Pete walked into his boss' office. "Ms. Smith, I'll be straight with you. I know the economy isn't great, but I have three companies after me, and I would like to respectfully ask for a raise."

After a few minutes of haggling, Ms. Smith finally agreed to a 5 percent boost. When Pete got up to leave, she asked him, "By the way, which three companies are after you?"

"The electric company, the mortgage company and the phone company."

We all have bills to pay. Our jobs are a good way to accomplish that. But if you feel like you aren't receiving what you deserve, you have to muster up your courage and ask for a raise. That is a conversation you need to have with your supervisor, not your co-workers. They don't make those decisions, and you will get a reputation for being the complainer.

Instead, prove you can perform the duties of your position and work your tail off making sure you're the best hire your boss ever made. Then it's time to ask for a raise. Here are some tips that will give you at least a fighting chance:

• Pick your time carefully. When you asked your mom or dad for the car keys, did you hit them up when they walked in the door or wait until after they had dinner and were in a good mood? Timing is everything.

• Be prepared. Almost everyone has an annual salary and/or performance review. But it's amazing how few people prepare for it. Get your act together and present your case in an intelligent, well-organized manner.

• Keep records. Keep a log of your accomplishments. Make notes in your daily calendar. That way, you won't forget anything, and you'll have the most reliable form of proof there is: written evidence.

• Know the territory. One of the typical defenses against wage demands is, "You certainly deserve it, but we had a difficult year." Is this true? If you work for a public company, check out the annual report. What are people at other companies getting paid for your job?

• Ask for a specific number. This is the hardest one of all, because people are uncomfortable selling themselves. Put a number on the table, and make it realistic. Document overtime or special circumstances as evidence.

• Don't threaten. Don't bluff. Don't be afraid to ask.

What happens if asking for a raise doesn't work? Your short-term tactics may have failed, but your long-term strategy could still succeed. First, ask what it would take to get that raise next time. Other things that can help include:

1. Working longer hours, not shorter. Hours in new areas. Hours that give you more responsibility and greater challenges.

2. Training. You want the opportunity to improve your skills and learn new ones. Ask about the chance to attend a seminar or convention, or take some classes.

3. Hitting the mark. You want to know what requirements you must meet to hit your salary goals. Then ask for another salary review ahead of the normal schedule to chart your progress.

4. Career planning. Are your career goals realistic? Ask. Then also ask your boss for a long-term career path for you and a reasonable timetable for achieving it.

5. Making the move. Will management give you strong support in helping place you in another department where your salary requirements and career goals can be met?

The idea here is to get you ahead of the pack, away from the normal processes that the company follows to evaluate salaries. You want to be in the fast-track category. You have designed your own program.

Robert Herjavec from ABC's "Shark Tank" said: "You should never come out and say I deserve more money. Nobody cares what you deserve. It's about what you can do for the company. It's never I, I, I ... it's always what value you can add. Don't use the word I."

Barbara Corcoran, also from "Shark Tank," advises: "You've got to remember that asking for a raise is a sales job. It's how well-prepared you are, how you list your responsibilities. You should even have a category called 'above and beyond' on responsibilities and make sure the boss knows every little thing you're doing above and beyond. You know what — you've got to sell! It's about selling."

Mackay's Moral: If you want them to show you the money, you better show them the reason.

Harvey Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman. Contact him at 612-378-6202 or e-mail