Remember when you were young and still on Mom and Dad’s payroll? How often did they voluntarily increase your allowance, and how often did you have to prompt them to open their wallets a little wider?

The same is true in business. Though some companies regularly give their employees merit increases, don’t let yourself wait passively for something that may not materialize. And don’t feel you have to accept what they offer. By taking the initiative, researching what’s a fair amount, and being ready to defend what you’re asking for, you’ll be several steps ahead of the pack.

Once you know what others in your position and industry are getting, you’re ready to map out your plan of attack. At an appropriate time (your performance review, the beginning of the year, on your anniversary, or when you’ve requested a specific meeting with your supervisor), present your achievements to date (see Think Ahead). Then say something along the lines of: “I’ve done some homework on average salary ranges in my job classification and in our industry. According to my research, I think a fair salary for my position and performance is X.”

At best, your boss will agree. At worst, she’ll give you a flat out refusal. If she refuses, ask what she can give you, and prepare to negotiate.