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Overqualified and taking in $12 an hour as tech support? It's not unheard of in this economy. One More AggravationEqually unheard of is the speed with which managers in an organization will quickly transform you into an in-house Web developer, network administrator, or basic jack-of-all-IT-trades as soon as they get wind of your extensive skill set — and continue to pay you $12 an hour. It doesn't necessarily have to be that way, say career advisers and recruiters. They've outlined some tips on how to negotiate a pay increase without losing your job, as well as getting your everything-but-the-kitchen-sink resume ready should you wish to leave. "We tell our candidates that if it is one or two requests, then it’s best to do the work rather than say 'it’s out of my job description,'" says David Chie, chief operating officer for recruiting firm Palo Alto Staffing Technology. "But if you see repetition, then it’s clear that they need these additional skills on a permanent basis. That's when you may want to have an open dialogue with the manager for a pay increase."

Navigating the Land Mines

Before broaching the topic of a pay increase, you'll have to make a judgment call on how well it may be received. For example, if the last two jack-of-all-trades people were fired shortly after they popped the question, then reconsider how you're going to move forward, the way in which you make the request — and whether you should still ask for a raise in the first place. However, getting fired for asking for a raise probably doesn't happen as much as rumors may lead you to believe. "I know it's a concern of our users. But in talking to over 100 HR people from big to small companies, all of them say they've never heard of this happening," says Matt Wallaert, co-founder of the free compensation-evaluation site GetRaised. "I'm not saying it's never happened somewhere, sometime, but bosses tend to rate employees higher when they've asked for a raise and have shown them their value." That said, if a manager has a pattern of firing employees who ask for more money, Wallaert says it's time to leave whether you're underpaid or not. Chie holds a similar view. “If someone is taking advantage of you, they are less likely to have that conversation with you about a pay increase, and it’s less likely to be successful,” he says. “But if you can have that conversation and still walk away with your job, then it’s worth the risk.”

Taking the Risk

If you plan to forge ahead with asking for an increase based on the additional tasks you're being asked to do, you should come armed with research on comparable salaries, Chie says. Because the manager isn't typically the one who approves the budget, bring salary research data that can be shared with the holder of the purse strings. Here are a couple of places to turn to for the data:
  • Jobs boards
  • Internet searches using a comparable job title and the keyword "salary"
  • Robert Half Technology's free 2013 salary guide
  • Salary.com and PayScale.com
  • GetRaised.com
"Bosses don't like discussing raises either, so the more factual points you can make, the more it will help," Wallaert says. He adds two points to include in your research efforts and pitch:
  • Show the average wage for your particular role, or roles, in your geographic area
  • Provide examples of what these jobs currently pay on the open market
"Also, talk about how your role has changed from the last time you talked about salary, and a third point to make is how you'd like to help the business grow over the next six months and the ways you would be able to help," Wallaert advises.

Alternative Paths

If an employer wants you to put those additional skills to work over the next six months, but says there is no additional money available, there are several paths to take. One is to ask that the idea of a raise be revisited in six months, possibly when more money is available because your efforts have helped save costs or generated revenue. Or, ask for a title increase to reflect your additional roles. Another idea: Ask for intangible benefits like working from home certain days of the week. "People who put in 110 percent tend to be at the front of the line for when things turn around," Wallaert notes. But for those whose employers are still not willing to recognize good work, it's fine to put the boss on notice — in a non-threatening fashion — that when the economy turns around you may be looking to deploy your skills elsewhere.

But If You Decide to Leave...

Even though you've been a jack-of-all-trades, it's still important to have a focused resume, Chie says. If it's a Web development position you're seeking, list your last position as "Web Development/Tech support" if that was the skill set you used in addition to tech support. "If you were doing Web development, emphasize that aspect of the work in your resume, versus tech support," he says. "Obviously, you'll still want to list tech support in your resume, in case anyone does a reference check. But there are ways to add or reduce the emphasis to make it clearer what your job function was." Image: One More Aggravation [Bigstock]