Whether you just got a job offer or whether you are already employed and seeking a raise, salary negotiations make most people cringe. Here are 6.5 tips to negotiate a higher salary and better compensation for a new job or a current job:
- Know your market value. Before you start a job search or a seek a raise/promotion, do your homework on typical salary ranges for someone in your position, background, and geographic location. This gets harder to measure as your specialization increases. Salary web sites have their limitations, but they can give you a range of what to expect. My favorite web site to use for salary estimates is the free salary calculator offered by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). You can also find out what you are worth by talking to other people in your industry, although this is a delicate topic, and it is hard to use such informal data in negotiations with employers.
- Look your best. As I have written before, looks matter. People pay MUCH more for products that look good, including employees. If you want a higher salary, you must first look your absolute best on paper; quantify and tailor your achievements and accomplishments in your resume, cover letter, and other written documents. Then, improve your online identity by cleaning up and enhancing your social media profiles, and be sure to look your best in-person as well through your attire, grooming, and body language. If you want to make a 6-figure salary or more, you have to look like you are worth it first…
- Do great work and be irreplaceable. When you deliver top-notch results and possess unique skills, knowledge bases, or business relationships, you gain leverage in the negotiation process. The best way to get more money is to be so good at what you do that your unique value cannot be ignored. Great people are hard to find, and any intelligent employer does everything in their power to find and keep the best people. If you think you are entitled to more money just because you have worked a certain number of years in an industry or for a company, you will be sadly mistaken. It’s all about results! If you are not constantly improving yourself and the value you deliver, then you do not deserve to make more money. Sorry!
- Consider the entire compensation package. While base/starting salary is a significant factor in your compensation, most people ignore the other components of a compensation package. These include growth potential, performance-based incentives (i.e. commission and bonuses), your title, your office space/location/environment, flexibility in your hours, insurance coverage, 401k/financial packages, vacation/sick days, expense accounts, and other non-tangible benefits, such as the personal enjoyment you will derive from the job. Throughout my career, I have negotiated new titles, my own private office, more vacation/sick days, and a variety of other perks. There is a lot of room for creativity here. If an employer is not willing to raise your salary, they may be very agreeable to other forms of compensation that could have even more value to you.
- Ask when the time is right. If you are currently employed, the best time to ask for more money is after a great performance review or a highly profitable project when your success and results are very visible. If you are in the interview phase, the best time to discuss salary is after the company has expressed strong interest in you (i.e. after you have shown the tremendous value you could deliver). Don’t be the first one to throw out a number, and never accept the offer on the spot. You should get a minimum of 1-2 days to evaluate any offer. If the company is not willing to grant some time to think it over, they don’t want you badly enough, and that’s a major red flag.
- Offer to be more valuable. If you want a company to pay you more, you should be prepared to deliver more value for them. Offer to take on more responsibility or a new project, to mentor/manage more people, to implement a new program, and/or to enhance your education or knowledge base through courses, classes, or seminars.
6.5 Remain reasonable and professional. No matter what you do, never make threats, pit companies/offers against each other, or make unreasonable demands. Job offers can be taken off the table, and bridges can be burned for good. While you should always try to get what you are worth (or a little more!), never sacrifice an offer or a professional relationship for a little more money.
Do you want to have a higher salary and a better compensation package? Of course you do. Make sure you know what you are worth, look your best, do great work, consider the entire package, ask at the right time, and offer to be more valuable. If you remain professional and reasonable, a bigger paycheck is just around the corner!
-Career Expert and Professional Speaker
-Creator of The Dream Job College Tour
P.S. I speak about career success to students and young professionals nationwide. To learn more about my programs and speaking availability for The 2011 Dream Job College Tour, please send an email to Pete@IdealizeNow.com.