Don't wait to be offered a pay rise. Take the initiative and ask – but use this seven-step guide to pick the right moment.
1 Don’t rely on the time-honoured techniques of waiting for the annual pay round and hoping your boss makes you a decent offer. The UK has become far more like the USA in its admiration of entrepreneurship and people who make the first move. While more conventional colleagues will be hoping for their 2% rise at the start of the pay year, you should be thinking about how you will earn your first million, get a stake in the company and make your bosses an offer they cannot refuse. If, for instance, you redesign the company web site so that customers can place their orders at the click of a mouse, you have a good argument for getting far more than 2%.

2 Look at how your business pitches for work and negotiates its contract pay rises. This tells you a lot about the culture of the company at the highest levels: you can’t really be accused of speaking out of turn if the company sells itself at a premium price in the market. On the other hand, if it has a “pile ‘em high, sell ‘em cheap” policy, it may not want to pay staff large sums.

3 Focus your attentions on the right person. Many personnel departments exist to keep pay levels down, so human resources officers are probably the people to avoid. Your boss or your boss’ boss are the people who are most likely to be sympathetic to you.

4 Consider putting your claim in writing. This way, you can show exactly how you benefit the company – and how much reward you feel you should get. This will focus you on identifying your achievements – for instance, retaining a major customer who was just about to leave, or bringing in 110% of the sales target set for you.

Get your timing right – in terms of your employer’s finances, annual budget and your boss’ moods

Your starting point is to argue for the basic rate of inflation. Anyone who gets less than this each year is losing out in terms of purchasing power. You can then make the case for getting a rise equal to wages inflation. This is nearly always higher than retail and prices inflation. You can get figures on wages inflation in the construction industry by looking at research from Incomes Data Services, Industrial Relations Services and other research bodies. You have to make a personal case for rises above wages inflation. But if you really are bringing in new clients and creating new products, your company would be foolish to let you go to a competitor – the logical conclusion if it turns down your request.

5 Get your timing right – in terms of your employer’s finances, annual budget and your boss’ moods. In the last few months before the year end, department heads are often called in by the finance departments to discuss next year’s budget. This can be a difficult time for a department head who is not making enough money. Your boss is more likely to be responsive when he or she is in a good mood – soon after your team has won an award or been praised in the press, for example. And remember that, if you are looking for a peg to tie your pay claim to, the anniversary of your arrival can be a good one.

6 Negotiate around your pension and other perks if you don’t get joy elsewhere. These benefits often add another third to your salary package, according to the employee benefits wing of insurer GRE. Pay the maximum whack into your pension if your employer matches your contribution. This is, in effect, a pay rise if you consider that pension is really just a form of deferred pay. And getting the maximum pension contributions is always useful in a world where your pay and pension contributions could be stopped tomorrow if you are laid off.