Asking for a raise can be very uncomfortable, especially if
you are a bit shy, new to the company or unsure of your value/worth. Let me give you some hints that have helped
me along my career path, and even now during self-employment.
1 - know the industry standards. You have to know what a typical person in that role makes, so that you understand the value of the job. What is the fair market value?
2 - ask for more than you think you deserve. In other words, be confident in your negotiations and valuations.
3 - critically understand why you deserve a raise, or a high starting salary/wage. Think hard about what kind of great worker you are or will be, and convince yourself first that you are worth what you are asking for. Be prepared to verbalize it all, your soft skills and hard skills, with concrete, easy to understand (and remember) examples.
4 - When justifying your newly asked-for raise, do not explain why you need the money. Instead explain from the company's point of view all the benefits you have brought them, or how you have made life easier/more profitable for them. This is a simple rule of persuasion and negotiation - make it about THEM, not YOU. Also keep in mind the formula E + P = P. Efficiency + Productivity = Profitability. So therefore you must make it clear to the person who is considering hiring you (as an employee or as a consultant/contractor) or who has already hired you (i.e. your manager) how you have made the company money by being efficient and productive. This is a simple formula to remember that you should keep in the back of your head when answering interview questions.
I remember an ex-girlfriend of mine who was so efficient and productive at her company that they threw money at her to keep her, giving her the first raise in less than 3 months. When she had to quit they tried to throw more money at her to stay. When she really had to leave, the company had to hire 3 people to replace her! Talk about making yourself indispensable!
I can also tell you a story about my first office job. I found out the industry standard, and when it came time to answering the question of how much money I wanted, I 'overshot' confidently. (I had a good interview though as I was well prepared).
The manager said she couldn't start me off with that much, but gave me the highest starting salary allowed by the company, which was just a little less than what I had asked for. I was confident in my answer, but did not demand it, plus I backed it up with presumably good interview answers.
A couple months later the company hired a new girl for a similar position (customer service & collections) who was fully bilingual in French, which I was not. This is well known to be a competitive advantage. Do you know what? They started her off 3 grand a year LESS than me! Why? Because when the question came to her "what kind of salary do you expect?" she answered "well I'm just a new graduate, so whatever you can start me with is fine with me. I'm just happy to be working full-time." That may not be a direct quote but you get the idea. The company will save money if you let them!
Now, as a self-employed coach & trainer, I ask for what I feel my time is worth, and 99% of the time get it without argument. I know what I'm worth, what my material is worth, what the results of coaching/training is worth to the individual or company, etc. I confidently quote people a price and they accept - but I back it up too!
Anyway enough money-talk for now. The point is you must know your worth, be able to ask for it or more, and be able to justify it both verbally and with your actions.
Now go get your money!
Good luck in 2010!