’ And, even more important, what you are doing right now that will continue to make money for the company over the next six months to a year,” says Browne.
  2. Do You Know What You're Worth?

  3. Start the conversation now
    Even if the company is still struggling, Brown says it’s important to start talking before the good times start rolling in. “By the time you hear that your company is making money, it’s going to be too late,” she says. Approach your boss at a time you’re feeling upbeat—i.e., not the day you got a big credit-card or car-repair bill. Tell her you know times are tough for everyone (not just you) and thank her for sticking by you and recognizing your hard work. Once the positive tone set, let her know that when things start to pick up again, it’s important to you that you are recognized for what you’ve done—and for what you will continue to do.
  4. Arm your boss with data
    When your boss goes to upper management, she needs to make a case for why you should get a pay bump. That means providing her with a results summary—not simply what you did, but the results you got—that she can show her managers. “You have to help your boss help you,” says Browne.
  5. Work crazy hours
    If you’ve had to reduce your hours, let your manager know that you can work whenever he needs you—Saturdays, holidays, at 2 a.m. “If company revenue and income are on the rise then they'll need more hours to meet increased demand,” says Jeff Cohen, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Recession Proof Careers.
  6. Make new friends
    If you can’t get enough hours in your department, get to know the people in other departments and see if there are opportunities to pick up extra hours there. “Tell everyone you know you’re looking for more hours—in pleasantly persistent way,” says Browne.

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