January 3 2008: 8:15 AM EST
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Don't expect a bigger raise this year

According to our crystal ball, your salary increase will be just so-so this year. You're also more likely to catch a cold in the office. Here's what to expect at work in 2008.

By Anne Fisher, Fortune senior writer

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Quiz
Do you deserve a raise?
Before asking, know your strengths and weaknesses.
1. If you left the company, how easy or hard would it be for the company to replace you?
Easy Hard

(Fortune) -- It's a presidential election year, of course. It's also the first year in which the leading edge of the humongous Baby Boom generation (those born in 1946) will be eligible to start collecting partial Social Security benefits, at age 62. But 2008 will differ from 2007 in some other ways as well, not all of them good.

Consider, for instance, a poll last month by ComPsych (www.compsych.com), a major provider of employee assistance programs and other outsourced human-resources services. The firm surveyed 1,000 employees of its client companies nationwide and found that 83% plan to come to work even if they are sick, up from 77% the last time ComPsych asked this question two years ago.

More than one in three (37%, up from 34% in the earlier poll)) said their workload is just too heavy to allow for time off, and 21% (up from 17% in 2005) said they plan to save up their own sick time for when their children are ill.

"Employees are pushing the limits of their health and showing up to work at all costs," notes Dr. Richard Chaifetz, ComPsych's CEO. He says the trend is driven in large part by "economic uncertainty and the significant debt loads taken on by consumers in the past two years."

That means you're more likely to be working alongside a contagious colleague (ah-choo!) - just one more reason to telecommute, if you can.

Don't expect a big raise to make up for the extra germs. Sibson Consulting's (www.sibson.com) annual study of salary-increase budgets across 11 U.S. industries reveals that pay hikes for salaried employees and managers this year will be exactly the same as in 2007, averaging a ho-hum 3.9%. Hourly workers will make out a tiny bit worse, with increases of 3.7%.

You could probably boost your pay by changing jobs, but it may not be quite as easy as last year. In 2007, the economy produced 1.3 million new jobs. At this time last year, according to an annual survey by Harris Interactive and CareerBuilders (www.careerbuilders.com), 40% of American employers expected to add full-time, permanent jobs in the 12 months ahead. Now, that has dropped to 32%.

"There will be continued job creation, but plans for hiring are tracking below last year's projections," says Matt Ferguson, CEO of CareerBuilder. "Hiring will be steady, but slower."

It matters what industry you're in. For example, 45% of companies in professional services and information-technology plan to step up hiring, as do 37% of employers in transportation and utilities, 34% in financial services, and 28% in health care and retailing. It might help to live in the South or the West, where hiring is expected to increase by 36% and 34% respectively, versus 31% in the Northeast and 28% in Midwestern states.

One bright spot in the Harris/CareerBuilders survey: Lots of employers are planning to offer more flexible work arrangements in 2008. Almost 80% said they'll introduce or expand alternative work schedules, for instance, allowing employees to come in early and leave early or come in late and work late; 38% plan to allow compressed workweeks, in which people work the same hours but in fewer days; and 33% expect to encourage an increase in telecommuting.

If one of your New Year's resolutions is to find a new job, now is the time to buff up your online image. A new poll of hiring managers and recruiters, by executive career network ExecuNet (www.execunet.com), says that job seekers' "online image management will make or break more job searches" in 2008 than ever.

Right now, 83% of hiring managers and headhunters say they use search engines to check out a candidate before contacting him or her. Here's the ominous part: 43% have eliminated a job prospect based on something that popped up online - up from just 26% who had done so in 2005.

"Digital dirt will derail an even greater number of job searches in 2008," ExecuNet predicts.

How can you make sure your online reputation is everything you want it to be? The ExecuNet study offers three tips. First, be alert: Enter your name into several search engines each month to keep track of exactly what's out there.

Then, be proactive. The survey recommends "purchasing a domain name to display your resume, any press mentions, and professional accomplishments," including trade-journal articles, speeches, and information about volunteer work or other noteworthy deeds.

And third, be prepared. If an online search turns up anything that might be problematic - a lawsuit against a former employer, for instance - the study suggests that you "expect it will be uncovered before the interview process begins" and come up with a succinct, positive way to tell your side of the story.

Happy New Year, everybody!

Do you expect to get a big raise this year? Made any career-related New Year's resolutions? Post your thoughts on the Ask Annie blog. To top of page

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