Y ears ago when I finished residency, it was no secret to me that there existed salary discrepancies between men and women in the work force. But I was not trained in how to even the playing the field when it came to getting fair and equal pay; the last thing I was prepared to do was to negotiate a fair salary. In fact, so thrilled was I that I didn’t think to do ANY salary negotiation. Being a new graduate, I really felt I did not have much bargaining power. New grads are typically the lowest on the totem pole at most work sites. You are lucky if someone isn’t trying to dump all the night, weekend and holiday shifts on you.
Fast forward a few years, I now work mainly as an independent consultant so I often have to enter into business negotiations. Aside from feeling shy, uncomfortable, or intimidated, in the beginning the #1 thing I felt when it came to negotiations was fear. There was fear of rejection especially since I was inexperienced.
I waited to start negotiating many aspect of career path, but you don’t have to. Whether you are just starting out in your career or find yourself midway through your journey, negotiation is a tactical tool that you need to learn. Don’t let fear stand in the way of your career or personal advancement.
Follow these simple steps, and you’ll be armed with a basic strategy that will ensure you put your best bargaining foot forward!
Put some worth to your experience, your education (including specialty training), the role you are expected to perform (e.g. supervisory, teaching) and any other additional tasks that will be directed to you. Then look at the value of the position you are going for. Make sure there is a match.
Familiarize yourself with the size of the company, the industry and the region. Get information on their benefit/compensation package (retirement matching, medical, life and disability insurance, etc)
If you are having a hard time getting some of this information, talk to recruiters (or your mentors) in the field to get a range of comparative salary values. Again, knowing the value of what I am tasked to do and how much the company stand to profit from my services allows me to realistically set my bar.
Disclosing desired salary
This definitely can be an intimidating part of the experience but stand your ground in asking for what you are negotiating. There are 2 schools of thought on this step. If you choose to give a salary range, some advise that you give a broad range (based on your research). Opponents counter that giving a range only suggests that you are willing to accept the number at the lower end of the range.
If you have a number in mind that you are committed to, that’s fine. But if you want to give a range, provide a range with a base number closer to the higher end of the fair value you desire.
Be positive and bold
A key factor is actually acknowledging the fact that you have something of value. Start by assuming you are entitled to top compensation and benefits for your skill set. If you don’t assume or believe this, then a conversation of negotiation is pointless. Given that you have the skill set, knowledge, and experience for the job: learn to promote yourself without bragging. If you have a story to illustrate why you are an asset to the company, share it.
Prepare a counteroffer
The end result isn’t always a “Yes” or “No” situation. Have your backup strategy ready. If get a “No” to your first/main offer, ask about other offers. Assume everything is negotiable. Are there allowances in vacation time, schedule preferences, travel/lodge allowance, relocation assistance, or can you get a sign on bonus, or a retention fee, change the non-compete clause? Note, your counteroffer should include 1-2 elements of key importance, not a list of 10 items.
Know when to walk away
Sometimes thou shalt not agree with the offer on the table. Because you have been given an offer doesn’t mean you must accept it. The goal of negotiation is not to squash your interviewer but to arrive at a win-win situation. Ideally you have set an acceptance range and also set a point to walk away, based on your personal or business criteria. Bearing in mind that everyone has a different financial disposition, take time to think and explore your options. Can you afford to walk away?
Negotiating seems complicated, however the more you do it, the easier it will become; but you have to start the conversation. Don’t negotiate just to negotiate, if there is something that’s important to you then absolutely go for it. And when you are done, be sure to ask for agreed offers in writing.
What happens if you accepted an offer only to realize you could have negotiating a better one?
- Explain that you didn’t realize the full responsibility of the position and now that you have more information, your prior agreement is open for renegotiation.
- Compromise – You did accept (or even signed) an agreement, but you can plan to do a review in 3 months to discuss open up another offer.
I admit I still struggle through the feelings of fear and nervousness, but I am becoming more comfortable and learning more tactics.
Have you negotiated successfully for more than base offerings? If you have any tips/suggestions please comment below.