There’s a reason so many career-advice articles focus on salary negotiation: It’s a topic many people find extremely uncomfortable.
Alas, it’s something that can’t be ignored, and as Breanna Edwards writes in a piece for The Root titled “Get the Salary You Want: 4 Tips on How to Negotiate From the Experts,” “learning to negotiate is an important life skill that could set the tone for the rest of your career.”
Edwards chatted with several experts for her piece, which is filled with valuable advice for millennials and middle-aged people alike. Tip No. 1: “Do your research.” According to Patrice Washington — founder and CEO of the consulting firm Seek Wisdom, Find Wealth Inc. — you should check websites like salary.com and payscale.com to get a sense of what others in your field are getting paid. This is true whether you’re accepting a position at a new company or bargaining for more cash at your current employer. The idea is to be realistic.
“This should be a no-brainer,” Edward writes. “You don’t want to go into any interview with your pants down.”
Next up: “know your value.” But knowing what you bring to the company isn’t enough — you also have to “sell yourself as if you were the only person who could handle the job,” as Edward says. As Career Builder chief human resources officer Rosemary Haefner explains, the key is to tell “your story” and mention all of the projects you’ve completed and benchmarks you’ve hit. For many people, this is a challenge, but you can’t be shy about tastefully tooting your own horn.
“At the end of the day, if you need to get a higher salary and that’s what you’re going after, then you’ve got to be comfortable having, for you, what might be an uncomfortable conversation,’ Haefner says.
On that subject of uncomfortable conversations, Haefner says your salary negotiation will get a whole lot more uncomfortable — and unproductive — if you let your emotions take hold. Edwards’ third tip is to avoid getting too personal and talking about how you need more money to support your family or do XYZ. Companies care about business — the bottom line — and if you get turned down, don’t act bitter.
Finally, Edwards suggests asking questions and proposing counteroffers. If the company offered less than you were looking for, ask why that was the case and see if there’s anything you can do to make yourself more valuable going forward. It could be that the company simply doesn’t have the budget for a bigger bump, and in that case, you might angle for extra vacation days or other types of compensation. Again, these types of conversations can be tricky, but as Haefner says, it’s good to learn the art of negotiation as early in your career as possible.
“When you get in the habit of asking, then you start to build up that muscle, and by the time you’re on your second or third job or moved to a different company or a different industry, it’s standard for you to ask for what you want,” she says.