Despite the cloudy forecast, career experts say you can create your own silver lining, one that protects your income and your career.
1. Invest in your education. Pursuing a bachelor's or master's degree, or perhaps week-long classes or certifications, will boost your skills and make you a more precious commodity in the workplace, says Jennifer Loftus, national director of Astron Solutions, a compensation consulting firm in New York. According to a report by the U.S. Department of Education, in 2006 young adults with a bachelor's degree earned 28 percent more than those with an associate's degree, 50 percent more than those who finished high school, and 98 percent more than those who didn't earn a high-school diploma.
2. Shift to an industry that needs workers. Health care is one such industry, notes Loftus. Nursing, one of the fastest-growing careers, is expected to see a shortage of more than 1 million workers by 2020, according to the Health Resources and Services Administration. The median salary for a registered nurse with one to four years of experience is $48,895, PayScale data shows.
3. Document your accomplishments. Whenever you finish an assignment, note how your work helped the company make money, save money, save time, grow the business, or retain customers, and illustrate your accomplishments with dollars, percentages, and other metrics, says Barbara Safani, president of New York-based Career Solvers. "By showing and quantifying your specific value add, you build a better business case to support the requested salary increase," Safani says.
4. Tackle tasks no one else wants. This isn't about grunt work, Safani says; it could mean mastering a new technology others aren't comfortable with, or accepting an assignment outside the traditional scope of your job. "Employees who demonstrate this level of flexibility tend to get more flexibility from their bosses on other issues, including compensation," she explains.
5. Accept high-profile assignments close to review time. This sort of project will likely be a focal point of your performance review, and because it's recent, your boss can quickly recall and document achievements relevant to the project, Safani says.