The first time I negotiated my salary was a bit of a mess, to say the least. I came prepped with what I wanted to ask for, but I’m generally pretty good on the spot so I felt like I could just wing the conversation.
Well, it was not great.
It started off fine—I laid out my thoughts in a clear and unemotional manner—but once I was done, and there was a second of silence, I started almost apologizing for asking for more. My face turned red, my palms started sweating, and I wouldn’t stop talking.
After that experience, negotiation became an art that I worked hard to master. While I’m not exactly a pro yet, I’m infinitely better than that red-faced girl who sat there apologizing while asking for a 5% bump.
Read on for some key tips to help you negotiate your salary like a pro!
Negotiating Starting Salary
Fully understand the job and the offer: Sounds basic, right? But it’s important to understand the starting point in your negotiation. What do these job responsibilities actually look like? Will you be travelling excessively, or will you be putting in a lot of extra hours? You’ll want to make sure your salary and benefits account for that extra effort. And what does the full offer look like (including benefits like vacation, health coverage, and retirement)? Make sure you fully understand everything before you decide what to negotiate for.
Collect average salary information: There are so many resources online, so make sure to utilize them and understand what an appropriate industry salary is. Research the base salary and additional compensation for people in your industry, role, and city. Glassdoor has a really comprehensive database of salaries and is always my go-to when I want information I can trust.
Don’t feel pressure to negotiate or accept immediately: You definitely don’t want to string along a prospective employer by taking too long to accept or reject their offer, but don’t feel pressured to accept the offer on the spot. If they’d like an answer immediately, ask to review the written offer, so you get a full picture of everything that is included. Take your time, but don’t drag this out for longer than you need to. You don’t want to leave an employer waiting as they’re trying to fill a position.
Communicate the value you bring: While you may have just spent the entire job interview selling your value, don’t feel like you’re done selling yourself just yet. When negotiating pieces of the offer, you’ll need to re-sell the value that you’re bringing to the company. Remind the hiring manager of your accomplishments: how long you’ve been in the industry, specific experience you have, and how you’re excited to translate your experience into a benefit for the company.
Define your walkaway point: If the salary you’re offered is completely out of line with what you were expecting, negotiating may not be enough to close the gap. If you find yourself in this situation, know what your walkaway point is. It’s OK to not take a position if it doesn’t meet your financial needs, but you must be honest with yourself about those needs and what compensation will motivate you to perform your best.
Negotiating the Raise
Get clear on what you want, and then reach further: Come up with exactly what you’re asking for (money, time, flexibility) and lay out the plan that you’d be happy with. Make sure to list your must-haves as well as flexible items. Once you know what you’d be happy with, reach further with your ask. So if you want a $5,000 raise, push yourself outside your comfort zone to ask for a little more. That way, you’re not starting with your final offer and you’re leaving room for you and your employer to come to common ground.
Outline your accomplishments: You can’t expect anyone else to be your champion—if you’ve done something to be proud of, make note of it! When you’re making your case for a raise or a promotion, you’ll want to have specific examples on hand to make your argument even stronger. While our managers usually have the best intentions and want us to succeed, they won’t remember everything that you’ve done well. Working long hours and putting in extra effort isn’t specific enough to highlight for a strong case so keep track and bring up specific accomplishments.
Be ready to discuss more than money: Despite your best efforts, there may be situations when your company simply cannot pay you more. You may have hit a salary cap for your level, or your business might be cash strapped and not offering raises. In those situations, come prepared to negotiate for more than money. What else would be meaningful for you, in lieu of a larger salary? Vacation time, days you can work from home, a more flexible work schedule? Know exactly what you want to ask for if money is no longer an option.
Stay silent: There will always be those awkward uncomfortable silences in the conversation when talking about money. Be ready for them and embrace them. Don’t feel the need to fill the silence. Once you’ve stated your position clearly, give the other person a chance to collect their thoughts and respond.
Don’t get personal: While talking about money and your performance can be very emotional, make sure that you keep all of your conversations professional. Stick to facts, not emotions, to make sure that the negotiation doesn’t escalate—and you don’t burn bridges that can’t be repaired.