If you were offered $2 million right now, no strings attached, would you take it? Of course, you would! But did you know that you may have already inadvertently said no thank you to this offer? Author Linda Babcock writes about salary negotiation in her book Women Don’t Ask: The High Cost of Avoiding Negotiation—and Positive Strategies for Change. She states that when an employee fails to negotiate salary early in her career, it could add up to as much as $2 million in lost wages over the course of a lifetime.
Additionally, a study by the Federal Reserve bank of New York last year revealed that most Americans’ earnings plateau in their 40s. This does not give an employee much time to negotiate her salary, especially when you typically get your largest salary boosts by switching companies. The small window of large salary growth is yet another reason to speak up and advocate for yourself whenever possible.
It is extremely important for your career that you correctly and smartly advocate for your worth. Here are some tips on salary negotiation to take control of your future.
1. Don’t speak too soon
There is a right and a wrong time to talk salary during an interview process, and the very beginning is not that time. It’s definitely hard to resist the conversation and it can be awkward to dodge the question, but it’ll be worth it in the end. You don’t want to lay your cards on the table too soon and hurt your chances by committing too early. It’s easy to feel pressured to offer your number when asked at the beginning, but wait to learn more about the job. Don’t let yourself be eliminated for a highball offer or scammed by devaluing yourself. You will be able to make a more educated ask when you have all the facts.
2. Know your worth
Before going into any salary negotiation you should always know your worth. It is important to do your homework and learn the average and typical salary range for someone with your title and experience. Start by talking to friends in the industry and then immerse yourself in resources like PayScale.com, Salary.com, and Glassdoor.com. Remember that salaries differ from city to city as well and if you’re moving to a larger city it’s okay to ask for more due to a higher cost of living.
3. Factor in other compensation and benefits
If an employer is not able to meet your salary requirements, remember that you can fill in some of the gaps by negotiating other aspects of your compensation. For example, you could negotiate for extra vacation days each year or you could arrange for a more flexible work-from-home schedule. Be creative because you would be surprised where employers will be willing to compromise with you.
4. Demonstrate value
A salary negotiation is a two-way street and you need to make sure the employer can really understand why you’re worth the money. Make sure to emphasize your unique value to the company and demonstrate what they will get in return. If you’re a designer who can also code or an engineer with visual design chops, these are thing employers will be happy to learn even if it’s not asked for in the job description.
5. Take advantage of awkward silences
Part of negotiating is knowing when to speak and when to remain silent. The more you talk, the more you can potentially hurt yourself. You need to ask straightforward questions, give succinct answers, and then remain quiet. A little bit of uncomfortable silence can actually help you and will force the employer to fill that space, giving you the upper hand.
It might sound silly, but practice—out loud. It can be nerve-racking and even intimidating to negotiate your salary. It’s helpful to practice a few prepared lines about the true value you will bring to a new position and why you’re worth what you’re asking for. Practicing may also ease your mind and you will come off as more confidence and sure of yourself. The more confident you are of yourself, the more confident the employer across the table will feel as well.
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