These days, there’s an overwhelming sense that anyone who has a job should be grateful just to be employed.

Though there may be an element of truth to the matter, this mentality can undercut our attempts at a positive outlook on our careers, misleading us to undervalue our worth. Many companies are now able to use the poor economy as an excuse as to why they cannot improve salaries; however, with the right set of tools, you can and will snag that raise you deserve.

How To Ask for a Raise

When I first started out as a freelance writer at a big website, they paid me quite a low rate. However, I kept impeccable records of everything I did. A short three months into working for them, I sent a compelling e-mail listing all the articles I had written, reminding them of my willingness to make edits and my consistency with being on time. Very quickly I received an e-mail back not only doubling my per article rate but also elevating me to an editor position. This hasn’t been my experience every time, but I learned early on that keeping good records of my work was the key to success.

Another piece of advice is to make sure you never bring up personal issues when asking for a raise. It’s tempting to tell your boss that your husband got laid off or your children would really love to go to Disney World, but your worth will go through the roof if your meeting about your pay raise only revolves around you and your hard work.

The Perfect Time to Ask for a Raise

Depending on where you work, you should wait between three months to one year before you can confidently ask for a raise. Many companies have a one-year review in place for that exact purpose. Yet, don’t feel constricted by the one-year benchmark. You can definitely bring up the topic of a raise sooner than that so long as you have done well and impacted the company positively. Also, remember that the beginning of the fiscal year is when companies are most comfortable with elevating pay.

Know When You’re Not Valued at Work

I remember being so excited when I got my first job out of college. It was the first year that the economy really tanked, and everyone was being laid off. So, I felt grateful just to have the job, and I really wanted to keep it. Being young and somewhat naïve, I jumped when they snapped. One particularly slow day, my boss came to me and asked if I minded raking the leaves in the front of the building. (He said it looked bad to all the customers coming in). My overachieving self raked all day and made the outdoors look pristine. When I woke up the next day with blisters all over my hands, I thought I had pretty good evidence of my hard work and could ask for a raise. I was declined (and heartbroken), and I left that job quickly after.

I shake my head at that memory now, wondering how I could have ever let that happen. Because I wanted to keep my job, I lowered my self worth. Yet, it taught me an important lesson. Sometimes, as the old breakup saying goes, “It’s not you, it’s them.” Your company knows whether or not you are a hard worker, but if they are struggling financially, they might take advantage of someone who goes above and beyond.

Ultimately, if you don’t think you are getting the pay you truly deserve, it could be time to walk. However, don’t go before making sure there’s nothing else you could have done to improve your job. Do what feels right for you, and remember that the next opportunity could be just around the corner.