Don’t let your employer dictate your worth. Here’s how you can put yourself in the driver’s seat to earn what you deserve.
As the economy continues to rally, many employers are looking to hire back workers or even add new ones. While that might be great news for those of us on the hunt for a new position, it can also be nerve-wracking—especially if you’re a younger worker without a ton of experience in interviewing for a new position.
The most stressful part of applying for a new job might just be when the time comes to talk money. Specifically, how much money you’ll earn in your new position. The last thing anyone wants to do is open a new chapter in their career thinking they’re getting paid less than they’re worth. This also holds true for anyone who already has a job and is seeking a raise.
The question becomes: How do you go about negotiating your next salary with confidence?
“Building confidence takes time and practice,” says Kyle Elliott, a Silicon Valley career coach who has helped clients land jobs at major corporations, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and many Fortune 100 and 500 companies. “While you may feel less confident if you have been out of work and need a job to keep a roof over your family’s head, remember that you have power in the salary negotiation process. Companies need employees to be successful. You are bringing value to the company and deserve to be compensated equitably for the value you will deliver.”
Though younger workers have demonstrated that they can be bolder than other generations in negotiating salary, it never hurts to refine your technique. Here are six tips and tactics to consider the next time you need to negotiate your salary.
One of the best ways to enter your next salary negotiation with confidence is to do some research on what the market typically pays for your position. On job sites like Indeed.com and Payscale.com, you can get a sense of the going rate for someone with your experience, knowledge and skill set. You should also factor in geography, as the cost of living in a big city might bring higher pay than a similar job in a more rural area. If you’re looking for a job in San Francisco, for example, you can turn to crowdsourcing sites like Blind, Built in San Francisco, and Reddit forums to get additional insight.
But pay tied to geography is also changing as more companies move toward remote-first and remote-friendly cultures. “Some companies are determining pay based on where the company’s headquarters is located,” says Elliott, “while others are implementing geographic pay differentials.”
You can also dig deeper to get even more specific intel. Elliott says that conversations around salary are becoming much less taboo—which opens the door to talking to other employees at the company. “Don’t be afraid to reach out to people at your target company on LinkedIn to learn more about their organization’s salary structure,” says Elliott, adding that it also pays to ask about how the organization approaches future raises and cost-of-living adjustments.
Once you have a sense of what you think your position should pay, you can then approach your salary negotiation like a conversation rather than a negotiation. Elliott says you can do that by asking questions about the employers’ expectations around pay for your position. “When interviewing, I coach my job seeker clients to ask the salary range the company has budgeted for the position,” he says. “This can be as simple as asking the recruiter, ‘What has your company budgeted for this role?’”
One mistake to avoid in your salary negotiation is disclosing your salary history. “Your past salary is rarely relevant during salary negotiation,” says Elliott. Another misstep is attempting to negotiate an initial salary request you may have submitted earlier in your interview process. Finally, don’t negotiate your start date, work remote options or other working conditions at the same time as your salary. “Secure your position and working conditions before attempting to negotiate your salary,” says Elliott. “You don’t want peripheral factors such as your start date to cloud your salary request.”
Remember: pay extends beyond your base salary. “If the company is not willing to meet your desired base salary,” says Elliott, “inquire if a sign-on bonus, relocation bonus or other one-time bonuses or relocation and health expenses can be introduced to make up the difference between your desired salary and the offer.”
Another technique that might help in your next negotiation is to embrace silence. While many people look to break awkward silences by speaking up, research out of MIT’s Sloan School of Management finds that when both sides of a negotiation pause their talking for just a few seconds, they can arrive at mutually beneficial results. The researchers, who studied a sample of 254 students, showed that silence helped the participants, “shift from default, zero-sum thinking to a more reflective, deliberative mindset, which in turn is likely to lead to the recognition of golden opportunities to expand the pie.”
The worst-case scenario in negotiating for a higher salary is not having the confidence to ask in the first place. “I have worked with more than 1,000 job seekers, and have never had someone have their offer withdrawn because they asked for a higher salary,” says Elliott. “You have nothing to lose by asking for a higher salary.” In fact, he cites the case of one client who received a higher offer after he helped educate the company on what the market was paying for similar positions.
It’s also worth noting that companies often make offers knowing that candidates are likely to counter the original offer. “Don’t be afraid to request a salary that aligns with your market value,” says Elliott.
And yet, as the legendary Kenny Rogers once sang: “You’ve got to know when to fold ’em.” In other words, you need to know when to walk away. “Enter salary negotiations with a bottom-line number and be prepared to leave the offer on the table if the company is not willing to meet it,” says Elliott.
Remember, in the end, you need to feel engaged and comfortable in your position if you want to thrive. And you can’t do that if you don’t feel like you’re being paid what you’re worth.