Talking to an employer – or a prospective one – about money is never easy. Some people find it so challenging, in fact, that they quickly accept the first salary offer that comes with a new job. Or they hesitate to ask for a raise – even when they’re 110 percent certain they deserve one.
That’s not the wisest way to go!
A better approach is to face your fears and tackle them head on. As they say, you never get what you don’t ask for – so it’s critical to do your homework, steel yourself and then boldly command the pay you deserve.
Here are the four hurdles to overcome when negotiating salary– and advice on how to do it.
Hurdle: Determining What You’re Worth
Tackle it: This may be the easiest of all because, thanks to the almighty Internet, there’s plenty of information at your fingertips. Start your research by looking at websites like PayScale, Glassdoor or the one run by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Professional associations are also a good resource, as is asking colleagues and co-workers for “ballpark” salary info in your company or field. (Good news: Discussing salary is no longer as taboo as it once was!) Be sure to consider your education, training and credentials, years of experience and geographic location (salaries vary from place to place) when determining appropriate pay. Aim to come up with a “salary range” for your specific job, and be realistic – but a bit ambitious – in deciding where you fit in that range.
Hurdle: Articulating Your Value
Tackle it: Being a self-promoter doesn’t come naturally to a lot of people. But if you don’t appreciate what you bring to the table, how can you expect someone else to? When preparing to negotiate with an employer, start by making a list of your skills and qualifications. Be ready to offer specific examples of what you’ve accomplished in past roles and about what you will be able to achieve going forward. Don’t overly exaggerate what you’ve done (or have the potential to do), but this isn’t the time for modesty either. Once you’ve finished your list of skills, experience and achievements, commit it to memory. Then practice, practice, practice so you will feel comfortable talking about how great you are. Ask friends or family to role-play so you’ll feel super confident making your case when the time comes.
Hurdle: Knowing What (and What Not) to Say
Tackle it: When interviewing for a job, it’s best to delay conversations about compensation until you actually have an offer. But this can be tricky. A prospective employer might what you’re currently earning (though inquiring about salary history has been outlawed in many states.) Or, more commonly, you might be asked for your salary expectations. In that case, do your best to deflect the questions—and not name a number first. (If you do, you could end up with an offer of less than what the employer was prepared to pay!) Instead, respond by asking what the position pays and waiting for a response. If you’re pressed, give a range and an explanation of how you’ve come up with it. Say something like, “Based on my research, the salary for a position like this is somewhere between $40,000 and $50,000. Since I have ten years of work experience, I think I should be at the top of that range.”
Hurdle: Thinking Only About Your Paycheck
Tackle it: Salary is only one piece of your total compensation package, so don’t focus exclusively that. While benefits like health care and matching 401K tend to be standard, employers sometimes have more flexibility when it comes to negotiating paid time off, flexible schedules and remote work options. Think about the benefits that are most important to you, then confidently and politely ask for them. Remember, the worst that can happen is that you’ll be turned down. Once you do get an offer that’s satisfactory, ask for it in writing. Take a day or so to think it over before signing on the dotted line. This is standard business practice, so no one will be put off.
Of course, all of this is much easier said than done, so make sure to put time and effort into preparing as best you can. Do that by taking the AAUW Work Smart Online, a free and easy course that will give you all the information and tools you need to get the salary you deserve.