I’m always surprised by the number of people I’ve worked with who have never negotiated their salary with a prospective employer. I understand why it might feel awkward: you’re in interviews trying to pitch yourself as the best person to get the job, and in a lot of situations, you’ll just be happy to be making some money again.
As a coach, I see again and again, individuals who have been taken advantage of by employers and some who are simply leaving money on the table because they are afraid to talk about what they are worth.
Please believe me when I say that negotiating salary is a very normal part of starting a new job and no one is going to judge you for asking for what you’re worth, as long as it’s reasonable.
To put it plainly, salary negotiation is asking a prospective employer to pay you more than what they’re currently offering you as incentives to join their company. At this point in the process, you’ve convinced them that you are the candidate for the job and they’re excited to extend you an offer: now it’s a matter of what goes into your employment agreement.
However, even though you are excited about being extended an offer doesn’t mean you should accept it right away. We’re talking about your future here and ideally you want to earn as much as you can doing the work you do, right? You have more power here than you think – after all, they want you JUST as much as you want them!
Companies have budgets. Those budgets have factored into them (amongst other things) what open positions need to be filled in staffing for the year, and what the going rate is in the market for that worker. But that’s not a driving force for candidate selection.
Think of it this way. Let’s say that your microwave breaks after ten years, and after a few days/weeks/months of going without one (or minutes in my case) you decide that you need to purchase a new one.
Before you go shopping, you’re going to do a bit of research to understand what the going, reasonable rate is for a new appliance, but that’s not what’s guiding your buying decision.
You’re going to look at reviews and features of the ones you’re shopping for, and select the one in your price range you think is going to do the best job, right?
Let’s pretend you find one that you really like. You’re convinced that this microwave is going to be superior to all of the others, by far. However, it’s $20 more than your ideal budget. Is that a deal-breaker? Probably not. In fact, you’re probably going to start doubting the cheaper options, because clearly there’s something inferior in those.
Did I just compare you to a microwave? Yep – but in the business world, that’s what it’s like to look for a candidate. There are several options to choose from, and once an employer finds the one they want to offer for, they’re anticipating paying fairly for the quality that you bring to the table. But it’s up to YOU to understand your value an price your skills accordingly – otherwise, your employer is getting you for a BARGIN.
I get it, talking about money can make us feel a lot of different things: intimidated, aggressive, boastful, arrogant, nervous, and just plain gross.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
First, before you consider negotiating your salary, understand your value. The biggest mistake people make when talking about earnings with an employer is that they base their anticipated earnings on how much they made in the past. This is the WRONG way to look at your future.
Hopping on the internet and doing some research about your job title, the area you live in, and the years in your role should give you an idea of how much you should be making, and where you stand within the range.
This isn’t cheating or strange – it’s the same exact process employers go through to understand how much to budget for the talent they’re trying to get.
Doing your research ensures that you are asking a FAIR wage for your talents, instead of basing it on past , likely unfair wages.
Even if you think you’re at the top of your pay grade, you should consider that your current or former salary likely didn’t keep up with inflation (unless your employer was fairly generous with raises) which increases every year.
Once you have an understanding of what you’re worth, you can have a clear conversation. When asked what you want to earn, have a clear range set, but ask your employer to tell you what is in their budget first. This way, if they’re offering more than what you thought, GREAT, problem solved. If they’re offering less, you can tell them what your requirements are and can see if they’ll find the budget. As long as your research is fairly based, they’re likely to play ball.
Salary negotiation has a twin, and that is asking for a raise. Many people I work with as clients start the job search because they are not earning enough money for the increased responsibilities they are under. Often, this occurs when companies don’t replace someone who leaves, or they are lagging on doing some hiring.
However, when I ask them if they have ask for a raise from their employer to compensate for an increased workload, they almost never do. Remember, your boss works for a business, and talking salary, while uncomfortable for you, is part of their day to day. No business is going to willing go out of their way to give you more money, but they DO recognize that they’d lose a LOT if you quit – not only your work, but your knowledge and the investment that they made in training you. If you work for a company that doesn’t really focus on raises often, make it a practice to working on getting salary increases on your own.