At some point in your working life, you’ll be faced with the question of whether or not to enter into a salary negotiation. I know it can really feel like putting yourself out there, but the best advice I can give you is to be honest and communicative about what you need and to stand up for what you’re worth.
Oftentimes, we avoid salary negotiation from a mistaken sense of fear; fear of somehow upsetting your future manager, fear of having the job offer pulled, fear of having your counteroffer rejected. Negotiation isn’t rude. It isn’t going to lose you your job offer. Trust me, it’s worth the few short minutes of awkwardness.
Negotiating is Awkward. Is It Really Worth Doing?
You might think “I should just accept the salary offer to get the job. Even if it’s not the amount I want now, I should get raises every year and that will get me to where I want to be, right?” WRONG! The best time to ask for more money is up front. There may be opportunities to push for a raise later on (we’ll discuss at the end of this post), but the best time to get a significant pay bump is when you change jobs. Annual raises for those staying in the same position typically average only about 3%.. This is comparable to the rate of inflation (typically around 2.5%), an adjustment you should be getting anyway in the form of a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA). But when you change jobs, the doors of opportunity open and you can suddenly increase your salary by more!
How Much Does This Position Pay? How Much Should It Pay?
Do your homework and figure out what the salary band is for the position. Remember the “going rate” or competitive salary for the position is not necessarily what the hiring manager says they are willing to offer. You can often get a sense for the low and high end salaries are for a given job function by looking at sites like Glassdoor or Salary.com. If you get lucky, your future employer may post the range in the job description or HR may be able to provide you with an estimated range. To make sure your employer’s offer is competitive, figure out what your peers are being paid for similar roles in the region.
How Much Do I Ask For?
Once you know what the position is worth, don’t be afraid to ask for the top of the range. Your future employer very likely expects a salary negotiation in which case they’ve proactively built in some wiggle room into their offer (i.e. they’re not offering you the most money they can). The likelihood that they will rescind their offer because you asked for more money is next to zero. Your future employer should have confirmed your salary requirements were in line with the range for the position during the early screening stage of the interview and, honestly, if they liked you enough to make you an offer they are not going to pull out just because you asked for more money. Stay excited, reiterate your interest in the position, and firmly explain your position: “I am excited by the opportunity to work with the team, I am very interested in the position, but the salary is lower than I need. I am looking for [insert desired salary here].”
I Wanted More Money – Now What?
If your future employer can’t (or won’t) offer you a higher salary, there may be other things in your compensation package that you can ask to have enhanced. The important thing is to think clearly and strategically about what you need to receive in return for your expertise, talent, and hard work.
Be Your Best Advocate!
Don’t play both sides of the negotiation in your head and decide to avoid the conversation altogether because you don’t think it will achieve the desired outcome. Don’t be intimidated by a sluggish economy, an off-cycle request for a salary increase, or adverse budget conditions. Your future employer or current supervisor may well use these as an excuse for why they can’t give you the salary you want, but you won’t know unless you ask. You can use this opportunity to let your employer know your salary needs and make a concrete plan with them to reassess at a future date.
Record Your Achievements!
Finally, be sure to maintain a list of your accomplishments between review cycles. This helps when writing your self-evaluation of the review period and comes in handy for updating your resume when the time comes to move jobs. Arguably the most important benefit of keeping this list, however, is that it gives you tangible evidence to point to when demonstrating the value of your contribution to the company, making it harder for your employer to tell you “no” in good conscience when you ask for a raise.
If you take nothing else away from this post, remember this; if you don’t ask, you don’t get.