Career strategies Part 2 — How to bump up your bonus

As companies continue to slash costs, bonuses are also getting whacked — and not just on Wall Street. According to Computerworld ‘s 2008 Salary Survey ,bonuses for IT workers rose only 0.2 per cent from 2007 levels.

At a time when 3 per cent to 4 per cent salary raises are failing to keep up with inflation rates that are rising above 5 per cent, dwindling bonuses are making tough times even more challenging for IT professionals.

“There’s just not a whole lot of bonus money around, so we’re spreading that peanut butter more and more thinly,” says David Van De Voort, an IT workforce specialist at Mercer, an HR consultancy in Chicago.

One way for IT workers to tap into existing bonus pools — or persuade management to grant a performance bonus — is by delivering the goods and then making sure supervisors are aware of their accomplishments, says Van De Voort. “You have to step up and raise your hand,” he says.

Regardless of economic conditions, “you’re going to be judged based on performance,” says Umesh Ramakrishnan , vice chairman of CTPartners, an executive recruiting firm. IT staffers who hope to land a bonus need “to demonstrate that [they’re] not replaceable,” he adds.

Denver-based Catholic Health Initiatives is restricted in handing out bonuses because of its nonprofit status, says technical analyst Chris Ritchie, who works out of the national health care organization’s Exton, Pa., office. Still, supervisors there can give out $250 gift certificates to recognize exceptional individual performances. Ritchie says he appreciated receiving one of those last year after overseeing a systems migration effort.

Ralph T. Wall Jr., a Microsoft Certified Professional, says certification helped him obtain a stipend of 5 per cent of his annual salary as a senior systems analyst for the city of West Palm Beach, Fla. Like most public-sector organizations, the city doesn’t offer bonuses, says Wall. But because he has been an employee for more than 20 years, Wall is entitled to longevity pay, which has added another 10 per cent to his base salary.

Patti Henderson, IT director at Givens Pursley LLP, a law firm in Boise, Idaho, says she was pleasantly surprised that the annual performance bonus she received in July was twice as much as what she’d expected. Still, as a one-person IT department, she got quite a bit accomplished in 2007, including the firm’s transition to a storage-area network environment.

“It’s huge when you’re just one person,” says Henderson. She attributes her accomplishments to effective time management. “I always pad my timelines and schedules so I don’t have to worry about meeting a deadline, and nobody ever has to wait” if an end user needs help with a systems issue, says Henderson. For instance, she blocked out three months to complete the SAN project and ended up completing it two weeks ahead of schedule.

Also read: Leap one level up

TOMORROW: Be a top performer

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